History of the Houston CPCU Chapter





In 1901, the Insurance Institute of America (IIA) was formed.  In 1942, the American Institute for Property and Liability Underwriters (AIPLU) was formed and Harry J. Loman led the founding of the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters designation, the very first insurance industry professional designation. The designation has grown its reputation for excellence in property casualty insurance education since its inception, and although many other professional designations in various areas of insurance practice followed, none has matched the esteem within the industry of CPCU.  In 1944, the Society for Property and Casualty Underwriters, known as the CPCU Society, was organized.

By 1948, there were 211 CPCUs in the United States, including thirteen in Texas and two in Georgia, but none in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, which together comprised the Southwest chapter housed in Dallas, Texas.  In 1949, 106 new inductees were conferred, bringing the national total to 317, including the first woman in Texas, Dorothy Ann McLane.

On July 1, 1951, six members of the Southwest chapter filed a petition to create the Houston chapter.  The original founders, and year each earned the CPCU designation included:

Fred Rhodes            1947

Myron F. Steves       1949

Jack Culbertson       1949

Marvin Ammons       1950

Richard Kelly           1950

Jack Terry               1950

The Houston chapter sponsored conferment ceremonies in 1951, 1952 and 1955, and its members provided programs for agency conventions and buyers programs and taught CPCU courses.  It also formed a close relationship with the University of Houston, conducting a series of television programs over UH’s KUHT entitled “Insurance Covers,” which launched on October 8, 1953.  Its purpose was to better familiarize the general public with basic coverages and loss scenarios in the hope of improving the industry’s public perception.

The annual picnic was a favorite affair, and special events were held variously at the Tenneco Country Club and Houston Club.  The custom was for members to make presentations at the chapter meetings, which content and delivery were subjected to vigorous scrutiny and lively discussion by all members, in order to improve and refine them for the annual joint meeting with insurance buyers.  The members enlisted the assistance of all who passed one or more exams to teach courses, naming them Associate CPCUs.  Many were known to include a clever joke in their presentations, and meetings enjoyed a high level of attendance by all members. Myron F. Steves became president of the Houston chapter in 1955.  He was opposed to the funding of annual expenses from conferment ceremonies, feeling that inexpensive tickets would attract more people and spread the CPCU message more widely.

The last of the original founders to serve as president was John Benson, who accepted the office in 1956.  The first meeting of that year featured Ed Overman, the new assistant dean of the AII, who rose to the position of president of The Institutes before retiring from a long career in 1987.

The 1968 roster listed fifty members of the Houston chapter, including eleven in Bryan, Beaumont, Galveston and Waco.  In 1980, Steves co-hosted and emceed the Three Decades Plus breakfast at the annual meeting, an event which included all members who had served three decades or more, which has survived his lifetime to present day.  The Senior Section, which he also helped to found, was an outgrowth of the breakfast, and featured a forum and newsletter.  Steves was further distinguished by two sons, Fred and Myron (known as Buddy) and a daughter, Terry Skinner, who also earned the CPCU designation, making them one of only two families in the nation with four CPCU members.

In 1992, the AIPLU became the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (AICPCU).  In 2009, IIA and AICPCU were rebranded as the Institutes for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters, aka “The Institutes.”  That same year, the University of Houston Downtown founded an insurance and risk management undergraduate degree program, which incorporated six of the eight CPCU courses into its curriculum. UH-Downtown and the Houston chapter formed a working relationship and by 2013 the Houston chapter created a program that granted all insurance and risk management students at UH-Downtown, UH and Texas Southern University free attendance at monthly CPCU meetings.

There are currently about 65,000 CPCUs in the world – a tiny fraction of the estimated 1.5 million employees of the property and casualty insurance industry.  From risk management principles to complex policy and coverage analysis, CPCU remains the premier designation, promoting excellence through ethical behavior and continuing education. Today, the designation requires passing eight rigorous undergraduate and graduate-level courses, meeting a two-year industry experience requirement, and being bound by a strict code of professional ethics. 

The Houston chapter has grown in membership and distinction throughout its nearly 70-year history.  It currently has over 143 members and a board of four officers and eight committee chairs that host monthly meetings featuring highly recognized experts in all fields of property casualty insurance, an annual conferment and several social events. The chapter also sponsors an annual volunteer project at Bruce Elementary school.  It has been recognized as a platinum chapter in the CPCU’s Circle of Excellence program.

Information compiled by Wendall Braniff from personal notes and recorded memories of Myron Fuller Steves (1912-2015), information on The Institutes website and other sources.