Congratulations to the CAS on achieving the 10,000 member milestone! This event caused me to reminisce a bit on how our Society has evolved since I joined the ranks as a new Fellow in 1979 (Associate in 1975). We were a much smaller Society back then; my fellowship class was 23 individuals (compared to today’s classes of 250+)! We were also a predominately male Society (I was one of three females in that class). And we were predominately a US Society, though there were a few Canadian members, the most notable of whom for me was Dave Oakden and Jim Christie, a CAS Past President. My company, Aetna Insurance Company (“little Aetna”), had a great showing in that class; Jerry Degerness, Nolan Asch and I made fellowship together. And if I do say so myself, we threw one great Fellowship party!
The work of the actuary was quite different back then. The company’s sole computer was housed in the Actuarial Department, in a separate, temperature-controlled room. Jobs ran overnight, and you hoped that there were no flaws in the program that you had prepared (or you were waiting another day for results). For our newer members, the visuals from “Billion Dollar Bubble” are a fairly apt portrayal of our work environment. Excel did not exist, so junior actuaries were often tasked with creating spreadsheets from graph paper (it was important to estimate how wide each field would need to be!). Calculators worked more like manual typewriters, so you saw the chug, chug, chug of the spindle as functions were performed. Our department was an “open space” area, with only senior staff having offices (not closed-door offices, however; think today’s cubicles). That working environment led to great collaboration, a spirit of collegiality and strong life-time friendships.
While much has changed over the past several decades, some things remain the same. One of the general session topics for my Fellowship meeting was “Inflation and Cost Containment.” Workers Compensation was also front and center on the program. Actuaries continue to bring practical solutions to real-life business issues.
There is much to celebrate from the early years of our Society. But there is also much to look forward to, as we celebrate the 10,000 member milestone! Imagine the innovative products, techniques and practical solutions that we might offer society as we continue to grow to our full potential! I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years will bring!