This Just In

The Legendary Frank Sain Passes Away


Las Vegas –Frank Sain, who piloted the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority through the city’s major growth spurt of the 1980s, died Sunday, February 12 at the age of 86 after a long battle with cancer. Sain spearheaded the decade-long marketing campaign that brought additional trade show and convention business to Las Vegas and oversaw the operation of the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Field Center. Sain also was instrumental in expanding the city’s international visitor base, nearly doubling the number of visitors from Japan and reaching out to European markets. During his tenure as CEO and executive director of the LVCVA, he also was a commissioner on the State of Nevada Tourism Commission and was a respected member of many other convention-related organizations.

Sain was the highly respected president and CEO of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau between 1972 and 1981 and was general manager of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in the 1960s during the airport’s $155 million makeover.

One of his three sons, Gary Sain, followed in his father’s footsteps in destination marketing. Gary is president of  Visit Orlando, the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which he joined in 2007 after serving as a partner in the tourism marketing company YPBR, now known as Y Partnership. He also headed up marketing at GES, now Global Experience Specialists (GES).

Frank Sain, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was named outstanding association executive of the year in 1980 by the Chicago Society of Association Executives for his work with the Rotary Club there.

Visitation will be held from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. tomorrow, February 15, at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas. The funeral service is at 10 a.m., Thursday at Guardian Angel Cathedral and graveside services are set for 9:20 a.m. on Friday at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

The family requests that any memorial contributions be made to a scholarship fund established in the name of Frank C. Sain at the Destination and Travel Foundation to recognize his many years of leadership in the destination marketing industry. Donations may be sent to:  Destination & Travel Foundation., 2025 M St. NW Suite 500, Washington, DC 20036.

Reach Gary Sain at (407) 354-5586 or


An Extraordinary Dad… A Eulogy of Frank Sain by Gary Sain

“When we come into this world, we have the opportunity to be ordinary or extraordinary. Dad lived his life in an extraordinary way.  He was larger than life for many of us who knew him. Dad was a commanding figure and when he walked into a room…everyone knew he was there. He was an exceptional father, a very loving husband, a role model for many throughout his illustrious career and a loyal friend to those who were lucky enough to know him well. As one of his favorites would say…He Did It His Way.

“Dad grew up in Chicago on the west side. He was known as THE Jailer’s Kid. His father was warden of the Cook County Jail and moved his family into the institution. Hence, the reference. He was a tall, skinny and lanky kid…always running…in perpetual motion. He was a trickster. Dad was fun loving…always playing tricks and became the leader of the pack. I believe this is where dad learned how to persuade and influence others which would come in very handy later in life.

“Dad was the first to graduate from college in his family. His father, who eventually became Sheriff of Cook County in Chicago, rose to these ranks with a third grade education. Granddad was one of ten siblings and had to leave school early to bring in money to support the family. Hence, Granddad was very proud of dad for going to college and knew he would accomplish extraordinary things in his life. Dad was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated as an ensign.

“Annapolis is where Dad met a gorgeous and spirited young woman named Bette. They were perfect for each other. He thought he grabbed her but she corralled him. They complemented each other…Dad became more serious and rigid after the academy and Mom softened his edges…she was the fun in his life. They brought out the best in each other.  And Mom knew exactly the kind of life she was getting into because her father was a Captain in the Navy. Hence many career moves and owning several homes during their years of marriage only strengthened their commitment to each other. Dad made many smart decisions in his life and marrying his “Dolly” was certainly the highlight.

“Dad became an all-weather, night-time, aircraft fighter pilot for the Navy. Think about landing a piston driven fighter plane going 450 mph on a carrier deck at night…in complete pitch-black darkness…in heavy rolling seas without having all the technological advances we have today. And remember…he was alone…not in teams as they have today. The work in serving our country in the Navy was extraordinary and provided Dad a level of confidence, boldness and coolness we would see in him as he traded his Navy wings for the executive suite. However, flying was Dad’s love. When you talked to him about one of the planes  he flew, like the Phantom F4…his eyes would  light up and he would make movements with his hands and crack the biggest smile…then he would  tell you the airspeed, wing span, engine thrust, etc. He knew his facts…he had an incredible memory. And he would quiz you later to make sure you remembered.

