J’can elected first black president of Society of Actuaries
In another manifestation of Jamaica punching above its weight in the global arena, Jamaican actuary John Robinson recently achieved a unique recognition when he was elected the first black president of the Society of Actuaries, the world’s largest actuarial body with some 100,000 members in 80 countries.
The post was secured on October 25th at a presidential installation luncheon in Orlando, Florida, attended by a delegation of Caribbean actuaries, who greeted the conferment with “loud applause”, according to the October 29 issue of CAA Weekly News, an online publication of Caribbean Actuaries Association (CAA). The Caribbean delegation beamed with pride as0 “John took the podium to a reggae beat, dressed in his usual dashiki and Kente-inspired scarf”.
Jamaican actuary Janet Sharp, a past president of the CAA, commenting on the significance of the achievement to the profession and the region, said, “John is like so many Jamaican and Caribbean actuaries – a ‘left-brain, right-brain’ actuary – spawned from the culture and history of our islands and able to navigate seamlessly with professionals from all over the world. His ascension to the presidency of the international body speaks volumes to the value of volunteerism and public service – the pillars upon which we stand. It reminds us that we can persevere, overcome obstacles, and rise to heights we are determined to attain. But not just for the sake of leadership.”
Robinson’s presidency, according to Sharp, “tells us that with purpose and actuarial thought leadership, we can use our platforms to communicate risk-management solutions for the benefit of our fragile economies”.
In his acceptance speech, Robinson explained that his family background and African heritage prepared him for his professional development and life of volunteerism and public service.
Born into a family of mathematical genius, Robinson inherited his mathematical brain from his father, Ruddy, and his uncle, Leslie, who were both Jamaica scholars from Calabar High School in the 1940s.
Ruddy earned a PhD in mathematical physics from Cambridge University and later was appointed a professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto. Uncle Leslie, also a professor of mathematics at The UWI, was later instrumental in establishing the actuarial science programme at The UWI.
Robinson graduated from The University of the West Indies with a BSc (special) in mathematics and then earned two master’s degrees in statistics from universities in the United States before embarking on an actuarial career in Jamaica in 1982, when he joined R. Watson & Sons, Jamaica, now Duggan Consulting.
His volunteerism and public service are reflected in several areas, including involvement in creating the International Association of Black Actuaries, serving as its president from 2010-2013; volunteering with the Society of Actuaries, which, over 22 years, led to his being elected to lead that organisation. His professional life also includes several years as an insurance regulator with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and his own actuarial consultancy, Robinson Associates LLC.