The SOA’s First Female President

Meet Barbara J. Lautzenheiser, FSA, MAAA

Photograph: Courtesy of the Society of Actuaries


1982 was a pivotal year for the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and for Barbara J. Lautzenheiser, FSA, MAAA. She was named the first woman president of the SOA and carved the pathway for other women to carry that title forward.

“Being a speaker and being a leader may sound impossible now, but you do it the way you do almost anything else,” said Lautzenheiser in a 1983 presidential address. “You do it one step at a time, incrementally. Success by the inch is a cinch. Success by the yard is hard. You can do anything if you do it slowly and in small steps.”

Colleagues describe her as intelligent, successful and willing to take risks. “Barbara was a leader in the SOA and in getting the world to understand risk classification,” said Anna Rappaport, FSA, MAAA. “She served as a role model for many young women who needed encouragement to seek leadership roles.”

Lautzenheiser demonstrated that success when she became the first woman to head a major insurance company in the United States (Montgomery Ward Life Insurance Company, in 1986). After years with Montgomery Ward, she returned to Hartford, Connecticut, where she had been a vice president of Phoenix Mutual. She also was the principal of Lautzenheiser and Associates, a consulting firm located in Hartford.

Lautzenheiser’s formula for success was “be visible.” “I was present at every meeting, on every panel, behind every microphone with a question,” she said in an interview. “Whatever committees were relevant, I got on them.”

While serving as president of the SOA and after finishing her term, Lautzenheiser was a member of the Living to 100 Research Symposia, Long-term Care Insurance Actuarial Track, Life Practice Advancement Committee, Actuary of the Future Section Council, The Actuary editorial board, Education Task Force, Strategic Planning Committee, Elections Committee, Board of Directors and the North American Actuarial Council. This is just a glimpse into her volunteer activities. She donated her time, talent and expertise when and wherever it was needed for the SOA.

How did Lautzenheiser become SOA president? She so aptly responded in her 1983 presidential address: “About 12 years ago, the chief underwriter of the company I was with at the time walked into my office and said, ‘I had a very interesting luncheon today.’ And I [asked], ‘Why?’ He said, ‘The woman who is head of the Epileptic Foundation … tried to convince me it wasn’t fair that she had to pay more for her life insurance, because it wasn’t her fault she had epilepsy.’ Lightbulbs went off. I realized that was exactly what was happening with women’s issues [that were] just beginning to percolate at that time.”

Send us information about SOA history that will enlighten everyone about our organization’s past, and serve as a springboard for future growth, as the actuarial profession continues to inspire and evolve. Write to and share.

She continued: “So, I began to speak out on the issue. I began to stand up for what I believed. That visibility led to The Academy Board. That led to the Society of Actuaries Board. That led to vice president, and that led to being able to be here and share this with you this morning. Power comes in having the fortitude to do what one believes in rather than what is expected.”

Lautzenheiser resides in South Glastonbury, Connecticut.

Copyright © 2019 by the Society of Actuaries, Chicago, Illinois.