Introducing the 2021 Risk All Star Winners

Facing off against a pandemic, these risk managers were in the front lines, protecting clients, employees and the bottom line.
By: | September 2, 2021

This magazine has presented the Risk All Star award since 2014. An earlier version of it, Risk Innovators, had its origins in 2010.

Every year we find deserving candidates, risk managers who, through their perseverance, passion and creativity, make a big difference to the stability of their organizations.

As deserving as every class of this award has been, there may be no more deserving class than this one.

Of course the thread of a dangerous pandemic courses through every profile we wrote about the winning risk managers. Many of us who are used to working in offices might forget that while we were able to move to the comfort and safety of our dining rooms and home offices during this crisis, there were many who were not. Medical services still needed to be provided. The trash still needed to be picked up.

Taking the latter first, let us praise the work of Jeff Bennett, the assistant treasurer and senior director of risk for Waste Management.

Not only did Bennett need to protect the safety of workers in the field during this crisis, he had to manage the risks of the company’s $5 billion acquisition of Advanced Disposal Systems.

Faced with these challenges, Bennett dug in and created a model to track injured worker claim frequency and severity. In addition, he built a transitional return to work program. As a result, lost work days for the acquired Advanced Disposal System plummeted 40%.

In Southern California, Windee McKinley holds down the position of director of human resources, operations, for the 6,500-employee Hoag Memorial Hospital System.

Working around the clock, for months at a time, McKinley worked with the system’s medical staff to come to the aid of employees who had contracted the virus. She implemented an electronic intake form for symptomatic employees to trace their contacts and document their vaccination status.

Imagine the impact of the pandemic on the sensitive minds of college freshmen and sophomores.

Running to their aid was Mark Anarumo, the president of Norwich University.

Seeing the threat that imposed isolation in dormitories might represent to the mental health of students, Anarumo boldly moved into the dormitories with them. One snippet of this narrative illustrate his heroics poignantly. One night, he was in the stairwell of a dorm at 3 a.m. when he saw a pair of eyes regarding him.

They were those of a student who feared returning to his home environment. “I need to be here. I don’t think people understand what it means for me and my friends to be on campus. Please fight and don’t let them send us home,” the young man said.

Anarumo did fight. He stayed with them. He also convinced the university to refund dorm fees for those students who wanted to go home.

Read his story and those of the rest of the 2021 Risk All Stars below. &

The 2021 Risk All Stars

Mark Anarumo, president, Norwich University

Stepping into His Students’ Shoes

This university president moved quickly to preserve student mental health during the onset of the pandemic by living in the dorms.




Jeff Bennett, assistant treasurer and senior director of risk, Waste Management

Managing a Merger and a Pandemic

Waste management’s Jeff Bennett worked to make sure employee health was a priority through both COVID-19 and a major acquisition.



Karen Dalton, senior manager of risk management, Staples

One Month for the Ideal Workers’ Comp Program

Staples’ Karen Dalton partnered with a new TPA to implement a claims management program in less than a month.



Eric Gardzina, vice president of insurance, risk management, Envision Healthcare

Creating a Risk Retention Group

Not only did Eric Gardzina and his team at Envision Healthcare valiantly respond to the challenges of the pandemic, but they also spent the last year creating their own risk retention group.



Sherri Johnson, vice president corporate claims, Aimbridge Hospitality

Navigating Both a Merger and a Pandemic

A merger, a pandemic, regulatory standards and more. How Aimbridge Hospitality’s Sherri Johnson navigated difficult times.



Nick Kelly, risk manager, City of Oklahoma City

An Integral COVID Response

Quick, focused action by a public sector risk manager no doubt saved lives.





Robert McDade, vice president, litigation and recovery services, QBE North America

Tackling Rising Litigation

QBE North America’s Robert McDade thinks outside the box to manage risk.




Windee McKinley, director of HR, operation, Hoag Memorial Hospital

No Litigated COVID Claims

Quick thinking and a willingness to learn enabled this risk manager to protect her employees without any COVID-related litigation.



Suzanne Panicoe, senior director, global risk management and claims, Avis Budget Group

Offsetting Added Costs During the Pandemic

During a pandemic that caused many shutdowns, Avis’s Suzanne Panicoe took her risk responsibilities to the next level.



Bryan Storey, director, department of risk management, Children’s Hospital of Colorado

Opened Communication for Hospital Staff and Parents

Children’s Hospital of Colorado’s Bryan Storey implemented a new program that keeps patients in the know and medical staff safe.



Dave Taylor, senior director, workers’ compensation, Charter Communications

Melting Siloes for One Workers’ Comp Program

A merger involving tens of thousands of employees gets smoothed out by a director of workers’ compensation.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected].

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