“Dad really had three careers in his life…the navy, the aviation industry and convention and visitors bureaus. Dad was the inspiration for our careers as well. Todd and Chad had illustrious careers and I went into the hotel business. And it now has trickled down to the third generation. I think Dad had the most fun being the Executive Director of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.  He took this job after running the Chicago Convention and Visitors Bureau for ten years. Chicago was very good, and Dad had much success. He was a dynamic leader who raised Chicago’s profile as a top meeting and convention destination. He helped make McCormick Place a sought-after event venue. The Chicago Society of Association Executives named him Executive of the Year.

“Las Vegas was extraordinary for Dad. Dad and Vegas clicked.  He helped bring new conventions and trade shows to Las Vegas, many from Chicago. He broadened Las Vegas’s brand image as more than just gambling…to one of the top resort destinations in the world. During Dad’s tenure…visitation to Las Vegas doubled to more than 20 million.  He helped make Las Vegas the #1 Convention Destination in the county. Doing what I do now…I can assure you, .he did an extraordinary job! Dad helped bring the Rodeo here, he was instrumental in the expansion of the convention center, and he was a well-respected leader and mentor to so many other CVB presidents and executive leaders. His list of accomplishments would go on and on…too many to tell you…but if you knew Dad…you knew he was someone special.

“Dad gave back to the communities he served. He was a long time Rotarian. He was President of Rotary One in Chicago, the first ever Rotary Club. He became a Paul Harris Fellow with the Rotary. He served on numerous boards.  He was very active with the Boy Scouts here in Las Vegas and was Volunteer of the Year for the American Heart Association. He was an early supporter in the creation of the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder. It is only fitting he will be buried there tomorrow morning at 9:20 am.

“I saved Dad’s greatest accomplishments for last. I asked Dad a day before he passed away…what was his greatest accomplishment, his proudest moments? He responded to me and said…my three sons. Dad gave us a sense we could accomplish anything if we worked hard and set our mind on it. He made us believe life is not always easy…there are roadblocks, barriers, detours and disappointments. However, he taught us it’s how we deal with adversity.  Anyone can deal with success but Dad’s experience as an aircraft carrier pilot taught him and us how to cope with pressure and keeping your cool under the most trying experiences. Being in the destination marketing business in Chicago and Las Vegas, and all the stakeholders one is responsible to… Dad learned the fine art of collaboration and partnership which he passed along to us.

“Dad was in love with our mother. Love means many different things to many people. For Mom and Dad, it was 62 happy years together, three loving sons and six loving grandchildren. Being a loyal and loving companion to each other for over six decades is an inspiration to all of us. And for those who knew both Mom and Dad…they were also strong willed, stubborn and compromise was not easy. Hence…it made for some exciting and memorable conversations around the dinner table. But they were true to each other and Dad was always the romantic with his birthday and anniversary cards to Mom. He never took her for granted. When Dad retired, he and mom traveled. They loved the Lawrence Welk Village in Escondido, CA as well as Coronado, CA where Dad was stationed in the Navy many years ago. They especially enjoyed cruising and going to Hawaii.

“Dad was a warrior to the very end.  And he was certainly in control.  He had the courage to face death which inspired all of us who were with him at the very end. He never gave up on his fight with cancer.  Why would he? He had a life of taking risks and winning, leading the tough fights and not the easy ones, overcoming adversity, making a difference when it mattered the most.  He was a perfectionist… never accepted second best. He did it his way, on his terms, and that is what made him an extraordinary individual.  He set the bar exceptionally high for all of us to follow. That’s what leaders do.

“Although we are saddened by our loss, we should celebrate Dad’s life and what he left each of us in this room today.  He touched all of our lives in a compelling way…and now as he enters the Kingdom of Heaven, he will be welcomed by his loved ones and we too shall join him again someday.

“Our Dad will always be with us. He will be the spirit that drives each of us to be the best we can be. To live our lives as best we can in honor of Dad’s legacy and for each of us to be the best father we can be.

“And if you knew Dad, he would let you know how he feels.  There was no gray area to navigate with Dad.  It was black and white and he held strong convictions.  You either gave it your best or you take the consequences.  I can hear him now… Gary…don’t screw up my Eulogy.

“We will strive as his family to live his memory fully by making each day count and never taking for granted tomorrow will come.

“As I began my remarks…we all come into this world ordinary and it’s how we live our lives, how we serve those we are responsible for and how we love others that determines if we leave this world extraordinary.

“Our dad was extraordinary…”

Gary Sain

February 15, 2012

TSE Data Center