Exactly one year before he died, Gary Sain sent an unusual email to his wife, Pamela. Instead of the customary to-do lists and routine information, he sent a brief summary of his life and principles.
“When I die, how do I want to be remembered?” he wrote. “He gave it his best. He had fun doing it…. He made a difference, and he treated all equally.”
A year to the day later, on May 4 2012, Sain died suddenly and unexpectedly while doing civic work he loved. And the late president and CEO of Visit Orlando is being remembered just as he would have wanted.
An important part of his legacy is the Gary C. Sain Memorial Endowed Scholarship in the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Nearly 200 donors, including the biggest names in Orlando hospitality, have given about $260,000 in Sain’s memory. But Pamela Sain said she won’t be satisfied until the fund reaches $1 million.
“Helping kids with their future is something that Gary was passionate about,” she said. . “He provided the role model that kids need, but they don’t see in reality TV and all the other media out there.”
Instrumental in making the Orlando-area one of the world’s top tourist destinations, Sain was responsible for memorable marketing campaigns, including Orlando Makes Me Smile. The number of tourists grew to 55.1 million a year during his five years leading Visit Orlando.
He had devoted his entire career to hospitality, including the hotel, cruise and convention services sectors. His impact on the University of Central Florida and future hospitality leaders was profound. “Gary was an educator at heart. He happily lent his expertise to the Rosen College as a member of our Advisory Board and would frequently serve as a guest lecturer to our students,” said Dr. Abraham Pizam, dean of the Rosen College. “For all that he has done and accomplished for our community, Gary’s legacy will live on.”
“Gary was a remarkable leader whose vision for our region inspired us all. He rallied the community to think big, and did so with unsurpassed enthusiasm and integrity,” said Dr. John Hitt, president of UCF.
Sain’s commitment to young people was evident in his devotion to the Boys and Girls Club, where the Gary C. Sain Movement to Inspire mentors youth interested in the hospitality industry. He had just spoken at the organization’s Celebrate the Children event when he was stricken by a heart attack. He was sitting on a sofa, apparently looking at a text from his wife of 32 years, when he died.
Pamela Sain now takes solace in the many ways that the memory of husband and father of their daughters, Vanessa and Olivia, endures. In that way, he continues to serves the community to which he dedicated himself for more than two decades. “Gary always wanted to win the right way,” she said. “With his life and legacy, he is still making a difference in our community.”