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A Brief History of the Western Risk and Insurance Association

The primary goals of the Western Risk and Insurance Association are to promote education and research in the field of Risk Management and Insurance.

The Western Risk and Insurance Association officially began on August 24, 1965 with an organizational meeting in San Francisco. Irving Pfeffer was elected President, Robert C. Goshay Vice President, and Oscar N. Serbein Secretary-Treasurer. The first annual meeting of the new organization was held the following year on August 26, 1966 at the University of California, Berkely.

The name used at the organizational meeting in August, 1965 was the Western Association of the University Professors of Insurance. By October, 1965, in a letter to prospective members, the name had been shortened slightly to the Western Association of Professors of Insurance. Before the end of the first year, however, it had become the Western Association of Insurance Professors (WAIP), a name which endured until the current name was adopted on June 10, 1974.

The American Risk and Insurance Association acknowledged the founding of WAIP with the following statement: "The Board of Directors received notice of the organization of the Western Association of Insurance Professors. The Board agreed to offer it all possible assistance and expressed the hope that its activities will generate articles to be submitted to The Journal of Risk and Insurance." This appeared in the JRI, Vol. 32 (December 1965), p. 669.

Membership showed modest growth during the first ten years, with about 22 members in 1966, 30 in 1969, 36 in 1972, and 41 by 1976. It should be mentioned that initially there was a rather stringent requirement for WAIP membership, namely that one had to be a professor, had to teach at least one insurance course each year, and had to be from a Western state, with Western defined as no further east than Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or New Mexico. As current members accepted new teaching assignments in other parts of the country, exceptions were made, and by about 1975 membership restrictions appeared to have been dropped altogether. By the end of 1989, there were about 170 academic members in the Association.

Meetings during the first ten years were scheduled to coincide with those of larger, more established organization. With a relatively small membership and with actual attendance at meetings of about a dozen or so, it would have been difficult to do otherwise. Thus, in six of the first ten years, the WAIP meeting was held in conjunction with that of the Western Economics Association (WEA). Another newly-formed group, the Western Finance Association (WFA), founding in 1965, also followed this approach. In 1970 and 1975, the WAIP meeting was held in conjunction with that of the American Risk and Insurance Association, while in 1971 it coincided with that of the Insurance Information Institute.

Two items from the 1974 minutes would seem to indicate that the need to broaden the membership base had become apparent. In a momentous action, the organization adopted a new name: Western Risk and Insurance Association (WRIA). The second item was the following: "A motion was made, seconded, and passed that the Association offer institutional membership to persons in the insurance industry."

In 1975 the American Risk and Insurance Association met in San Francisco, so it was natural for WRIA to meet in conjunction with ARIA. However, minutes of the 1975 Business Meeting contained the following item: "Considerable discussion concerning the 1976 meeting was generated. It was agreed that we should meet in Las Vegas and that we should try for the Labor Day Weekend." The decision to meet independently of other organization s had this been made.

As it turned out, the 1976 meeting was in Las Vegas, but on December 28-30, rather than over Labor Day Weekend. It is, in fact, difficult to schedule meeting in Las Vegas over major holidays, so whether by choice or by chance, WRIA settled on a meeting time or year which has continued to be popular with members. Moreover, the following excerpt from the Call for Papers published by Secretary-Treasurer Tom Heflin shows that the original restrictions on membership definitely were gone: "Invitations are extended to those in industry, government, university students and faculty whose teaching and research interests are related to risk and insurance. Though the meeting has a regional focus, interested persons from all geographical areas are invited to attend and participate."

Another big step was taken at the 1976 meeting when it was decided to publish a journal. In a memo to WRIA members dated January 12, 1977, Journal Editor Lester Tenney wrote the following: "At the last annual meeting of the WRIA in Las Vegas on December 28, 1976, it was unanimously agreed that there exists a need for a Journal of Insurance dealing with the more operational approaches to insurance practices. With this idea in mind, the WRIA passed a resolution authorizing the publication of a Journal dedicated to applied insurance practices." Thus was born The Journal of Insurance Issues and Practices, with the first issue appearing in March, 1977, just three months after being authorized. With the advent of the JIIP, that publication became the official repository for WRIA records. Those interested in WRIA events from 1977 to the present are encouraged to consult past issues of the JIIP. By 1989 there were 235 Journal subscribers, including 65 university libraries.

Included with this write-up is a list of Past Presidents of WRIA, all of whom also held other offices and served on the Board of Directors, some on several different occasions. Among those who served as an officer or on the Board of Directors during the first ten years but did not go on to become President are the following: James L. Athearn, Leonard L. Berekson, Irving M. Field, Mark R. Greene, David F. Hitchcock, Anthony Lauer, Philip Mitchell, William A. Nye, L.E. Pease, Douglas Temple, and James A. Wickman.

In closing I would especially like to thank Tom Heflin and Oscar Servein, who made WRIA records available to me which largely were the basis for this write-up. My thanks also to Isklandar Hamwi, who encouraged me to finish this project and who provided current information on membership[s and journal subscriptions. I also either wrote or spoke to several other people during the past five years concerning this project, including Irving Pfeffer, Bob Goshay, Al Hofflander, Joe Launie, Les Strickler, and Les Tenney. My thanks to them all.

Finally, even with all of the WRIA records that I have been able to gather, there still are a few gaps and missing pieces, so if I have omitted something important or failed to acknowledge someone, or slighted some event or person, or inadvertently misrepresented what actually happened, please accept my apologies.

Excerpted from Kenneth Pacholke (Journal of Insurance Issues, June, 1990)
Past President of the Western Risk and Insurance Association