The Dive Business mourns the loss of a longstanding member of our community. John Stewart was well known throughout the Industry and has been a significant contributor to the growth and evolution of diving for almost 50 years.
John started in the business of diving as a YMCA instructor in the late 60’s for Divers Supply of Indy where he met his wife Gloria. In 1975 he opened Midwest Scuba Center in his hometown of Indianapolis. His store was one of the first stores to have its own pool.
In 1981 he went to work at PADI as their Projects Coordinator. This led to a variety of positions at PADI where he was an instrumental part of the team that was responsible for the rapid growth they experienced in the 1980’s.
As the Director of Training in 1984, he developed the IDC/IE Instructor Training format. This was a daunting task in both its development and implementation. He also held the position of International Operations Manager, which was responsible for opening PADI offices throughout the world.
Eventually he became a Regional Manager for the Midwest and then Florida. As a Regional Manager, he continued to develop innovative programs and products. He was instrumental in developing the industry’s first home study kit. He also developed PADI’s retail sales training program, Positive Approach to Selling, With its success, he conducted retail sales training seminars around the world. It is also noteworthy that while at PADI, he was the one that hired Drew Richardson, who became the President and CEO of PADI.
After leaving PADI, he landed at SSI as their National Sales Manager. He constructed SSI’s first outside sales force. As their Sales Manager, SSI experienced the greatest growth period in their history.
John expanded his career by becoming the VP of Sales for UNEXSO. This position led to John seeing a need for a resource that could offer a broad scope of services to the dive community, John opened his own company called Dive Marketing International. (DMI). John ran DMI until his retirement in 2011.
During his career, John also served on the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary Advisory Board representing diving interests. He also was used as an expert witness in many lawsuits against the Dive Industry. John was also appointed by the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, to the State of Florida Boating Advisory Council, which was to advise the State on boating safety and regulations.
After less than one year, John commented, “I am tired of fishing and need something challenging”. So he came out of retirement to join the Mares team to improve their Mares Lab, equipment service program. John used his skills and expertise to develop the industry’s most comprehensive and educationally valid equipment service training program.
John was never one for self-promotion or being in the spotlight. John believed that honesty was the most important personal attribute and that with hard work things would work out, His skills included the dynamics on how people learn, education design concepts, scuba instruction, retail and wholesale selling, and a high level of marketing and business acumen. Very few in our industry can show such a diversified skill set and accomplished body of work.
Up to his passing, John was continuing to develop new concepts and programs that no doubt would have improved the way we do business. He was a friend and colleague to many and left an impressive legacy. He will be missed.
John is survived by his wife Gloria, his daughter Kim and his grandchildren. He was 71.