A Difference Maker Who Will Be Missed

A reflection by Foundation colleagues.

Brian Donlan served as a Trustee on The Actuarial Foundation’s Board for six years, recently terming off on June 1, 2021. He was an integral part of many of the Foundation’s programs, and we thought it was fitting to dedicate a spot in our Foundation Blog to reflect on Brian’s subtle but major contributions to the Foundation and its mission.

Brian first joined the Board in 2015 with a goal to, in his words, “take an active role in The Actuarial Foundation’s support of math education.” He went on to say, “The Foundation’s work is another example of what makes our profession so special.”

Taking Brian’s own words as he started his service on the Board, we framed our thoughts and want to share some great memories we all have had working with him these past six years.

How did Brian take an active role in The Actuarial Foundation’s support of math education?

Brian’s involvement has been extensive, ranging from developing a middle school math competition to enthusiastically recruiting volunteers, to recommending colleagues as speakers. Our math education programs have flourished with Brian’s thoughtful leadership. For example:

  • He served as Chair of the Expect the Unexpected with Math Committee, working closely with the Foundation staff and Scholastic to launch The Hardest Math Problem middle school math competition. His leadership and dedication in reviewing concepts and materials, and recruiting volunteers to judge the inaugural contest, made it a resounding success.
  • He led the effort of vetting potential new vendors when Scholastic’s contract renewal came up. Throughout the process, he was very conscientious about including staff and sought out and considered everyone’s input and respected their expertise. He approaches every opportunity collaboratively and is always open and considerate of multiple perspectives.
  • For the 2019 Modeling the Future Symposium that was held in Chicago, Brian recruited multiple young actuaries to host the high school participants during the Ask An Actuary session, where actuaries shared their insights on the profession with the next generation of potential actuaries. Not only did Brian recruit most of the volunteer actuaries in the room, he also opened the Ask An Actuary session by sharing his own personal journey to becoming an actuary.
  • When the pandemic first hit and the 2020 in-person Modeling the Future Challenge Symposium had to be quickly converted to a virtual event, our booked speaker canceled. Brian got on the phone and recommended a replacement speaker. Steve Armstrong did an amazing job sharing his story of becoming an actuary at the first-ever virtual Symposium.
  • He has always been quietly supportive of the Foundation, seeming to prefer to dodge the spotlight. He eagerly shares the Foundation’s resources without being asked. For example, Brian kept the Foundation relevant during the pandemic by sharing our online middle school Scholastic math resources with the Actuarial Team at Allstate. He always looks for ways to support others while also supporting the Foundation’s mission. He never hesitates to help when he’s asked, but many times, he is supportive without being asked.

What makes working with Brian so special?

  • He has an amazing sense of humor and charisma.
  • He is approachable, collaborative, and fun to work with.
  • He is always generous with his time and talents—wherever and whenever they are needed.
  • He’s an extraordinary editor, catching errors that others missed.
  • He does a great job in the spotlight (even though it’s probably not his favorite) and is always quick to recognize others before taking credit himself.
  • He is reliable, thoughtful, and gives clear guidance on how to move forward.
  • When no one raises a hand to help, an email from Brian pops into your inbox, with an offer to help.
  • Brian always has a group of early-career actuaries ready to volunteer when needed.
  • Brian is the first one to reach out to people to tell them what a great job they are doing.

We are so grateful to Brian Donlan for all of his contributions to the Foundation. He was an absolute joy to work with and to be around. He truly embodies the volunteer spirit and enthusiasm that make the actuarial profession so special.

Categories: Profiles, Volunteering