Inside USD

Former Trustee McGee named CEO of The Hartford

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

mcgee-photoLiam McGee ‘76, a former chairman of USD’s board of trustees, was recently named chairman and chief executive officer of The Hartford, an insurance-based financial services company.

McGee, 55, replaces Ramani Ayer, who retires Nov. 1. McGee came to The Hartford after 19 years with Bank of America. He has been in the banking business more than 30 years and was president of the Consumer and Small Business Bank for Bank of America before accepting his new position.

“Liam’s strong track record of success in leading large, complex financial services organizations makes him the ideal person to build on The Hartford’s strong foundation,” said Michael G. Morris, The Hartford’s presiding director, in a statement announcing McGee’s hiring.

The economic outlook remains tough for most businesses worldwide, and McGee said he’s working to keep The Hartford a company capable of “winning in this new emerging economy.”

McGee said, “Ethics, integrity and values are more important than ever. It’s right or it’s wrong. That is what our parents taught us. If it’s a gray area, it’s probably wrong.”

He gained additional life lessons while obtaining a biology degree at USD in 1976. He was a member of the Toreros’ first baseball team to play its games at Cunningham Field, wrote for The Vista newspaper, was active in student government and was a resident adviser for two years. “There were a lot of good times, some very fond memories of USD,” he said.

McGee was born in County Donegal, Ireland, but grew up in Southern California. Some lessons learned during his undergraduate experience remain. “I know to wash my hands to prevent the spread of germs,” he quipped. “Seriously, though, my degree gave me breadth, a broader view of the world. I often tell people it’s more important than just having a business degree. My liberal arts education taught me to be more open-minded and to have a curiosity.”

He has an MBA from Pepperdine University and a Loyola Law School law degree, but McGee’s positive USD experience had an influence on other family members. Liam’s brother, Mike, earned a BBA in 1981. Liam’s son, Stephen, graduated in May with the dual B.A./B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering, and Liam was the featured speaker for his son’s commencement ceremony. “My advice was that whatever you do in life, you have to have a deep passion for it. If you have that passion, it won’t feel like work,” he said.

McGee’s attachment to USD was evident when he served on its board of trustees, including a stint as chairman. “It was a great leadership and management experience. You lead a group of people to come to an agreement and do what’s in the best interest of the institution. The opportunity served me well there and in my business career.”

One of McGee’s memorable tasks was approving the selection of current USD President Mary E. Lyons in 2003. “It is one of the many things I’m proud of,” he said. “We worked together after she was hired. Mary and I still keep in touch.”

Something else he’s gained through his vast experiences through education, in business and more is the importance of getting the most out of yourself. “I’ve had great mentors and, at times, they were tough on me, but I looked at it as them having an interest in seeing me at my best.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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