Gary Langsdale, ARM, DRM, will retire as assistant vice president & university risk officer of The Pennsylvania State University at the end of December. His career in the insurance and higher education risk management fields has spanned more than forty years, first at Liberty Mutual, followed by several intermediate postings in the forest products industry, and since 2003 at Penn State.
Career by Happenstance
Like many of his generation, Gary's career choice was not planned but came about through timely circumstances. As he was graduating from college, a friend was leaving her job as a claims adjuster and suggested that he apply to replace her.
Work in Higher Education
Gary describes his experience in higher education risk management as challenging – in particular, the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal that broke in 2011 – and at times amusing, such as his involvement with a research project involving rattlesnakes on leashes. Students also have brought entertainment into his daily life. For example, Penn State has a Woodsmen Club, whose members engage in competitions that involve risky activities such as throwing axes, climbing trees, and chopping or sawing lumber. Much to his amusement, though, one day Gary was asked to evaluate a request for the formation of a so-called Lumberjack Club, whose students only wished to have indoor meetings to eat pancakes while wearing flannel shirts.
URMIA Involvement and Beyond
Gary joined URMIA when he began working for Penn State, and almost immediately he took on a volunteer task. This led to a progression of volunteer experiences on several URMIA committees. These, in turn, led to co-chairing the annual conference in Pittsburgh (2010), election to the board of directors, and ultimately election as URMIA's president (2012-2013). Gary also has been active within and beyond URMIA as a highly respected and engaging conference speaker. In 2014, he was honored by his URMIA peers with the Distinguished Risk Manager Award (DRM).
Reflecting on their many years of working together, URMIA Executive Director Jenny Whittington says, “It has been a true pleasure to work with Gary. His wit, warmth, and ability to share his risk management wisdom are phenomenal. I do hope he will remain active with URMIA for many years to come providing sage guidance for the next generation of members.”
Advice for the Next Generation
"Meet as many peers as possible," Gary counsels. "You never know when you might need their help or be able to help them." He has valued the annual conference experience for making connections with other risk management professionals, as well as for bringing new kinds of risk to his attention. He also has been grateful for the "candid interaction and advice" in the supportive URMIAnetwork discussion communities.
Gary and his wife plan to remain in State College, which he says is a "respectful distance" from their children. First on their agenda, though, are plans to spend a month relaxing on a Gulf Coast beach. After his retirement date, friends may contact him by email or cellphone (814-360-1956).