A History of the Boston Chapter

By Frederick N. Nowell, III, CPCU Society Past President, Boston Chapter

History credits Harry Loman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with the idea for The American Institute for Property and Liability Underwriters. The purpose of the Institute was to create a curriculum and administer examinations leading to the CPCU designation. The Society of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters, a professional organization for those who have attained the designation, was a logical offshoot of the Institute.

In the first six years that exams were administered (1943-1948) only 211 received the designation nationally. Though The Standard published the national examination statistics throughout the ‘forties, the existence of the CPCU program and designation was little known in the Boston area.

By 1950 the CPCU idea was gaining momentum. John E. Barton, special agent of the Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Co., along with John Adam, Jr., Harold W. Early, Alfred L. Hutchinson, Howard U. McCorrison, and Charles P. Thomas, petitioned the Society to establish a Boston Chapter. The Chapter was duly established on February 1, 1951. Mr. Barton was the first president.

At the very outset the Chapter was composed exclusively of insurance company employees, but by the end of 1952 agents and brokers began to enter the ranks.

Our custom of meeting for lunch dates from the very beginning of Boston Chapter. The earliest meeting place of the society we have discovered was the Town House. The first dinner meeting was held in 1954 at Ada Bullock’s restaurant. Patten’s and Steuben’s were Chapter venues in the ‘fifties.

The earliest recorded local conferment exercises took place at a joint meeting with the Connecticut Chapter at Hartford in December 1954. In Oct. 1956 the regional conference and conferment was held in Boston. Institute Dean Harry Loman presented the diplomas at an “all-industry” luncheon at the Statler Hotel. Four of the seven New England designees this year were from Boston.

Growth in Boston was still slow in 1955. Of 12 New England completers that year none were based in Boston. Company employees far outnumbered agents and brokers at the time; in New England, at least, the designation was seen of value for promotion only by company personnel, and home office personnel, mainly in Hartford, at that.

To develop interest in the designation the Institute sent field representative Harry Brooks to Boston in 1956. At a meeting hosted by the Insurance Library, Mr. Brooks counseled men and women with information and advice about securing the designation. Mr. Brooks’ visit apparently bore fruit because in May 1957 nearly 100 candidates and holders of the CPCU designation heard Dr. Edward Overman describe the CPCU examination procedure. Dr. Overman also presented plaques to the Chapter’s first 4 presidents, John Barton of Lumberman’s Mutual, Alfred Hutchinson of American Policyholders, Herbert Smith of Jordan Read & Co. (later merged with Brewer & Lord), and Homer White of the North America. These plaques were the forerunners of the certificates now presented to our retiring Chapter presidents.

In October 1957 Messrs. Loman, Overman and Brooks conducted a CPCU teachers’ conference at the Statler Hotel where 40 CPCU instructors were treated to a discussion of teaching techniques.

About this time Boston Chapter inaugurated a series of study projects. The four initial projects dealt with state licensing, dwelling fire rates, package policies, and “the financially irresponsible motorist.”

A column entitled “CPCU Question Box” authored by the Chapter officers appeared in The Standard and gave the Chapter further visibility.

In 1958 Boston CPCUs listened to a panel promoting rival distribution systems-- demonstrating that some insurance issues just never go away. A joint CPCU/CLU conferment for New England designees was held in Hartford in 1958. Lunch meeting presentations included such topics as contractual liability. In the same year Theodore S. Hoffman launched the speakers’ bureau.

We can judge the scope of Chapter activities by the 1959 lineup of committees: Education and Seminars, Special Study Committee on Agents Qualification laws, Program and Entertainment, Sponsorship, Public Relations, Standard Question Box, Speakers Bureau, Writers Bureau, Underwriters of New England, and Radio-TV.

Since the earliest days of Boston Chapter the monthly meetings now held from January to June have formed the core of our annual calendar. Usually lunchtime affairs, but occasionally breakfast gatherings, the monthly meetings offer our members the opportunity to socialize with fellow CPCUs and participate in a program of topical and timely interest. Automobile and workers compensation insurance “crises” have provided fodder for many of these discussions. In recent years technology and automation have been recurring themes.

Over the years several local organizations have offered the American Institute’s CPCU courses to candidates for the designation. In the beginning the Insurance Institute at Boston University gave CPCU courses and teamed up with the Boston Chapter to organize seminars such as that on time element insurance held in the Spring of 1960 at the Hotel Somerset. Si Peterson and Robert Morrison founded the School of Insurance to fill some voids not met by the Institute. Later, the Insurance Institute moved from BU to Northeastern under the capable leadership of Charlie Earnshaw, followed by Ed Czarnowski, and the School of Insurance suspended operations to give unified support to the Institute.

In the early ‘eighties the Insurance Library acquired its current home at 156 State Street and began to teach the CPCU curriculum. Boston Chapter transferred its sponsorship to the Insurance Library about 1986. Since then Boston Chapter and the Insurance Library have worked closely together. In addition to providing classroom space, instructors, texts, course scheduling and registration services, the Library provides a permanent address for the Chapter and handles our mailings and event registrations.

The New Designee Reception is a regular event in the Chapter’s calendar. The first recorded event of this nature, during the term of president James R. McPherson, was a picnic at the home of David J. Lane in Essex. The picnic was a fixture throughout the ‘sixties. Since then evening receptions in Boston have found favor; the Chapter plans these events to showcase the City or its great institutions. Members will recall New Designee Receptions at the Bay Tower Room, Quincy Market, the Aquarium, the Museum of Transportation as well the more recent harbor cruise, Red Sox game, and the Blue Man Group.

The “Spring Social” was born in 1967. Boston Chapter members and spouses gathered for cocktails and dinner (filet mignon or lobster $15) at the Maridor restaurant in Framingham. The Spring Social was held at Nashawtuc Country Club in 1972 and at Blue Hill Country Club the following year. Boston Pops concerts have found great favor with members and reappear on the Chapter’s calendar every few years.

A Scholarship Fund under name of Boston Chapter CPCU Trust was set up in October 1975. Stephen J. Paris and Walter Flanagan were the first trustees being the Chapter’s president and treasurer at the time. The original trust estate was $25,000, which the School of Insurance donated to the Society upon its dissolution. One hundred percent of the income of the trust was to be used for the provision of Robert M. Morrison scholarships. The honoring of scholarship winners is a highlight of our Conferment ceremonies in November.

In addition to our monthly meetings Boston Chapter regularly sponsors day-long educational events for its members and the insurance community. Since the late ‘seventies the National Society has teamed up with the Chapter to offer regional seminars with outstanding instructors on a wide variety of topics. The Chapter provides volunteers to organize and staff these events, and in return receives a modest stipend from National to further its activities.

About 1988 our newsletter, “The Boston Beat” made its debut under the tutelage of Herb Segal. In 1999, during the term of president Josiah Hatch, Boston Chapter again hosted the Annual Meeting of the Society. Members gathered at the Hynes Auditorium to hear General, now Secretary of State, Colin Powell speak on the subject of personal development.

Although one generation of leaders and members imperceptibly gives way to the next, promoting professionalism in our industry has always been our focus. By our sponsorship of the CPCU curriculum we encourage candidates to attain the highest standards of professional development. Our annual Seminar and Conferment Exercises are a symbol of our recognition of the hard work necessary to attain the CPCU designation and of the Chapter’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards in the insurance industry.