"Faces of Risk Management" - The Story of Higher Ed Risk Management Through the Voices of Our Members

By URMIA National Office posted 09-18-2018 09:18 AM

Welcome to our very first "Faces of Risk Management" column! As we embark on our year-long celebration of URMIA's 50th Annual Conference in September 2019, we will be highlighting what makes URMIA such an incredible association - YOU, URMIA's members. From even before its first annual meeting in 1969, URMIA grew organically based on the needs of its members to create a community of colleagues working together to figure out this whole higher education risk management thing. Since those first days, URMIA has evolved to position itself as a leader in defining the role and scope of risk management in higher education. Our members participate at the highest levels of college and university administration and leadership, providing an enterprisewide view of the risks and opportunities that impact their institutions.

URMIA members can view all "Faces of Risk Management" articles in the URMIA Library. We will be adding new voices throughout the upcoming year! 

The best way to tell the story of URMIA's history and the growth of the profession is through the voices of our members. Over the next year, we will share the story of URMIA through our members' stories and memories. Our members built this association from the ground up, and their camaraderie, willingness to share information and help, and true friendships are what continue to make URMIA such a success. 

Words of (Fun and Useful) Advice - and What Risk Management Looked Like in 1989 - with Bob Beth

Photo of honorees from 1989 URMIA Annual Conference, including Bob BethWe launch our "Faces of Risk Management" series with the wisdom of one of URMIA's founding members, Bob Beth. Bob was the risk manager at Stanford University from 1961-1999 and served as URMIA's president from 1970-1971. In September 1989, Bob received URMIA's highest honor, the Distinguished Risk Manager award, for his contributions to the profession and the association. Below are his words of wisdom - and don't miss Bob's full "Faces of Risk Management," which includes a report written by Bob for Stanford University's media relations staff which gives an insider view of what risk management in higher ed looked like by the late 1980s!

31 pieces of wisdom for risk management and life

As I look back on my career (translation: “getting paid for doing something you enjoy”), there are some lessons learned and truisms observed that are worth sharing. Here they are:

