Farewell Remarks of 2014-15 Academy President Mary D. Miller at the American Academy of Actuaries Annual Meeting and Public Policy Forum in Washington, D.C.
November 12, 2014
November 12, 2014
Miller: Good afternoon members of the Academy and distinguished guests. And what an assembly of distinguished guests it is. It has been such a pleasure to welcome our guests from Canada and Europe. Thank you so much for making the trip. The discussions I have had with our charter members and past presidents have been amazing. It is one thing to read about the dedication of our founding members but quite another to hear about it in their own words.
If I ever had any doubts about the dedication of Academy members to professionalism and the public interest, they have been totally erased. The volunteers we just recognized are continuing to uphold the 50 year old traditions that have made the Academy what it is today. I have been fortunate enough to have observed their efforts first-hand and can personally attest to their commitment to the highest standards of volunteerism. Thank you too, to all the speakers who have come together to make this meeting so informative. If this morning is any indicator of what’s to come, we are in for an amazing experience.
Thank you too to Mary Downs and her hard-working Academy staff who so ably operate behind the scenes to make all of this possible. I am constantly amazed at both the quantity and quality of the work they produce in support of our efforts. A special thanks to Mavis, Barbara and Mary Frances who so competently paved the way for me. A sincere thanks to all our past presidents who gave me such a strong organization and solid platform on which I could continue to build. Most of all, thank you to my husband Mike. As every president’s spouse knows, theirs is really the harder role and it goes largely unnoticed by others. So today – thank you for your patience and understanding. Without you it would not have been possible.
Just one year ago I stood here to express how honored and humbled I was to become the 50th President of the American Academy of Actuaries. Little did I know what an understatement that would turn out to be. Just as I did a year ago, I would like to reflect on the past, the present, and, of course, the future from both a personal and professional perspective. 50 years ago today I was a sophomore at The Ohio State University. Just last weekend Mike and I attended the 50th birthday party of that well-known hero – Brutus Buckeye who first came into the world at the OSU - Minnesota game October 30, 1965. The number one song in the country at that time was one that still resonates across the state of Ohio at every football game, tailgate, and wedding reception – “Hang on Sloopy” – recorded by the McCoys. What does this have to do with the Academy you might ask? Although immensely popular at the outset, both the song and the mascot have become stronger and more vibrant than their creators could ever have imagined back in 1965. I hope the visionaries who saw the need for the national organization that they brought to life in 1965 feel that we too have exceeded their expectations.
One of the things I found out about our inception that impressed me tremendously was the dedication of those early members who went two by two to every state legislature to get membership in the Academy written into the laws of every state for both insurance and pension work. I wonder if they could have ever imagined how much regulators have come to rely on the objective, unbiased advice of the Academy. Their desire, evident in their writings, was that actuaries would be recognized as members of a real profession so they laid the groundwork for what would become the Code of Conduct, the ASB and the ABCD we know today. How gratifying it was this year to have seen the profession’s discipline process withstand the assault on its integrity and emerge with a resounding victory for the entire US profession. For at its core, our standards and discipline process are what elevate us and sustain us in our self-regulation.
This past year has been quite an eye-opener for someone who thought they knew the Academy. I began the year focused on achieving three goals. We were dedicated to building on our retirement for the AGES initiative to identify areas of cross practice cooperation that could support sound public policy not only for Social Security and Medicare but also for lifetime income and long-term care for an aging population. When the anticipated decennial conference on aging did not materialize in the way we had hoped, our Aging Task Force under the capable leadership of past-president Tom Terry took our initiative to the Hill last month and put on an incredibly successful forum on Aging Securely. It is the first of many initiatives that will continue to grow out of this cross-practice effort.
A year ago we were in the early stages of developing a robust learning management system to ensure that all our members have the tools and systems they need to attain the highest standards of professionalism. The link to the E Learning Center is on our website where you can find the first module on the code that was rolled out earlier this year and the second module on ethics will be available shortly. Eventually we hope to have an entire library of topics available for our membership. Thanks to past-president Cecil Bykerk for seeing this initiative through to completion.
My third area of focus was on our regulatory initiatives. The attestation template we exposed a year ago has become an online tool that we hope to have available for members to use to attest to their qualifications for year-end work. We have continued our active role on the Hill and at the NAIC on a variety of issues from ACA to PBR and beyond. Have any of you heard someone say “Why hasn’t the Academy done something about XYZ? Based on the incredible year I have just experienced you should ask them if they have searched on our website for XYZ because they are likely to find that we have been working on XYZ for some time. Do policy makers always act on our advice the first time we give it? Let’s get real. But we keep saying it to all who are in a position to act and we do provide the information necessary to make informed decisions.
I said at the outset I am even more honored and more humbled to have been your president than I was when I started. That is because I have attended meetings of every practice council and have witnessed first-hand the incredible effort being exerted by such exceptionally talented volunteers and staff. They are the reason our future is so bright. As wonderful as my successors Tom Wildsmith and Bob Beuerlein are, it is our volunteers, assisted by our capable staff, who are the life blood of our work. I am sure many of them feel the same way I have always felt – and it’s the answer I always give to someone who asks why they should volunteer – we have the opportunity to make a difference. What more could you ever hope to do.
Thank you all for joining in the celebration of our 50th year and for allowing me to serve.