Liam E. McGee, 60, former Chairman, CEO and President of The Hartford, and former Bank of America executive, loving father, husband, brother and friend to many, passed away peacefully on February 13 following a courageous two-year battle with cancer. True to Liam's strong will, tenacity, and fiery spirit, he remained in-charge and unwaveringly focused on making a difference until the Lord called him Home.
The son of Irish immigrants, McGee was born in County Donegal, Ireland, and grew up in Southern California. His father was a bus driver in Los Angeles who worked his way into management at Southern California Rapid Transit. McGee graduated from the University of San Diego in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in biology. There, he played for the school's baseball team, wrote for the student newspaper and was active in student government. McGee then went on to earn a master's degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University and a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
After working his way through college as a bank teller, McGee became a widely respected business leader.
Liam spent more than three decades as a financial services executive, eventually serving as president of the Consumer and Small Business Bank for Bank of America Corporation. He oversaw the bank's more than 5,000 branches, then the largest network in the nation. Prior to joining Bank of America in 1990, he held several senior positions at Wells Fargo. "Liam was a true visionary," offered Ken Lewis, former Chairman and CEO of Bank of America. "He had ideas about how things should be and would be in the future that were special and unique to him. He had an amazing ability to convey that vision; help others see their role in it and follow his leadership to achieve amazing results. We gave him huge challenges at Bank of America and had high expectations for what he would do. He exceeded those high expectations every time and left an indelible imprint on all with whom he worked. Liam was my good friend; a man I admired. I will miss him greatly."
Most recently, McGee led a financial turnaround and strategic transformation of The Hartford, a nearly 205-year-old insurer. According to Fortune magazine, "Few turnarounds have been as remarkable as The Hartford's under CEO Liam McGee." Added Thomas A. Renyi, Presiding Director of The Hartford, "Liam was a man of commitment and integrity, and we were fortunate to have him join The Hartford during a challenging time in the company's history. Liam made the tough decisions necessary to guide the company through this period, with an unwavering focus on what was best for our company, our customers, our employees and our community."
Throughout his career, McGee took an active leadership role in the communities where he lived and worked. In the Asylum Hill section of Hartford, CT, where The Hartford has been headquartered for nearly 100 years, McGee announced a $7 million, five-year investment in the local neighborhood to attack blight, rebuild homes, nurture and educate children, support families and encourage independence. Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy acknowledged Liam's substantial contributions as a business and community leader, saying, "Liam set two missions when he came here, saving a great American company and improving the city in which it is headquartered. He accomplished both," offered Louis J. Golden, President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England. "Liam McGee, whose life embodied the success inherent in the American Dream, was dedicated to inspiring, educating and providing opportunities to young people. His enthusiastic support of Junior Achievement, one of the many causes he championed, is testimony to his belief that a corporation can use its resources to strengthen the communities it serves and work toward a bright future for all people." McGee served as a member of the Business Roundtable and on the boards of The Financial Services Roundtable as well as Catalyst, a global organization that builds inclusive workplaces and opportunities for women in business. He also served on the board of the University of San Diego. McGee was Chairman of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Junior Achievement of Southern California, and the University of San Diego Board of Trustees.
In addition, he served two terms as a director of the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. He also served as a Trustee of the Arts and Science Council Board of Directors in North Carolina, and of the National Urban League. He was honored with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Star of Hope in 2012 and was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame in 2014. Having recently relocated back to California, McGee continued in an advisory role with The Hartford. He was also actively writing and mentoring CEOs of not-for-profit organizations. One of his mentees, Linda Novick O'Keefe, Chief Executive Officer of Common Threads, shared the following about Liam: "As I think about our past conversations, whether they were about building out my leadership team or driving a culture of performance, Liam always put me first. Every story he told was told for a reason and every opinion on best practices he offered came from real experience. These conversations and our shared brain trust have impacted me deeply, both personally and professionally. Liam changed my leadership and my life."
Late last year, Liam received the distinguished appointment of Professor in Residence at his alma mater, the University of San Diego in both their schools of Law and Business Administration. He had begun guest lecturing and teaching at the college. "With the passing of Liam McGee, the University of San Diego community has lost a great leader and cherished friend. A distinguished alumnus, trustee, Board Chair, and benefactor, Liam leaves an indelible impact on our university. His legacy is much more than his achievements; it is also his personal witness to the mission and values that shape his beloved university," shared Mary Lyons, President of the University of San Diego.
McGee is predeceased by his parents William and Agnes, and survived by his wife Lori Tomoyasu McGee; sons Stephen Liam, Jordan William Riichi, Aidan Masayoshi, daughter Lauren Margaret Murray (Devon) and granddaughter, Finley Jane Murray. In addition, he is survived by his sister Mary Talkin (Terry), and brothers Mike (Laurie), John (Yvonne), Tom (Charlene); many nieces and nephews and several cousins.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on February 24 at Saints Simon and Jude Catholic Church in Huntington Beach, CA. A private burial will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Liam E. McGee Memorial Fund supporting the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital, 80 Seymour Street, Hartford, CT 06102, or online at https://giving.harthosp.org/tributegift or Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, 70 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT 06105.