Gordon Curran Stewart, former president of the Insurance Information Institute, died Wednesday, November 26, in his hometown of Garrison, New York. Stewart, who was 75, joined the institute in 1989 as executive VP and in 1991 became its president until his retirement in 2006, according to the I.I.I.
“It is impossible to sum up the impact that Gordon had on this organization,” Dr. Robert Hartwig, who succeeded Stewart and is now president of the I.I.I., said. “He was an extraordinary man, who greatly influenced not only the Institute but the insurance industry as a whole, on an international scale.” Stewart is credited with building the I.I.I., which began as a small public relations organization, into a premier insurance reference point for journalists, academics and policymakers. Today, the nonprofit institute is focused on improving the public understanding of insurance and is supported by more than 80 member companies.
Born on the south side of Chicago on July 22, 1939, Stewart 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), according to the I.I.I. He also attended University of Chicago and studied music and drama at the University of Vienna in Austria. He later 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.
After teaching at Amherst, Stewart became director of communications for Business Communications for the Arts (BCA), where wrote articles and speeches for noted public figures, including former U.S. Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon, Katharine Graham of The Washington Post, and others, the I.I.I. said. From 1971-1973, he served as chief speechwriter and executive assistant to New York Mayer John Lindsay.
In 1974, Stewart became Director of Policy for Howard J. Samuels’s run for the Governorship of New York 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 VP of the American Stock Exchange, according to the I.I.I.
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.
After retiring from the I.I.I in 2006, Stewart served as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Nominating Committee of the International Insurance Society. He also started his own company, Mind Inc., which focused on creating connections between broader insights into society, politics and the arts.
“Much of what the I.I.I. is today is based upon the foundation Gordon built during his time here,” Hartwig said. “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 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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