Recently, Bill Coffin, serving as the revered editor in chief of this storied magazine, wrote a beefy post on our website, LifeHealthPro.com, in which he recapped some of his best work during his four-and-a-half years at National Underwriter Life & Health. You may recall some of these pieces; when he somehow found a way to successfully relate the World Cup to the life and health insurance industry – a piece that attracted a record number of viewers online. Or when he and the NUL team embarked on the biggest piece of investigative journalism in the magazine’s history, resulting in “The complete ELNY saga” – an in-depth feature that won numerous awards and industry accolades.
But there were also the personal stories of struggle and grief that Bill selflessly offered his readers. He wrote about his brother’s suicide – more than once – in an effort to bring awareness to mental health resources, and the lack thereof among our health care industry. He also wrote about his family; how his son experienced death for the first time with the passing of his 4th grade teacher, how his family achieved black belt status together as a team, and how bringing his kids to ComiCon – something he used to enjoy alone — was his way of passing the torch of “geekdom” (his word) on to a new generation.
Through these writing and many others, readers got to know Bill, who we lovingly call “Professor Coffin,” on an intimate level. But way before these stories were even thoughts strewn onto a computer screen, I knew Bill.
In 2008 I was sleeping on a thin futon mattress with a cardboard box as a nightstand in a Brooklyn bedroom when Bill hired me as the associate editor of Risk Management magazine. He gave me my first job in New York. A couple of years later, he left for a position at this very magazine, allowing for me to move up to editor of Risk Management. A couple of years after that, he offered me a position here at National Underwriter, as executive managing editor. You could say Bill Coffin is the reason I’ve had every job I’ve ever had in New York – he is the reason I am who I am professionally. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks to him I have years of experience under my belt working for someone who always stuck up for his coworkers, who truly cared about the industry for which he was writing about and who always strived to do the right thing – like no one else I’ve ever known. And thanks to him, I now have a real bed.
People like Bill don’t come along often, and when they do, you tend to hold on to them, like I’m going to do. Just as his loyal readers will likely do.
It has been said that if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. Here’s to a great leader. Here’s to Professor Coffin.