You’re the new chairman of The Council. Why did you agree to take on this role?
I have great respect for the organization and the people who have led it and who lead it at the present time. These are times where we face unprecedented challenges that interest me greatly, and I want to work with others to meet those challenges.
Tell me about your childhood.
I grew up in Webster Groves, a small town in Missouri. It was a wonderful place to grow up. I still have friends from that town and stay in touch with them regularly. I believe in maintaining long-term relationships. I have great friends from Yale University. That’s very important to me.
How did you get into the insurance business?
My grandfather, James B. Oswald, founded an insurance agency in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1893. When I was 16, my father said to me, “You ought to go up there and see what’s happening.” I arrived in Cleveland on June 15, 1953. In those days, that was like going to Mars. That first night I was taken out to dinner. I got up from dinner to peruse the swimming pool. I saw a young lady who got my attention. December of this year will be our 50th anniversary. It’s probably two of the most important events of my life, and they literally happened on the same day at the age of 16.
My father was not a college graduate, but he had a lot of wisdom. At one point I was trying to decide what I was going to do, and the way he put it was, “If you go to Yale, you’ll never have to explain to anybody what it was you did.” I was talking to all kinds of people about why you go to college. After that, nobody had to explain.
You were at Yale with one of my favorite writers, Calvin Trillin.
Bud was two years ahead of me at Yale. He and I had some things in common, in terms of activities. He is a very bright, quick, energetic person and always was a highly respected member of the Yale community.
You’ve always been very involved in charitable work.
My wife and I are heavily involved in nonprofit organizations that deal with the needs of families and children. We’re involved in educational institutions, medical facilities, the arts. We established a family fund, the Michael Pender Memorial Fund, which enables us to mix the financial support with our time and, to the extent that we have leadership skills, that as well. We have three children. Michael died at the age of 19. He was injured in a boating accident on New Year’s Day, 1980. He died 11 years and 41 days later of complications from that accident. Kathy is a past chairwoman of a very large home for emotionally disturbed children, Beech Brook, that literally serves thousands of children and their families. We just believe that it’s better to give back to the extent that you’re able.