Lee Selisky (USA)

Lee Selisky (USA)

Significant Career Achievement and/or Industry Contribution

Starting in his garage with a six-pound lead weight mold, Lee went on to build the Sea Pearls company. His market was both domestic and international and as a pioneer in manufacturing became the prime vendor in his field. In an effort to “give back” to the diving industry Lee served on several non profit boards in leading positions: President of Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), Founding Director of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (ISDHF), multi term Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), Director of the original Ocean Futures Society, Director of the Hans Hass Award, and Chairman of Divers Alert Network (DAN). Using his personal philanthropy to “lead by example” Lee donated in excess of seven figures to not only programs of the Boards he lead but also regional dive show fund raisers, marine environmental programs, and marine medical programs. In 2017 he established the Lee Selisky Future Leaders in the Diving Industry Mentorship Program. His leadership changed the industry and improved the lives of many divers. His career exemplifies the term “giving back,” and many of the industry’s non-profit organizations and its future leaders owe him a debt of gratitude.

Lee Selisky started diving in Lake Superior and became fascinated with wreck diving and the history of the sunken vessels. He took numerous NAUI courses through the mid 1970’s and 80’s and could be found wreck diving most weekends. A key turning point in his life came when a store sold him a 6 - pound weight mold for $40 when he actually ordered a 9 - pound mold. The vendor did not take returns, so to try and get his $40 back Lee borrowed a plumbers pot and started to melt lead and pour 6 - pound weights in his garage. With his eye for detail and high quality, the Selisky weights started to sell well at his local dive store who were soon ordering four tons of them a year. His business quickly grew and became Sea Pearls, the pioneering company that introduced die-cast weights and vinyl coated weights into the industry. By astute business practices, including buying lead futures, Lee grew Sea Pearls to revenues of $6.5 million a year with a network of 1,300 domestic dive retailers. His skill in negotiating shipping costs opened the international markets and Sea Pearls supplied retailers in Middle East, Asia and around the globe. And he still went diving in the Great Lakes most weekends.

The success of his business gave Lee a chance to “give back” to the industry that had helped make his fortune. His business knowledge and leadership lead him the DEMA Board and he eventually became President. As DEMA President he became a Founding Director of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame and also the original Ocean Futures Society. His interest in wrecks and diving history lead him to the Historical Diving Society, where he became Chairman. Working with Executive Director Leslie Leaney, he grew the Society into the largest in the world with members in almost 40 countries. He personally sponsored the display of the world’s first diving helmet at DEMA Show1995 and toured numerous European diving museums in 2008. The Society became the official historical affiliate for DEMA and PADI. Always a keen supporter of diving safety, he was invited to join the Divers Alert Network Board during its transformative period and later became Chairman of the Board.

During this period he sold Sea Pearls and started to invest in specific non-profit groups that helped develop various diving and marine related programs. He took the time to expand his diving experiences and traveled extensively, diving in some of the world’s most acclaimed locations. In 2017 he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and retired from active diving. Although confined to a wheel chair, Lee continued to fulfill his philanthropic goals inside the industry’s non - profit community. Sadly, Lee passed away in July 2018, but his legacy of service continues to inspire and support the recreational diving industry around the world.

Lee was a positive force to many. The Lee Selisky Future Leaders in the Diving Industry mentorship program will ensure his name and service will never be forgotten.

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