December 15, 2018

Requiem for an (Insurance) Heavyweight: Don Malecki

I stray from my “usual” blog topics to pay tribute to a genuine titan of the insurance industry, Don Malecki, who passed away after a long illness on December 12th. The phrase “thought leader” is bandied about indiscriminately. In the case of Malecki, however, the shoe fits.

Malecki

It is no exaggeration to say that Don was a titan of the insurance industry. He was a authoritative source on insurance coverage matters and a prolific author. Malecki was most recently a Principal at the risk management consulting firm of Malecki, Deimling, Nielander & Associates. He was a frequent contributing author to various publications from the Dallas-based International Risk Management Institute (IRMI).

His insurance career spanned 50+ years, starting as a underwriter trainee with Fireman’s Insurance Company. He authored or co-authored 15 books, including three textbooks that have been used in the CPCU curriculum. He was a past President of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Society of CPCU and was an active member of the Society of Risk Management Consultants. Many may not know this, but Don was also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served from 1951 1955.

Don’s résumé is lengthy and astounding but he was anything but pretentious. I don’t pretend to have known Don as a close friend, but I did know him and enjoyed his prodigious intellectual content output, and his down-to-earth style.

I first met Don in the 1990s, when we were both speaking at one

of IRMI’s Construction Risk Management conferences. We had a speakers dinner the night

before the program. After dinner, Don proved to be a compelling raconteur and entertained the table with a trick that involve him being able to get a dinner spoon to stick to his nose. (After a few glasses of wine, this seemed hilarious…)

It encapsulates the fact that Don was anything but a pretentious egghead. Our paths intersected over the years at various insurance conferences and meetings. In 2008, I began to entertain the

notion of launching my own consulting an expert witness activists. One of the first individuals. I went to was Don. Don was extremely helpful in giving him his advice as to how to go about launching such a consulting practice. I deeply appreciated his thoughts and insights.

As an aside, Don said he was trying to wind down his own consulting an expert witness practice by jacking up his rate to $650 per hour. He observed wryly and ironically that, ever since increasing his hourly rate, is number of engagements had actually increased.

I last saw Don in October 2013, when we were both attending a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina of the Society of Risk Management Consultants. He was in good cheer, and I had no insight at the time of any health issue.

This did hit my radar screen, however, in December of 2013. I approached Don about the referral of an expert witnessing engagement from a Michigan attorney who sought an expert in underwriting and policy interpretation. The first recommendation that came to my mind was Don Malecki. I called Don about the prospective engagement and he explained that you just returned home to Cincinnati from a lengthy plane flight from the West Coast, and developed medical problems from that. He politely declined the engagement, citing his doctor’s advice that he not travel or take on any new work. At some point in early 2014, I learned of Don’s illness.

Don exemplifies a life well-lived — not just professionally but personally. He touched so many in the insurance industry but it would be difficult to underestimate his impact. His legacy perpetuates not only through his prodigious intellectual content in the field of insurance, but in the relationships in the lives of individuals that he touched. One risk professional, writing on an interest group listserv, commented “Everyone else in the insurance industry just moved up one notch.” Don was at the pinnacle and the likes of him are unlikely to be seen again in a very long while.

While we underfstandably mourn Don’s passing, we can celebrate his life and the ongoing, positive ripple effect of the legacy he leaves for the insurance industry.

Farewell and Godspeed my friend…

Comments

  1. Someone that the younger people in this business should get to know through his prolific and excellent books and other writings. The legacy will truly survive vthe man.

    I never knew him personally, but certainly respected his reputation and what he contributed to the insurance industry.

  2. Kevin, beautiful tribute to a true industry legend. I had the good fortune to get to know Don on a personal level in recent years. As brilliant of an insurance coverage mind as he was, he was also as gifted as a true character who loved his wife Norma, his family and friends, insurance coverage nerds, and, of course, a good glass of red wine.

  3. Kevin,

    Excellent tribute!

    Lee

  4. My insurance education was heavily influenced by Don – first reading the FC&S bulletins as an underwriter trainee in the late 1970s, then studying and later teaching CPCU (following Don’s tradition, I have kept CPCU 4 – Commercial Liability Risk Management – by Malecki, Donaldson & Horn). And Malecki on Insurance was a must read.

    I have had the honor to meet with him on several occasions and he was always willing to discuss in person or by email insurance matters, freely sharing his amazing knowledge and insight.

    Before presenting a session on additional insureds at the IRMI Construction Conference a few years ago, I learned Don would be attending my session. I asked him when he was going to start throwing tomatoes at me (he was, after all, the leading expert on additional insureds as evidenced by the Additional Insured Book). He seemed taken aback and said he would never say anything in such a setting – and he didn’t (even if he thought I was off the rails).

    So my strongest impression of Don Malecki goes beyond his incredible insurance experience and knowledge – but rather is formed by his humble, plain spoke manner – he was the consummate gentleman. And those qualities the world of insurance and beyond always needs and will certainly miss.

    Kevin, excellent tribute.

    Craig Stanovich

  5. Rick Green says:

    I had the pleasure of interacting with Don on a few occasions. His knowledge of the general liability policy was unsurpassed. I visited with him in the little Cincinnati house where he had his original consulting practice; it was not tidy, but there was a treasure trove of valuable insurance-related information there. Don’s level of insurance intelligence and scholarship is not likely to be achieved again in the Google-answer era.

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