Friends, Colleagues Remember Sharon Koss

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 23, 2010

Longtime Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) volunteer and former Human Resource Certification Institute Board Chair Sharon Kay Koss, CCP, SPHR, died June 15, 2010, after entering the hospital for treatment of pneumonia. She will be remembered during the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in San Diego with a book of remembrances that will be given to her family.

Persons attending the conference may sign the book, which will be available outside the Institute Hideaway and marked by a framed photo of the deceased. Persons not attending the conference may submit recollections for the book by e-mailing Mary Power, HR Certification Institute executive director, at before June 30, 2010.

For nearly 25 years, Koss provided HR and employee compensation expertise through her Seattle-based company, Koss Management Consulting, where her husband was a partner. She authored the book, Solving the Compensation Puzzle: Putting Together a Complete Pay and Performance System (Society for Human Resource Management, 2008) and was planning a second book on incentive plans, according to her LinkedIn biography.

She was a charter member of the Lake Washington Human Resource Association (LWHRA), and founded and remained active in a LWHRA study group for colleagues preparing for HR certification, according to her obituary that appeared in the June 20, 2010, edition of the Seattle Times. She served on the Institute’s board from 1992 to 1998 and as its chair in 1997; she spoke regularly at SHRM conferences and before local HR groups.

Koss, 53, was born in Laramie, Wyo., and graduated in 1978 from Washington State University (WSU), where her activities included serving as president of SHRM’s student chapter. She also played the harp professionally for a short while after college. In 1981 she married Doug Koss.

Word of her death has prompted an outpouring of comments from friends and colleagues she knew through SHRM.

“It really is an incredible loss for the profession, and for the future professionals who will never have the opportunity to participate in one of Sharon’s classes. She was a kind and generous contributor to the profession,” former SHRM president and CEO, Sue Meisinger, wrote in an e-mail.

'She Will Be Missed'

Another former SHRM president and CEO, Michael Losey, recalled meeting her in 1991 when “she placed herself squarely in front of me at a chapter meeting and said she wanted to be a SHRM volunteer on a national basis and expressed her interest in [the Institute].

“She will be missed by everyone who knew this feisty little lady,” he said.

Gary Kushner, SPHR, CBP, president and CEO of Kushner & Co. in Michigan, served as a faculty member and subject matter expert for the SHRM Learning System and credited Koss with recruiting him to the Institute’s board. He served on the board from 1999 to 2005 and as its chair in 2004.

“After arguing with her for over five years that I wasn’t sure I had the skill set that she was describing, she finally wore me down. Thank goodness, for I still think of my years on the [Institute’s] board and the wonderful opportunity to serve as its chair … as one of my most fulfilling life experiences,” Kushner said.

“I will always remember Sharon fondly as a colleague, amazing teacher, mentor—and most importantly—a friend. I know I will not be alone in missing this remarkable woman,” Kushner added.

Like many who learned of Koss’ death, Susan Warner, J.D., SPHR, was stunned by the news.

Warner is a faculty member for the SHRM certification preparation seminars, a subject matter expert for the 2007 SHRM Learning System and a professor of HR for Villanova University’s management programs.

“She was a true professional, always willing to share her knowledge,” wrote Warner. “I will miss her tips, her humor and the warmth with which she welcomed me each time we met.” Although her petite friend who was just under 5-feet tall claimed to be taller of the two, Warner said that during their walks at conferences, “I didn’t feel so tiny next to her.”

Mark Christensen said that, “for such a little thing, she had a big heart and a feisty spirit. She contributed in many ways but particularly with [the Institute].”

Christensen served from January 1994 to April 2006 as regional manager, Southwest Central Region, and is director of HR partnerships and alliances at

He recalled the time she arrived in Phoenix during 100-degree weather to give a certification presentation at a state conference, pulling a rolling suitcase stuffed with booklets and unable to find an unlocked door in a very large convention center.

“She was drenched, hair completely wet and about to pass out with heat exhaustion. She immediately went into the restroom and freshened up and delivered her session like a champ. That always amazed me and was so characteristic of her determination.”

Nikki Clark, SPHR, who has served on the LWHRA board, noted that the chapter has had many active and devoted volunteers, “although I cannot think of a single person who has done more or had a bigger impact on making LWHRA what it is today.”

Clark recalled her friend and mentor’s thoughtfulness, such as hosting a luncheon for family and friends the day of Clark’s wedding and dedicating all proceeds from one of Koss’ seminars to benefit the LWHRA scholarship.

“Even those who didn’t spend a lot of time with her always remarked on her charisma, wit and humor,” said Clark, who added she also will miss their shared Thai dinners and cheering WSU’s football team together.

“Sharon had a way of building your confidence and making you think you could do anything,” Clark wrote. “Her positive nature was infectious and inspiring.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.


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