Dec. 8, 2017
John J. Degnan, a 1966 graduate of Saint Vincent College who earned a bachelor of arts degree in history and who was formerly New Jersey Attorney General, vice chairman and chief operating officer of The Chubb Corporation, and most recently chairman of the board of commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has been named president and CEO of the American Insurance Association (AIA), the national trade association for today’s leaders in the property-casualty insurance industry, effective Nov. 8.
“I am proud of John Degnan’s work, especially his public service as chair of the Port Authority and now his willingness to continue beyond the usual retirement age as president and CEO of AIA,” commented Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president of Saint Vincent College.
“John Degnan is a veteran leader and a well-known, highly respected executive in the industry,” said Chris Swift, chairman and CEO of The Hartford as well as chairman of AIA’s board of directors. “He will be an outstanding leader of the AIA. As a former AIA board member, John has a unique understanding of the association and is well-positioned to help the entire property-casualty industry navigate future challenges. He possesses a rare blend of political acumen, strategic thinking and business savvy. Hiring John provides the AIA with the best possible opportunity to achieve a number of key initiatives, all while maintaining best-in-class advocacy and high-quality services for insurers and their customers.”
“Having actively participated in the property-casualty industry’s most significant public policy debates for more than two decades, John understands the challenges that the industry faces in its search for effective solutions,” said AIA’s Stef Zielezienski, senior vice president and general counsel. “And having participated in those debates at the AIA table, John appreciates the unique, proactive mission of the organization.”
“I very much appreciate the opportunity to lead the AIA,” said Degnan. “Property-casualty insurers play a very important role in providing peace of mind and protection for the things ordinary people care about, whether that’s a house, car, business or otherwise. The public policy environment in which these products are regulated is constantly evolving, and the AIA is best positioned to lead the industry through this change. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the AIA team and our members as they strive to fulfill the needs of their customers.”
Degnan has had a distinguished career as a lawyer, public servant, government official and corporate executive.
Degnan served three years as attorney general of the state of New Jersey, from 1978-1981. Articulate and skilled at gaining consensus, he was chosen by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead the Port Authority in 2014, following revelations of politically motivated lane closures that caused massive traffic snarls the previous fall.
A native of West Orange, New Jersey, Degnan attended St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark. He credits his participation as a student in the school’s Debate Club as “the single best preparation I had for my later career. The art of debating teaches people how to think about a question on either side of a proposition, then to articulate their thoughts concisely and rebut what the other side is saying. In a room where an important point is being decided, you can articulate your position better than other people.” He was also a member of the Drama Guild at St. Benedict where he further developed his communication skills. “To be effective in communications, you need not only to speak well, but you need to present yourself credibly, project yourself well and learn how to combine your words with your facial expressions and gestures,” he said. He graduated from St. Benedict in 1962. He currently serves as a member of the nationally-recognized school’s board of trustees.
Degnan continued his participation in debate when he enrolled at Saint Vincent. Active as a student at Saint Vincent College as president of the Student Government Association and assistant editor of The Review student newspaper, he was president of the junior class and captain of the varsity debate team. The recipient of the John J. Maloney Award (predecessor to The President’s Award, Saint Vincent College’s highest student honor, presented to the member of the graduating class who best embodies what Saint Vincent values in its students – outstanding academic achievement, student leadership and community service), he graduated in 1966 with a bachelor of arts degree in history with high honor. He was named a Saint Vincent College Alumnus of Distinction in 1999 in recognition of his meritorious service and lifelong commitment to Saint Vincent. He is now a member of the board of directors of Saint Vincent College Corporation.
Degnan earned a juris doctor degree in 1969 from Harvard Law School, where he was active with the Community Legal Services Agency, St. Thomas More Society and the Ames Moot Court Competition.
He served as a law secretary to the Honorable John J. Francis, associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, from 1969 to 1971, as assistant counsel to the governor of New Jersey from 1974 to 1976, as associate attorney with Clapp and Eisenberg from 1971 to 1974, as executive secretary to Governor Brendan T. Byrne of New Jersey from 1976 to 1977 and as chief counsel to the governor from 1977 to 1978.
He was named attorney general of the State of New Jersey in 1978, the youngest attorney general in the history of the state. He served as a partner with Shanley and Fisher from 1981 to 1990. He is a fellow of the American Bar Association.
The main speaker at the Saint Vincent College Honors Convocation in 1978, he also delivered a lecture hosted by the Saint Vincent College School of Humanities and Fine Arts and its Charles G. Manoli and Anita L. Manoli Scholarship Committee, speaking on “Public Service/Benedictine Values” at Saint Vincent College in 2014. Degnan was recognized with the conferral of an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and was the principal speaker at the 170th annual commencement of Saint Vincent College on May 7, 2016.
Degnan recently gave the 50th annual Red Mass address on Sept. 22, 2017, in Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
Degnan and his wife, Mary, reside in Chester, New Jersey, where they have enjoyed biking and sailing. They have a son, Philip, and two daughters, Elena and Cynthia.
Photo: John J. Degnan
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