Gordon Lenz ’58 was a young teacher just a year out of Oswego when his infant daughter became ill. In order to supplement his starting teacher’s salary to pay medical bills, Lenz went to work selling insurance part time.
He had such a talent for it that by his second year, he owned the agency and had 55 employees. So he left the classroom and embarked on a lifetime in business that would see him rise to the top of the insurance profession in New York state, own two banks, and even invest in a cement factory in Abu Dhabi.
Now Lenz has generously endowed a new educational center at his alma mater, the Gordon A. Lenz Center for Finance, Insurance and Risk Management in the School of Business.
The Lenz Center will support the first dedicated four-year program to focus on insurance and risk management studies in the SUNY system. It will become one of only a handful of college centers for a discipline that has increased in prominence and importance as the nation seeks solutions to current health care issues.
It’s a logical outlet for his philanthropy. Lenz, a member of the Oswego College Foundation board of directors, is a widely known and respected insurance industry innovator, recognized for having created affordable, comprehensive insurance products for small businesses in New York state.
He decided to fund the unique center because of his concern about the future of his profession.
Companies used to train agents not only to sell their products but also to advise clients, offer estate planning and evaluate businesses or property in order to insure it properly, he noted.
“With the demise of high quality insurance companies came a corresponding drop in the level of training provided to agents,” he said on a recent visit to campus with his wife, Carol.
The former president of the Life Insurance Association of New York State who taught insurance for 16 years, Lenz has another reason for supporting business education at Oswego. His grandson, Raymond Collins ’11, hopes to enter the family business. “I’d like him to be well prepared when he walks through the front door,” Lenz said.
“Gordon Lenz’s very generous support for SUNY Oswego in endowing the Gordon A. Lenz Family Foundation Center for Finance, Insurance and Risk Management in the School of Business is a concrete expression of his commitment to visionary leadership in the industry, now and long into the future,” SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley said. “Generations of students will be inspired to embark — as he once did — on a meaningful journey to pursue a career in insurance adhering to ethical and socially responsible standards. His name will be an honored legacy at SUNY Oswego.”
The new Lenz Center will support a wide variety of potential areas, such as student education, continuing professional education, faculty research, diversity initiatives, community outreach, and social responsibility and ethical training in risk management and insurance.
Lenz is chairman and chief executive officer of Conference Associates Inc., which provides group health insurance to more than 150,000 small businesses throughout New York state, and its affiliate, the New York State Business Group. He is also a founder and member of the board of directors of Gold Coast Bank.
The chairman and CEO of Cue Brokerage Corp., a commercial property and casualty insurance agency, Lenz has been actively involved in the Professional Insurance Marketing Association and the Long Island Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
— Michele Reed