Passionate, persistent and creative. When I thought about fitness industry consultant, author and speaker Michael Scott Scudder, those words kept popping into my mind. Michael, who was 75-years-old, died on June 30 after what his wife Phyllis said was likely a pulmonary embolism as he recovered from hip replacement surgery that occurred on June 7.
That his life ended after a somewhat common surgery is sad to me partly because as a senior in high school, Michael survived a car accident that many doctors said would leave him paralyzed. But not only did he walk again after getting an early form of laminectomy surgery, but he also created his own rehabilitation plan because no true back rehabilitation existed at that time. He read the book, "Healthy Back" by Dr. Hans Krauss, created a plan and carried out that plan while working out at a YMCA, according to a profile that Norm Cates, publisher of Club Insider, wrote about Michael in 2004.
That was so Michael. He was a get-it-done sort of guy, someone who didn't let a "no" or a lack of an existing option stop him. It was an attitude that stuck with him for the rest of his life. After finishing college and working as a professional golfer and skier, he worked in the insurance and investment industry before taking a 60 percent pay cut to work as a golf pro at the Lake Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, in 1976, according to the profile. Because that job meant little work in the winter, Michael created his own position, managing the cross-country ski area for the business, eventually working his way into managing all the sports and recreational activities for the business. He then took a series of jobs in which he went into distressed clubs and helped to turn them around, according to the profile.
If you ever read one of Michael's columns or attended one of his sessions at any of the many industry conferences at which he presented, you know that he exhibited a "can-do" attitude. Through his work and his comments, his passion, intelligence and creativity shined. He offered something that this industry needed, even if some people didn't always agree with his opinions.
In the 2004 profile by Cates, Michael shared his love for the industry, saying, "I'm still around and thankfully, helping club operators, prospering personally, doing what I love and getting paid for it. And, I hope making a contribution to our great health and fitness industry."
He was making a contribution to the industry all the way to the end. Several people emailed me to share their thoughts about Michael, their shock at his passing and the fact that they had just been corresponding with him the week of his death. Bryan O'Rourke of Integerus Advisors LLC and the Fitness Industry Technology Council was collaborating with Michael on a book about the past and the future of the fitness industry. Bryan shared this post about Michael that I encourage you to read. Sara Kooperman of SCW Fitness shared that she had just emailed with Michael about some of his sessions they had videotaped at their Mania events, and she had planned to have a call with him on Saturday. Read Sara's memories of Michael here and get details about a scholarship they have set up in his name.
Michael wrote many columns for Club Industry. He was a speaker at the Club Industry Show for almost 30 years. In fact, he emailed me prior to his surgery to let me know about the surgery and that he would be better and ready to speak at what would be his 30th Club Industry Show in October. He sounded excited to celebrate this milestone.
Yes, Michael loved the health club industry and many people in the industry loved him, but in the Club Insider profile, he also shared his love for his wife. In that profile, he said this about Phyllis, who encouraged him to move into consulting: "…my wonderful life companion, sweetheart, confidant, partner, friend and wife, Phyllis Landis—said I was a 'natural consultant' with all of my business experience in various types of fitness facilities."
The two of them moved from New York to Taos, New Mexico, in 1998, and Michael often spoke fondly of their home there and the life they had created in their community.
That's why I take great comfort in these heartbreaking words that Phyllis shared in an email. She wrote that Michael died "at our home in my arms."
I believe that's exactly where he would have wanted to be when he closed his eyes for the last time.