Gordon Curran Stewart, former president of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), died Wednesday, November 26, in his hometown of Garrison, New York.
Stewart, who joined the Institute in 1989 as executive vice president and in 1991 became its president until his retirement in 2006, was credited with turning the Institute from a small public relations organization into the premier insurance reference point for journalists, academics and policymakers.
“It is impossible to sum up the impact that Gordon had on this organization,” said Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I. “He was an extraordinary man, who greatly influenced not only the Institute but the insurance industry as a whole, on an international scale.”
“Much of what the I.I.I. is today is based upon the foundation Gordon built during his time here,” added Hartwig, who succeeded Stewart as president of the I.I.I. “Gordon’s accomplishments throughout the course of his life were truly extraordinary. He was not only successful in the business world and at the highest levels of government, but also in the field of performing arts.”
Stewart was born on July 22, 1939, on the south side of Chicago. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences (as a full four-year George F. Baker Scholar, having been accepted at the age of 16), where he focused on history and music. He returned to the University of Chicago to work on a Ph.D. in European history. He studied music and drama at the University of Vienna in Austria, and then received an MFA in directing from Yale School of Drama before becoming a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at Yale Graduate School, which led to his first position as an instructor of English and theatre at Amherst College.
Stewart left teaching at Amherst to begin a career in drama and politics in New York. While directing plays, he also worked as director of communications for Business Communications for the Arts (BCA). There he wrote his first article for a noted public figure, former U.S. Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon, followed by speeches for Katharine Graham of The Washington Post, William S. Paley of CBS and Arnold Gingrich, the founder of Esquire magazine. Gingrich introduced Stewart to New York Mayor John Lindsay, which led to a position as chief speechwriter and executive assistant to the Mayor from 1971-1973.
Following his time in City Hall, Stewart was director of policy for Howard J. Samuels’s run for the Governorship of New York in 1974, and also wrote speeches for other Democratic Party campaigns, including Jimmy Carter’s successful run for the Presidency in 1976—he was then appointed President Carter’s deputy chief speechwriter.
From 1982 to 1989, Stewart was vice president of the American Stock Exchange. In addition, he helped to manage the taskforce created by New York Governor Mario Cuomo and New York Mayor David Dinkins that resolved the multi-year impasse over what to do with the $7 billion of federal highway money left over when the Westway Project was halted.
After retiring from the Insurance Information Institute in 2006, Stewart continued his involvement in insurance industry affairs, serving as vice chairman and chairman of the Nominating Committee of the International Insurance Society, the world’s largest insurance industry organization, with almost 900 members representing global insurance leaders, international regulatory authorities and worldwide insurance scholars from over 90 countries.
In 1995, Stewart was invited by the industry-CEO membership of the Switzerland-based think tank The Geneva Association for the Study of Insurance Economics to chair the Geneva Association’s first Communications Council, and to later become the North American liaison in charge of managing the Association’s presence in the U.S.
Stewart also served as chairman of the Named Fiduciaries of the Pension Plan for Insurance Organizations, one of the largest multiple employer pension plans in the country.
In 2006, Stewart started his own company, Mind Inc., which focused on creating connections between broader insights into society, politics and the arts.
In 2010, Stewart created an online newspaper Philipstown.info, a working model for community supported journalism similar to listener supported radio that can be replicated in municipalities all across the country.
In 2013, Stewart was named one of the “Century’s Game Changers” by the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, an association for commercial insurance intermediaries, for his work with the Institute.
“Gordon’s was a life very well and very fully lived, right up to his last moments,” Hartwig said. “He will be deeply missed by all.”
Stewart leaves behind his wife, Zanne, and his daughter, Katy.
His family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations in Gordon’s name be made to the nonprofit community newspaper he founded, Philipstown.info. Donations can be made online at philipstown.info/support or by check at: Philipstown.info Inc., 69 Main St., Cold Spring, NY 10516
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