“It’s nice to see someone when I’m talking,” said Robert Nitsche, the Nitsche Group, as he performed his final duties as 2020-21 chairman of the Independent Insurance Agents. Nitsche made the surprise announcements of the 2021 annual award recipients and formally recognized the 2020 honorees, who like Nitsche, have been watching meetings and ceremonies online from their quarantined spaces since March 2020.
Drex Foreman Award
IIAT’s highest honor, the Drex Foreman Award, was bestowed on Ed Schreiber, Houston region president of BXS Insurance. The crystal eagle award, named for the man who served as chief executive director of IIAT for more than 30 years, acknowledges an individual’s great contributions to the independent agency system.
Schreiber was recognized for his volunteer service to the insurance industry and his community. He served as board chair of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, where he is currently fundraising chairman for a $50 million capital campaign to renovate the community center and the Jewish Federation, both of which were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Previously, Schreiber was the president of GEM Insurance of Houston prior to GEM Insurance joining with BXS Insurance in 2013. He is a past president of the Independent Insurance Agencies of Houston and past board member of IIAT. He is also the immediate past chairman of the IIAT Services Corporation. Schreiber also served on the membership committee of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA).
“A big wow,” said Schreiber as he received the award. Schreiber said he understood the special significance of this award, as he attended the award ceremony when his father-in-law, the late Dick Marks, received it in 1999. “It was special to him,” said Schreiber, “a pinnacle of his career.”
Schreiber said he knows what it means to serve. “You get more back than you put in.”
Schreiber said he will place his Drex Foreman trophy next to his father-in-law’s, making a near matching set on display in his office. “Receiving the same award as my mentor and friend, following someone who has meant so much to me, is special,” said Schreiber. Marks, a founding partner of GEM Insurance, died in 2001 at the age of 72. Marks received the second crystal eagle made for this honor; earlier Drex Foreman honorees received a plaque. The first eagle trophy went to Cruger Ragland, Ragland Insurance Agency, Dallas, in 1998.
Immediate past chairman of IIAT, Mark Ray, vice president of Higginbotham Insurance in Corpus Christi, presented the award.
Last year was a skip year for this award as the annual conference was held virtually.
Paige Eiland Award
Nitsche turned over the microphone to Lee Loftis, IIAT’s government affairs director, to announce the Page Eiland Award recipient, an award that the association has presented only six times in the past 16 years, most recently in 2018. Jim Gavin, only six days from retirement as IIAT’s resident insurance expert and instructor, received the award for his contribution to the association’s political action.
Said Loftis, “Much like Paige, Jim has been behind the scenes on issues of importance.” Loftis commended Gavin’s wealth of knowledge and innate understanding of the political process. For the last 15 years, said Loftis, “I’ve depended on him to help with our legislative agenda.”
Gavin, who joined IIAT in 2002, worked on the company and agency sides of the insurance business since 1973.
Michael Tatum, partner and chairman of the board at Sanford and Tatum, was tapped for the 2021 André Juneau ELITExan of the Year award. Tatum’s work focus is in the medical industry, including medical professional liability. Additionally, said Nitsche, Tatum is well versed in all aspects of the insurance business, serving as a mentor and team leader to the new producers joining the Sanford and Tatum agency.
Tatum holds licenses for property and casualty, surplus lines and life and health. He has earned the Certified Insurance Counselor and Certified Risk Manager designation. He also attended the National Alliance’s Producer School.
In accepting the award, Tatum acknowledged IIAT’s huge mentorship role in his career as well as the role it has served in expanding his network of friends.
Formal presentation was also made to Russell Luttrell, Benton-Luttrell Insurance, Van Alstyne, the 2020 ELITExan honoree.
This award is named for André Juneau who served as president/chairman of IIAT in 2002. Juneau passed away at the age of 47 in 2006. “He served as an outstanding leader in our industry,” said Nitsche, and was known for the “highest standards, both professionally and personally.”
Account Manager of the Year
Account Manager of the Year for 2021 is Nora Vasquez, Weatherby-Eisenrich. Vasquez was nominated by Jacob Eisenrich, vice president of the agency, for her heroic year of serving clients through the pandemic. Vasquez has been an account executive with Weatherby-Eisenrich for 30 years. “She’s supported clients through the many ups and downs of the oil and gas industry,” said Eisenrich, and she adapted well to help clients face unprecedented events of the past year. She helped them “navigate uncertainty with timely service and creative solutions,” said Eisenrich. Clients called Vasquez just to talk through their business challenges, said Eisenrich, because “they knew she cared and they could trust her.”
Vasquez balanced work demands and community service, said Eisenrich, noting that she personally provided meals for dozens of people in her community recovering from the dreaded virus and helped over 100 people schedule their Covid vaccines.
Called onstage to receive the plaque as 2020 Account Manager of the Year was Karla Stoffle, Upshaw Insurance, Amarillo.
Big I award recognition
IIAT’s awards recognition included congratulating Bill Harrison, Jr., president of TASA Risk Solutions. Harrison received the Big I’s Woodworth Memorial Award, recognizing service to the insurance industry and uncommon dedication. This award was conferred by the national association in February.
The awards were announced during the closing brunch event of the IIAT’s annual InsurCon, held at the Kalahari Resort in Round Rock, June 23-25.