The Marriott School of Management and Board of Trustees at Brigham Young University named Patrick G. Ryan, chairman and CEO of Aon Corporation, as its 2002 International Executive of the Year.
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presented the award to Ryan at a banquet Nov. 8.
The IEY award is given annually to honor an outstanding executive who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and high moral character.
"Patrick Ryan is a leader of tremendous capability and principles as well as a legend in the insurance industry," says Ned C. Hill, dean of the Marriott School. "He is effectively leading one of the world's largest insurance companies through a challenging time for the industry-a company whose largest office was in the World Trade Center."
Headquartered in Chicago, Aon is a global insurance and risk management services corporation employing more than 50,000 people in 125 countries. Some 1,300 employees worked in the second tower hit on Sept. 11. Although most of Aon's employees made it out of the building, 176 lost their lives.
"That tragedy tremendously affected Aon," Ryan says. "I learned that one of the things people need is physical contact. I hugged more people in a two-week period than I had in my entire life. A lot of Aon people really reached out to their fallen Aon colleagues' families."
The company also learned that most businesses are not prepared to deal with crises. Aon has since partnered with Giuliani Associates, a firm started by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, to help organizations better prepare for and manage crises.
Prior to 1990, Aon was a large national insurance company. Under Ryan's direction, Aon has doubled its revenues and assets. The company now supplies $50 billion in insurance premiums to the global market place. Much of Aon's growth has come through international acquisitions.
Ryan explained to graduate students at the Marriott School, "We purchased companies all around the globe and then had to integrate them into the culture. Integrating people from all over the world is a huge cost and a huge challenge." Nonetheless he says, "Having a common culture is necessary for success and developing the culture is never a finished product. There's always a need to deepen it and adjust it."
Ryan believes the key to change management is reducing uncertainty. "People are OK with change, but not uncertainty," he added. The top four skills needed to be a leader are being a good listener, seeing yourself as others see you, having a vision, and doing what you say.
"It's also important to have leaders who are willing to make tough decisions," Ryan says. "Everybody gets chances-you have to be alert to see them and decisive to seize the moment."
Patrick Ryan was named president and CEO of what is now Aon Corporation in 1987. He is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University and a director of The Tribune Company. He also serves as a trustee of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center. He has received many business awards and is a member of the Chicago Business Hall of Fame, and a member and past president of The Economic Club of Chicago.
In 1998, Ryan and his wife, Shirley, were awarded the Distinguished Philanthropist Award. They founded and are active in the Pathways Awareness Foundation, dedicated to serving the needs and interests of children and young people with physical movement difficulties.
Past recipients of the IEY award have included: Ryder System, Inc. Chairman M. Anthony Burns, 2001; Procter & Gamble, Inc. Chairman John E. Pepper, 1999; The National Conference of Christians and Jews, Inc. President Jacqueline Grennan Wexler; and Marriott Corporation Founder J. Willard Marriott, 1988.