For this Spotlight edition, we have a couple of members who you may have heard mentioned since they are very involved in the SILA organization but perhaps you don’t know much about them. Let’s pull back the curtains to learn more about Barb Gavitt and Jeff Lehman.
Vice President, Product Development & Education
A.D. Banker & Company
Barb has been in the insurance industry for nearly 27 years. Six of those years have been with A.D. Banker & Company working in product management and course content development.
Barb Gavitt is also SILA’s Education Director serving both the member and Foundation organizations. In addition to the Education Director responsibilities, Barb sits on the SILA Board of Directors, the SILA Foundation Board, and chairs the SILA Education & Training Subgroup (SETS). And if that is not enough, Barb serves as an active member of The Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators (SITE) and has served on its Board.
What led her to enter the insurance industry? This was not her career path initially. Barb was an art major at Eastern Michigan University. She wanted to become an art therapist and EMU was planning to launch a new program in that field. After two years of program delays, Barb settled on a different major to become an elementary school teacher. She got her teaching degree and taught in the public-school system for a couple of years but never landed a full-time gig. One summer, Barb’s cousin and her husband expanded their pre-licensing education school to Michigan. Initially, Barb was just going to help them find a location and set up their new office, but she was intrigued by their business. As she started helping to run the school and teaching insurance pre-licensing classes, she immediately felt it was meant to be. Insurance education has been her passion ever since.
Some other interesting tidbits about Barb. Barb grew up in Milford, Michigan, a very quaint small town in the suburbs of Metropolitan Detroit. She says it is the perfect setting for a Hallmark movie! Barb worked part-time at a funeral home while in college. She answered phones and greeted people during ‘visitation hours’. She would frequently spend the night at the funeral home to be available to answer the phone in the middle of the night and make the arrangements for body ‘pick-ups’. She has ridden in a hearse more than she can count and has driven grieving families to graveside services. Few (living) people can say they have seen the inside of an embalming room!
Barb has been married for 26 years to her husband, Chris, a plumber who is also from the same town. Her oldest son Brendan, has an Associate’s degree and is a senior at Eastern Michigan University completing a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. He works fulltime with school-aged kids at the local community center. Her younger son, Patrick, just earned his Associate’s degree and has applied to the University of Michigan to pursue a degree in Kinesiology. Both boys are avid runners and helped lead their high school cross country team to the State finals, where they took second place.
Speaking of running, Barb’s home town holds a 5k and 10k race on Memorial Day to raise money for the high school athletics program. Barb has run several 5K’s and even a couple half-marathons, but had never run a 10K (6.2 miles). Barb made a goal to run the 10K in under one hour. Barb admits that she is not a fast runner and her usual goal is to just finish the race. During the race, she paced herself at each checkpoint and started to doubt herself the closer she was to finishing. Within the last half mile, she had 5 minutes to finish in her goal time. She was struggling. The next thing she knew, she had friends and runners from the high school cross country team jump in the race to keep her going. As tears streamed down her face, she crossed the finish line with the time clock showing 58.56 minutes, earning her 1st place for her age group. If that wasn’t enough inspiration, her son was waiting at the finish line with a bottle of water and a big hug.
Barb also challenged herself to do a bucket list activity for each of the 50 days before her 50th birthday. The list consisted of things that she has never done before that either took her out of her comfort zone or made her a better person. The one thing she has yet to do is to write and publish a book (that does not include the word “insurance” or reference a state law).
The quote that keeps Barb inspired is “Well behaved women rarely make history”. Barb reminds herself often that taking chances and shaking things up a bit, even if unpopular, can lead to more success than going along with the crowd.
Barb, we applaud you for your focused dedication in achieving your goals. Maybe goal setting should be the theme of your unwritten book?
Our last spotlight is on Jeff Lehman, SILA’s current President.
Associate Vice President, Licensing & Commission Services
Since September 2011, Jeff oversees the licensing, registration and commission operations of Nationwide’s two life insurance carriers as well as its affiliated broker dealer and affiliated insurance agencies. What led him to the insurance industry 24 years ago was the search for a steady job with good benefits. Having experienced the loss of his mother in the prime of her life and the forced early retirement of his father, he understands the value and importance of life insurance and retirement savings to meet unexpected needs.
Jeff was born in Canton, Ohio – one mile south of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but grew up in nearby Massillon, Ohio. Growing up in Northeast Ohio, football was a way of life. When a senior in high school, Jeff’s team won the Division IV state football championship. Jeff was the long snapper, the player who snaps the ball to the punter and holder for field goals. Over the years, Jeff has learned that providing licensing and commission services to insurance producers is a lot like long snapping a football. You must be timely and accurate and the only time you seem to get noticed is when you mess up.
Jeff is happily married to his college sweetheart (or as they say at Bowling Green State University, his Falcon Flame), Alicia, for 24 years. Alicia teaches pre-school. They have been blessed with four sons, Jacob (20), Tyler (18), Zachary (15) and Luke (15). Their boys have been active in various sports and his oldest sons now attend college and the twin sons are Freshmen in high school and have recently obtained their driver license permits (Yikes!).
Jeff’s biggest motivation is helping others. Whether it be helping a family member, a co-worker, a SILA member, a neighbor or someone in need, he finds that helping others brings the most joy and happiness to his life. To highlight this a little more, five years ago, a fellow Nationwide employee encouraged Jeff to donate blood. Since that time, Jeff has donated three gallons of blood and wishes he would have started years ago. He encourages everyone who can to give blood donation a try. One donation can save up to three lives.
As stated earlier, Jeff took on the role of SILA President this year. When asked why, Jeff said that there were two factors that inspired him to take on this role. The first motivation was the members of SILA. He is continually impressed with the passion that SILA members have for the work they do and the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that they exhibit when interacting with fellow SILA members.
The second motivation was the SILA leaders who came before him. Having the opportunity to build upon the foundation that has been laid by his predecessors is a great responsibility. Given all the benefits that he receives as a SILA member and the relationships formed, Jeff felt an obligation to give back and do all he can to help SILA fulfill its mission and become the best industry trade association it can be.
When asked what goals Jeff had for SILA this year, he said there were many and listed them below:
- First and foremost, I anticipate SILA making tremendous strides toward fulfilling its mission as a forum for members to exchange information, best practices and ideas to resolve common issues.
- I intend for SILA to serve as a catalyst to spark innovation and progress within our industry.
- I expect SILA to continue to enhance the services and tools that are available to all members.
- I hope SILA members continue to acquire the knowledge and develop the relationships they need to be successful in their careers.
- Finally, I count on SILA to once again host an outstanding National Education Conference.
With a dedicated SILA Staff, an outstanding Board of Directors, diligent committees, dynamic subgroups, active chapters and scores of hard-working volunteers all working together as one, Jeff is confident that SILA will achieve these goals.
Thanks Jeff. We look forward to serving under your leadership in 2018.