  1. Always have a vision and a dream of what you can become and how your profession needs to grow and develop. Then the mission, goals, objectives, tasks and, indeed, the joy of your work will be realized. It will be meaningful; filled with purpose and rewards of all kinds.
  2. Be vigilant and persevere. These attitudes will often make the difference between success or failure.
  3. Keep both a micro and macro view of what you are planning and doing. If you look through only one end of the binoculars, you will never get the complete picture. Most people are too narrowly focused and miss the opportunities to do their very best.
  4. Know God and your institution’s president on a first name basis. Don’t be confused about which is God.
  5. Don’t take the world or yourself too seriously. Will history record your mistakes or your achievements?
  6. Don’t stop growing or developing. When you stop, it is nature’s way of informing you of your death.
  7. Be the best that you can be. But don’t join the military service to prove it.
  8. For every problem, there is an opportunity. That’s why most inventors are creative and successful.
  9. A risk manager’s job is never finished. Be thankful for the job security.
  10. The successful completion of a 3,000-mile journey begins with the first step (see item 2).
  11. Never take a problem to your boss without also bringing a good solution, i.e., don’t leave a dead whale on your boss’ desk. Bosses don’t like surprises (pleasant surprises are the exception).
  12. Take time to reflect; that is when you will do your most creative and productive thinking.
  13. Remember the lessons you learned from the past (forget everything else about the past). Enjoy and give thanks for the present. Plan for the future or you won’t have one.
  14. Will Rogers said, “I’ve never met a person that I didn’t like.” He didn’t meet everyone.
  15. Accidents never take a holiday. You should! (And I should practice what I preach!).
  16. Forgive those who have hurt you. Don’t forgive just with words, but forgive with your heart as well. If you don’t forgive, you are hurting yourself, and your ongoing suffering will be greater than the original pain.
  17. To be really successful, you need to have clairaudience – the power or facility to hear something not present to the ear but regarded as having objective reality; i.e. try praying. You must be clairvoyant – the ability to perceive matters beyond the range of ordinary perception; i.e., if you are kind, caring and sensitive to others, you will be well on your way to acquiring this power. Lastly, you need extrasensory perception – perception arising beyond or outside of the ordinary senses (but don’t listen to strange voices).
  18. When responding to a claimant, pretend you are responding to yourself as if you were the claimant. Fairness, equity and wisdom will prevail.
  19. Manage your department as if it were your own business. Be ever mindful of ways to reduce costs, increase income, please your clients, increase productivity and improve quality and service.
  20. If it isn’t right, then it has to be wrong. If wrong, don’t do it. A good test to determine if it is right or wrong is to ask yourself: 1) Can I look into a mirror and say it is right? If you don’t blink or flinch, it is right. 2) Would I have any difficulty in explaining to God, Mike Wallace or Barbara Walters why I thought it was right?
  21. You can spend 10 percent of your time solving 90 percent of the problems if you first determine what is important and set priorities. Too many people try to address all problems without ranking them, only to find that 90 percent of their time has been spent solving 10 percent of the significant problems.
  22. Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” You can also hear a lot just by listening. You learn more listening to others than you will listening to yourself.
  23. Don’t burn bridges (or anything else). Communication is much more difficult without bridges.
  24. Return all telephone calls and answer all letters. You would expect the same courtesy from them.
  25. Computers and actuaries will not always provide you with the correct answers. After all, they are only human.
  26. Consultants will always identify some finding that will require more services from them.
  27. Insurance is supposed to give one peace of mind. However, in order to receive payment for a claim, we too often must resort to giving piece of mind. In all fairness insureds reach for the policy and look for the insuring agreements, and the insurers look for the exclusions.
  28. The really big accidents always happen at night, on weekends and holidays, or when the Super Bowl is being played and the score is tied.
  29. If a particular type of insurance is readily available at a very low price, you don’t need it.
  30. Mark Twain said, “During my many years of life I have known many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Don’t be anxious or worried. Most of you are trained and experienced to identify, anticipate and plan for the risks which your institutions face.
  31. When your work is done, hope that people will not reflect on the money you saved your institutions or the quality of your services. Instead, hope that people whose lives you have touched will remember the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control you shared with them.

URMIA's first annual conference in 1969 at Pennsylvania State UniversityA few highlights from Bob's Stanford memo:

  • Under Bob's direction from 1974 to 1982, Stanford moved its insurance program from relying on the commercial insurance market to self-insurance with the purchase of only catastrophic insurance coverage. This approach was truly cutting edge for higher education at the time. Through this program, Stanford and its medical center saved $28 million a year compared to the cost of fully insured plans covering all risks offered by insurance companies, and its workers compensation annual costs were reduced by over $10 million because of the effectiveness of the university's health and safety programs. 
  • While many institutions of higher education were focused on insurance, Bob was practicing risk management and looking at ways to proactively mitigate risks. According to Bob, "Stanford would win most beauty contests when it comes to safety. For several years we submitted applications to the Campus Safety Association Division of the National Safety Council and repeatedly won their top awards."
  • Bob also outlines the societal conditions facing risk managers during his time at the helm. Some show the initial seeds of change being sowed for higher ed risk managers, and some are the same today.
  • What keeps Bob awake at night? He describes a few of the events from his career that he will always carry with him, including arson, bombings and vandalism associated with Vietnam War protests; fires; water damage; natural disasters; and one young gymnast's life changing injury. The more things change, the more they stay the same as many of these threats continue to keep today's risk managers up at night. 
  • Bob's parting comments are still meaningful and current almost 30 years later: "I hope when my work is done, people will not remember the millions of dollars that have been saved, the quality of insurance and risk management programs, or the service rendered. Instead I pray that people whose lives were touched will remember the fruits of the spirit; these are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The first of these is love, but on more than one occasion I have had to move 'self-control' to the top of the list only to be reminded that I'm not in control anyway."

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