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Faces of Risk Management: Stories of Dedication and Friendship

By URMIA Staff posted 06-17-2019 09:34 AM

As we interviewed our members for our 50th anniversary "Faces of Risk Management" column, two themes emerged over and over: dedication and friendship. URMIA members have shaped the course of risk management in higher education every step of the way, and their dedication to the profession shines in the success of URMIA, which thrives thanks to member leadership and involvement. But what makes URMIA such a special place is the camaraderie and friendships formed - through each project, every conference, each instance where members come together to build something fresh and innovative.  

Today, we share a few of our members' memories from our "Faces of Risk Management" column, which spans the 50-year history of the organization. Check out all of these special features by visiting the "Faces of Risk Management" folder in the URMIA Library. 

Dedication to the Profession - and to URMIA

  • William A. Payton, risk manager at the University of Missouri-Columbia and president of URMIA in 2003-2005: "When we went to the 2004 conference in Anchorage, one of the agenda items was the contract renewal with [our association management firm]. The board reached consensus on our counter, and I remember standing in front of the board and saying, 'You know what scares me about this contract? I am afraid they will accept it. What would we have to do to go on our own?' That was it! Larry Stephens or Mary Breighner went to the writing board and started making notes. Larry thought we could be located on the Indiana University campus as an auxiliary unit. We agreed that we weren’t a lobbying organization, so that would be okay. By the time we left Anchorage, we knew we were going to go on our own. Th e board was terrific. Not one member was sitting idly by. I can tell you it was both exhilarating and scary as we went through the process, but look where URMIA is today."
    Bill Payton and Joyce Fred at URMIA Annual Conference
  • Julie Baecker Lageson, chief risk officer at the University of Alaska and URMIA Board of Director (2009-2012): "As time went on, I became more interested in the work my boss was doing as regards risk management, which was pretty much in its infancy at the University of Alaska. Most people I spoke with did not know what the term meant. My boss had a couple of serious illnesses that led to opportunity for me. Please, reader, do not think that I was not concerned about my boss; I was. But bottom line, I got to travel to London two times in his place to meet with our underwriters there. And best of all, I was able to attend URMIA conferences! Ike Charlton knew the value of URMIA. He attended every conference, served on the board, and hosted a conference in Alaska. Once my boss retired, I took the helm, immediately began to attend URMIA conferences, and found a real welcome and home within the organization."
    Julie Baecker Lageson standing with two friends at URMIA Annual Conference 2013
  • Gary Langsdale, university risk officer at The Pennsylvania State University and president of URMIA in 2012-2013: "When I arrived at Penn State, I had 25 years of risk management under my belt and thought I had seen one of everything, until my eyes were opened by everything that happens at a university. I was on the job only a few months when someone mentioned an organization called URMIA – and wow, what a resource! I was blown away by the great sessions on exactly what I needed to know at my first URMIA Annual Conference (Anchorage, 2004). People frequently ask what keeps me awake at night, assuming that the answer will involve the 107,000-seat football stadium, or the nuclear reactor which shares a driveway with the child care center, or 24 academic campuses scattered across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or 1,200 recognized student organizations at the flagship campus alone, or research faculty traveling to who-knows-where and doing who-knows-what, or the 220,000 youth we serve on our campuses every year. Actually, it’s (mostly) none of these; our former senior vice president of finance and business liked to say, 'We’re pretty good at being pretty big.' Instead, I say something like, 'There are things that I know I know, and there are things I know that I don’t know. But there are also things I don’t know that I don’t know, and that’s what worries me.'”

Gary Langsdale receiving the Distinguished Risk Manager Award in 2014

What's your story of dedication to the profession? What friendships and help have you found through URMIA? Share in the comments!

Return to 50th Anniversary Celebration page.