St. John’s University’s Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science (GSRM), part of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, hosted its 26th Annual Insurance Leader of the Year Award Dinner on April 7, raising a total of $2.2 million to fund student scholarships and support program initiatives. The in-person event, held for the first time since January 2020, was a historic celebration for the insurance industry and supporters of the University.
The dinner was held in honor of Tricia Griffith, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Progressive Corporation, who was named the 2020 Insurance Leader of the Year. The prestigious award, presented annually since 1995, recognizes the contributions of outstanding individuals whose leadership in the worldwide insurance and financial services industry sets them apart from their peers.
The dinner normally takes place in January when the award for the previous year is bestowed. The 2020 award was presented at this year’s dinner since it was canceled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, held at the New York Marriott Marquis in Manhattan, NY, drew a crowd of more than 800 members of the global insurance industry, senior leadership from the University, students, faculty, business executives, guests, family, and friends.
In addition to the $1.7 million in funds raised through the dinner, the Greenberg School's Board of Overseers launched a campaign among its members and Board companies to establish an endowed scholarship fund at St. John’s University in the honoree’s name. This initiative has already raised $500,000, bringing the total amount of funds raised to $2.2 million.
The Tricia Griffith St. John’s University Endowed Scholarship for Women in Insurance is being endowed with gifts from supporters to honor Ms. Griffith and her trailblazing role in the insurance industry in perpetuity. The fund will support scholarships for GSRM students, with preference given to female students—acknowledging Ms. Griffith’s own route to success.
A highlight of the evening was a video presentation of Ms. Griffith’s life and career that detailed her humble beginnings, her immeasurable devotion to family, her remarkable professional success, and her unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusivity, as well as a firm commitment to Catholic education and the ideals of giving back to those in need.
The daughter of an insurance salesperson, Ms. Griffith joined Progressive after earning a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University. She started as a claims representative in 1988 and has served in many key leadership positions at Progressive during her tenure. She held several managerial positions in the Claims division before being named Chief Human Resource Officer in 2002. In 2008, she returned to Claims as the group President, overseeing all claims functions. Prior to being named Personal Lines Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Griffith was President of Customer Operations, overseeing claims and the customer management group, which comprises the company’s contact center group (sales and delivery), as well as the customer experience, systems experience, and workforce management groups.
In December of 2018, she was the first woman to be named “Businessperson of the Year” by Fortune magazine and ranked 54th on the Forbes “World’s Most Powerful Women” list. Since taking over the CEO role, she has been named one of the “Most Powerful Women in Business” by Fortune each of the last four years.
“We are immensely proud to be the host of this award and to have such an acclaimed honoree as Tricia Griffith,” stated Brandon W. Sweitzer, Dean, Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.
“Tricia is an inspiration to our students and to the insurance industry, and the funds raised will help open the doors of education and opportunity for many that follow her.”
The award to Ms. Griffith was presented by an industry colleague, Charles A. Davis, Chief Executive Officer, Stone Point Capital LLC. Mr. Davis served as an Honorary Cochairperson for the dinner, along with Lawton W. Fitt, Retired Partner, Goldman Sachs Group. Both Mr. Davis and Ms. Fitt are members of the Progressive Corporation’s Board of Directors, with Ms. Fitt serving as Chairperson of the Board.
“Balance, passion, leadership, generosity, and humility are just some of the traits that describe and define Tricia Griffith,” said Mr. Davis. “She is so deserving of this award, and as an industry, we are all so proud of her and her accomplishments at Progressive.”
As she accepted the award, a beaming Ms. Griffith told the crowd, which included family and friends from across the country, how education and mentoring have impacted her life and career. She also recognized the core values at Progressive that help guide her decision making.
“It is necessary that we continue to evolve as an industry and as a society, and that means we have to reflect the people that we lead and the customers we are so privileged to serve,” she said.
“The annual Insurance Leader of the Year Award Dinner consistently highlights the strength of the relationship between St. John’s University and the global insurance industry,” said Norean R. Sharpe, Ph.D., Dean, and Joseph H. and Maria C. Schwartz Distinguished Chair, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. “Tricia Griffith is the first woman to be honored—and I have no doubt that many others will follow—perhaps even some of our female students in attendance.”
In his opening prayer, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President, St. John’s University, stated, “We are gathered around a noble purpose, and the insurance industry is at heart a service industry.”
Recognizing the continued and critical support provided by the insurance industry to St. John’s University, Fr. Shanley observed, “There’s an old saying that we should, ‘Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.’ We depend on the insurance industry for our work and the work of educating the next generation of insurance leaders who, no doubt, will help this ballroom to look very different in 20 years.”
Grace Alexander, a senior from Martinsville, NJ, studying Actuarial Science at GSRM, was happy and inspired to attend the dinner. “It was a blessing and an honor to witness this event and to be part of a select group of students able to network with Ms. Griffith before the dinner. I want to be like her!”
The Award Selection Committee was chaired by Ellen Thrower, Ph.D., Professor Emerita and Retired Executive Director, St. John’s University’s GSRM, and includes George Bernstein, Esq. of The Bernstein Law Firm, PLLC (Washington, DC); Robert P. Hartwig, Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Finance and Director, Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina; Kevin H. Kelley, Executive Advisor, Aquiline Capital Partners LLC; Joseph Mauriello, Retired Deputy Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, KPMG LLP; Michael J. Morrissey, Special Advisor and Former CEO, International Insurance Society; Cynthia R. Shoss, Partner, Cochair, Global Board, and former Cohead, Global Insurance, Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP; and Patrick J. Shouvlin, retired Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
The Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science was founded in 1901 as the Insurance Society of New York and over the years evolved into The College of Insurance (TCI). In June of 2001, TCI merged with St. John’s University, becoming a School that was part of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. From its location at 101 Astor Place in Manhattan’s East Village, St. John’s awards undergraduate, M.B.A., and M.S. degrees in the insurance, risk management, and actuarial science disciplines. Through its Tobin Center for Executive Education, the University also provides education, training, and consulting services to industry, governments, and regulators worldwide.
GSRM is a global leader in risk and insurance education and training and draws candidates from many regions of the world. All of the degree programs offered by The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, and thus by GSRM, are fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.