Tuesday, March 21, 2023

My Turn: Margaret Mary Shuff’s Diamond Award Speech

Thirty one years ago I never would have imagined myself standing here in Boca Raton, Florida, receiving an award for being a successful businesswoman. Thirty one years ago I was in the business of being a wife and a mother. I lived in a salt box colonial house in Connecticut, my husband had the perfect big job in New York and we had two almost perfect children.

I was part of a generation of Domestic Divas (no surprise that Martha Stewart and I are almost the exact age to the day), a generation of women who earned their stripes creating the perfect dinner party, decorating one home after another, joining the Junior League to do nonprofit work.

Oh, I was ambitious enough; I was ambitious for my husband and his career. I was ambitious enough to move five times in 16 years, each time recreating that same comfortable home for that super industrious husband who was rarely there.

It was in May of 1980 on a golf course in Greenwich, Connecticut, that all my ambitions for him ended. He fell to the ground. Multiple Sclerosis announced it was here to stay and John Shuff never really walked unaided again.

It was that year I watched the doors slam shut on my perfect life as my athletic husband landed in a wheelchair. It was the turning point in my life. Would John Shuff continue on his fast track at a Fortune 500 company or would he take me on as a partner in an entirely new and untried business venture? We all know today what that decision was.

And that is why I am standing here.

It wasn’t easy at the beginning. I remember piling boxes of Boca Raton magazines in my Honda Accord so I could deliver them to store after store (over 132 of them). I remember selling our first ads to the shops in Royal Palm Plaza and to Mrs. Teena Blum at Blums of Boca. I remember working long into the night writing articles or going to event after event trying to meet the people who made this town work.

Now 30 years later, I no longer have to deliver the magazines (but in a pinch I do and did just two weeks ago). However, I like this part, ”receiving an award,” much better. Today, Boca Raton magazine routinely wins one statewide award after another. It sets new standards for magazine publishing; it is synonymous with what a regional magazine should be.

I am no longer a Domestic Diva. My children are adults and as imperfect as their parents. Decorating, entertaining and volunteer work are not a priority. These past 30 years have been about other things: making a business work, forging a sense of community, striving for excellence.

Sometimes I am more nursemaid than wife or partner, but John and I have always shared common personal and business goals. In his old life he had published award-winning newspapers, even assisting in the development of W, the fashion magazine. The principles of our life are embodied in Boca Raton magazine and all our other award winning publications. In the end it is quality that counts. John likes to say that we DELIVER more than we promise. Meeting these standards of quality requires a total commitment from our staff members who perform their tasks at Boca Raton magazine without fanfare but with dedication and pride.

I am accepting this award for them: for Marie Speed who celebrates her 20th years as Editor in Chief this month, a creative writer par excellence. For Diana Riser, who started with us at 23 and has become our “go to for almost everything” Associate Publisher, for Kevin Kaminski, the editor of Boca Raton magazine, who get to know everyone and understands what community means. For Denise Goris, Our Production Director, an amazingly organized, efficient young professional. For our dedicated Controller of many years and John’s right arm, Jeanne Greenberg. For our amazing sales staff most of whom have been at JES for a minimum of seven years. Bruce Kline, Georgette Evans, Carey McKearnon, Gail Eagel and Kim Kadel—they are proud of our products and sell from a position of strength…always putting the client first. A quality team in every way.

I’d like to thank the Chamber for recognizing all of us. I’d like to thank my husband who has turned my world upside down and made it interesting at the same time. He pushes us to the limit but not harder than he pushes himself. Most of all, I would like to thank the community of Boca Raton for supporting us all these years, and for making this magazine truly theirs.

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