President's Message

May 2024

By Debra Tedeschi Varner
Varner & Van Volkenburg, PLLC, Clarksburg, WV

Dear Fellows:

It is hard to believe how quickly this year has passed. Serving as the President of the College has been filled with a pleasurable whirlwind of events, colleague interaction, new friendships, professional advancements, and educational experiences.  

The Insurance Law Symposium was held at the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law. In excess of 100 participants attended the event. Thank you to Mike Hamilton and Jo-Ann Lytle, Co-Chairs of the Committee, for a job well done! Professor and Honorary Fellow Tom Baker worked diligently to make the event happen. His tireless efforts were evident by the success of the event. 

The next Insurance Law Symposium will take place November 15, 2024, in connection with the University of Minnesota School of Law. Fellows Laura Hanson and Chris Yetka will serve as co-chairs for the event, joined by Honorary Fellow Dan Schwarz. Artificial Intelligence will be the focus of the symposium. Mark your calendars and plan to attend this cutting-edge symposium.

The Annual Meeting took place at the Intercontinental in Chicago May 8-10, 2024. Barbara O’Donnell and Suzan Charlton served as chairs for the meeting, joined by Mike Kiernan and Rikke Dierssen-Morice, who will serve as the chairs for the 2025 Annual Meeting. There were 183 attendees at the Annual Meeting, with 27 new Fellows being inducted into the College. Congratulations to all! Thank you for the hard work of the Annual Meeting Committee and the speakers. This truly phenomenal meeting could not have happened without your efforts.
During the business meeting last year, I emphasized that pop-up meetings, committee participation and growth would continue to be the focus for 2023-2024. The work of Mark Gravely and Lisa Weixelman as Pop-Up Committee Chairs has been stellar by any measure. Since June 2023, the ACCC has held 11 pop-ups with 345 participants. Well done! Committee participation also grew this past year. More members joined and participated in committees than in any other year. We will continue to focus on growth, with committees scheduling monthly meetings and advancing speakers for pop-ups, as well as the Annual Meeting. Continued and active participation is encouraged for all Fellows. Many dedicated Fellows served as committee chairs this past year. Some will continue to serve next year, and others will retire from their position. Thank you to all the many Fellows who provided their leadership to the important committees of the college.
The Membership Committee, led by new board member, Lisa Pake and Vince Morgan, along with committee members, Helen Michael, John Bonnie, Laura Hanson, and Angela Elbert (Liaison) vetted 55 potential Fellows this year. This committee is one of the hardest working committees of the college. Thanks to its effort, membership currently stands as follows: 370 Fellows, 28 Emeritus Fellows and 21 Honorary Fellows, with 20 in the pipeline. 
Marty Pentz and Andy Downs, Co-Chairs of the Outreach and Regional Meetings Committee organized regional meetings in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles/Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, San Francisco, Southern Florida and Washington, D.C. Designed to keep Fellows engaged between annual meetings, this year some of the meet ups were joined by potential Fellows, giving them an opportunity to interact with Fellows and learn more about the College and its mission in a relaxed atmosphere. This setting provides a great opportunity for recruiting new Fellows. 
Mike Huddleston, Immediate Past President, passed away unexpectedly earlier this month. Serving with Mike was fantastic. He will be missed. Let’s face it…. Mike was just cool!!! Top notch lawyer, jazz musician, civil war history buff, Mike did it all in life and in the College. Coming up the ranks behind Mike was inspiring and intimidating at the same time. Mostly, however, it was fun. Mike joined the board in 2016. He served as the Secretary-Treasurer in FY 2020-2021. His previous roles included Communications Committee Co-Chair, Financial Committee Chair, Nominations Committee Chair, Executive Committee Member, Vice Chair and President, as well as a speaker for multiple ACCC annual conferences and insurance law symposiums. In addition, Mike spearheaded the Student Writing Competition in 2023. He was also a member of multiple committees, including Cyber & Computer Crime, Extracontractual & Bad Faith, Membership, Outreach & Regional Meetings, and Professional Liability. Thank you for your contributions to the college, your leadership, and your friendship. Your leadership efforts, like the leadership efforts of those who served before you, continue to drive the college. Rest in peace my friend.  
Marty Pentz, Andy Downs and Helen Michael will also be rotating off the board this year. Marty and Andy joined the board in 2018 and have been dedicated members of the Finance Committee. Helen also joined the board in 2018. Helen has been a dedicated member of the hard-working Membership Committee and has previously served on the Finance Committee. Thank you for your service and dedication. We look forward to your continued active participation in the college.
I would be remiss if I did not thank Carol Montoya and Pearl Ford-Fyffe. The college would not run as smoothly as it does without the work of Carol, Pearl and their entire team. Thank you for keeping all of us straight, which is likely not an easy task.
As I rotate into the role of Immediate Past President, the college will be in good hands with Angela Elbert moving into the President’s role, Steve Pate moving into the role of President-Elect and KT Talieh having been elected to serve as the next Secretary-Treasurer. Each of these leaders will continue to work diligently to keep the college the preeminent organization of coverage lawyers. 

Through the work of many, the college continues to grow and prosper. During my tenure, I received so much great help from so many people. I hope that I have not failed to name anyone. My appreciation to each and every one who participated in making this year a success is heartfelt and sincere. Thus, I close with a blanket all-encompassing thank you to all! It has been an honor to have served as your President this past year.

Warm regards,