Insurance Leader of the Year Award Dinner Raises Funds and Opportunities for St. John’s

January 24, 2024

In a festive Manhattan ballroom hosting a venerable collection of some of the most accomplished members of the insurance industry, 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 28th annual Insurance Leader of the Year (ILOTY) Award Dinner on January 23, raising a total of $2,912,000 to fund student scholarships and support academic program initiatives. The event, held at the New York Marriott Marquis, drew a crowd of nearly 1,100 members of the global insurance industry, senior leadership from the University, students, faculty, business executives, guests, family, and friends. 

Insurance Leader of the Year 2024

The annual celebration for the insurance industry and supporters of the University honored Mario Greco, Group Chief Executive Officer, Zurich Insurance Group, as the Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science’s 2023 Insurance Leader of the Year. 

“I am truly honored to be recognized as the Insurance Leader of the Year,” remarked Mr. Greco. “This award is a testament to the collective efforts of the incredible team at Zurich. It is through their dedication and hard work that we have been able to drive positive change in the industry and deliver exceptional value to our customers.”

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.

During his heartfelt acceptance speech, Mr. Greco looked back on his career, reflecting on the values that have guided him. He addressed some pressing issues facing the insurance industry and discussed the need to nurture young talent. Mr. Greco also announced a $500,000 donation to extend the Zurich Fellows scholarship program for graduate studies, which was launched in 2020, and to establish the Center of Middle Market Risk Management Excellence.

Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multiline insurer serving people and businesses in more than 200 countries and territories. Founded 150 years ago, Zurich is known for transforming insurance. In addition to providing insurance protection, it is increasingly offering prevention services such as those that promote well-being and enhance climate resilience.

Earlier in the evening, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of St. John’s, in his opening remarks, referred to GSRM as “one of the crown jewels of St. John’s.” He thanked Mr. Greco and all the attendees for their generosity, and encouraged the gathering of titans of the insurance industry to continue to “hire, mentor, and provide meaningful opportunities for St. John’s students.”

Fr. Shanley emphasized the distinctiveness of a St. John’s business education and highlighted how the University embeds the training of students in the larger framework of a Catholic, liberal arts education that requires theology and philosophy.

To highlight this reality, Fr. Shanley, who teaches a philosophy class, drew comparisons between the insurance/risk management industry and some of the values and contingencies in life as taught in Aristotle’s Ethics. Values such as friendship and virtue, on display at the annual event, are hedges against calamity in life as the ancient Greek philosopher described.

“If you are a good, virtuous person, no matter what happens to you, remain a good person,” Fr. Shanley observed.

Insurance Leader of the Year Students with their Dean

One such good person also acknowledged at the dinner was Brandon W. Sweitzer, Dean, Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science, who was attending his last dinner in his current capacity as Dean. Dean Sweitzer was warmly lauded for his multifaceted role as a teacher, mentor, leader, benefactor, innovator of the industry, and a relentless champion of GSRM over the last two decades. 

Before the event, current and potential GSRM students gathered professional career advice and encouragement from Hank Watkins, Regional Director and President of Lloyds for the Americas Region and a longtime Member of the Board of Overseers at GSRM.

“Our students have advantages in the industry, and I told them that,” he shared. “With a New York City location and a 95 percent or better career placement ratio, what parent or student would not want to pursue studies at GSRM? The career options are endless. Today, young people don’t just want a job, they want to make a difference—and the insurance industry allows that, and St. John’s prepares you.”

Mixed into the audience were current GSRM students and recently accepted students who networked with attendees throughout the event. Christopher Bhola, a senior at St. John’s Tobin College of Business majoring in Risk Management and Insurance and pursuing a fast-track M.B.A. degree concentrated in Enterprise Risk Management, was attending the dinner for a second time. Christopher cited the annual event and his classroom experience, internships, and time studying abroad as transformative characteristics of his GSRM experience.

“It is nice being at networking events like this and sharing my experiences with students and professionals in the industry,” he said.

Christopher has already secured a job in Enterprise Risk Consulting at EY and plans to further his education with a graduate degree. This summer he will participate in an internship at Moody’s.

Another student attendee was Malcolm Whitman of Rutland, VT, making his second visit to New York City. Already accepted to St. John’s University, the high school senior at Mount St. Joseph Academy toured the campus earlier in the day before attending the dinner.

“My hometown has a total of 15,000 people and my graduating class has 13 students, so the magnitude of this event is not lost on me,” he said. 

“It is incredible to be around so many accomplished people dedicated to one vital industry,” he continued. “This is the biggest thing I have ever been to.”

Julia Ocasio, a self-described “math girl” and senior at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, NY, learned about GSRM when she attended a college fair at St. John’s. “As a high school senior, it is cool to see all the opportunities that will be available to me at St. John’s during my college career and after college in the insurance industry,” she said.

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 is 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 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.

“This event is like an exclamation point that emphasizes the steady support that GSRM has received from the insurance industry,” said Maciek Nowak, Ph.D., Dean, Joseph H. and Maria C. Schwartz Distinguished Chair, and Professor of Decision Sciences, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. “It is an incredible opportunity for our students and faculty to engage with so many industry titans, particularly someone like Mario Greco, whose focus on serving the community parallels our mission. We are inspired by the industry’s generosity and unwavering support as our premier programs in insurance and risk management continue growing through the recruitment of a more diverse student body that better represents the global economy they will graduate into, the cutting-edge research that our faculty and students undertake, and our innovative educational offerings.”

The 29th Annual Insurance Leader of the Year Award Dinner is scheduled for January 15, 2025.