An Indelible Legacy: Remembering Stephen Tharrett

    Friends and colleagues recall a fitness industry icon who passed away on December 22.

    • January 08, 2021

    Stephen Tharrett, co-founder of ClubIntel and a former president of IHRSA, left an indelible legacy after more than 30 years in the health and fitness industry.

    An author of several books, including Fitness Management and Legends of the Trade: A History of the Artisans, Influencers and Innovators of Fitness, Tharrett’s wide-ranging expertise in strategic planning and club management saw him rise to the top of numerous organizations before founding ClubIntel with partner Mark Williamson in 2012. He spent 17 years as senior vice president of ClubCorp and served as IHRSA president in 1996-97. Tharrett’s talents took him to Moscow in 2008, where he held the position of CEO of the Russian Fitness Group for two years.

    Tharrett’s accomplishments were surpassed only by the respect, admiration, and affection that he earned from his friends and colleagues over the decades. We asked a few of them to share their thoughts with us below.

    Industry news Stephen Tharrett Bill Mc Bride Brent Darden Russia Column

    From left: Stephen Tharrett, Bill McBride, and Brent Darden at the 2009 World Class Industry Event in Moscow.

    Mark Williamson, Co-founder of ClubIntel

    “For more than 30 years, I had the privilege to know Steve, learn from him, and call him my business partner and friend. Steve's commitment to the fitness industry through the years was truly extraordinary. It was my honor to have worked beside him for much of my career, starting at ClubCorp in the 1980s and continuing to ClubIntel, which we cofounded in 2012. We shared the common values of serving customers and clients and building relationships. During the course of our partnership, I witnessed first-hand his discipline, focus, and incredible attention to detail.

    “Steve was in many ways the historian of our industry. His unsurpassed reach and influence within the industry will be marked not only by the wisdom he imparted to everyone he encountered, but also by the lifelong relationships he nurtured throughout his career and life. He touched my life beyond words, for which I will be forever grateful. Along with many others, I mourn his passing.”

    Brent Darden, Interim President and CEO of IHRSA

    “Stephen Tharrett was truly a gentleman and a scholar. A personal friend and colleague, he was always willing to help in any way that he could and regularly contributed his time and expertise for the benefit of myself, IHRSA, and the industry. Steve possessed a brilliant mind, evidenced by his prolific research, presentations, and writings. He was a passionate student and teacher of health and fitness, using his analytic prowess to foster understanding, professionalism, and credibility. He was a servant leader that will be dearly missed.”

    Bill McBride, President and CEO of Active Wellness and BMC3

    “Steve was very humble and may not have realized the positive impact he had on others and our industry. He was truly a giver and would help and support anyone he could. He had an extreme passion for our industry and always did everything he could to advance our industry’s best practices and credibility. He was such a great guy by every definition.

    “I have known and cared about Stephen Tharrett for more years than I can remember. Steve was a wonderful man, a great friend and someone that connected others. … Steve had a brilliant mind and with his partner Mark Williamson created a lot of credibility in our industry through data analytics. Steve was an industry icon and [a] true friend.”

    Jim A. Peterson Ph.D., FACSM, Publisher, Healthy Learning

    “On extremely rare occasions, we are fortunate enough to meet someone who has a positive impact on the lives of others, as well as our own. Steve Tharrett was such a person. Smart as a whip, with both a sense of humor and an unrelenting commitment to making the world a better place, Steve was one of a kind. He was a friend for over 30 years, and I will miss him a lot.”

    “On extremely rare occasions, we are fortunate enough to meet someone who has a positive impact on the lives of others, as well as our own. Steve Tharrett was such a person.”

    Jim A. Peterson, Publisher

    Healthy Learning

    Tharrett is survived by his wife of 44 years, Denise, and his children, Travis and Alyssa. Those wishing to leave recorded thoughts for Tharrett for a memorial video compilation were asked to send their messages to

    Tharrett gave the industry sage advice that will continue to provide insights for years to come. Through his contributions to Club Business International and elsewhere, Tharrett reminded us to look to the future and build an industry that is robust, necessary, and exciting. Read some of his writings: