In Case You Missed It – Joseph Belth

February 26th, 2014 Posted in In Case You Missed It

Joseph Belth, Ph.D was originally run in the spring/summer 2012 edition of The Spartan


Joseph Belth - NowDr. Joseph M. “Joe” Belth ’58 responded to our invitation to “Golden Spartans” to share his story.  Belth was briefly profiled in our Fall/Winter 2010 issue under the caption, “What Alumni Have Done with their Degrees.”

From an expanded biography, we learned that Joe was born and raised in Syracuse, NY.  He married Marjorie Lavine in 1955 and decided to attend ACC because of its affordable tuition and proximity.  Joe transferred credits to Syracuse University and graduated summa cum laude from ACC and SU’s College of Business Administration the same year.  With a fellowship from the S.S. Huebner Foundation for Insurance Education, Joe graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1961 with a Ph.D. in Applied Economics with a concentration in insurance.  In 1962, he joined the faculty of the School of Business (now the Kelley School of Business) at Indiana University, Bloomington, and retired in 1993 as professor emeritus of insurance.

Active in the American Risk and Insurance Association (ARIA), Belth wrote books on the subject of life insurance and had numerous award-winning articles published in academic journals.  He taught and conducted extensive research on deceptive sales practices in the life insurance industry (considered controversial by insurance practitioners at that time).  After encountering censorship from trade journals and professional organizations, he began publishing a monthly independent newsletter in 1974 – The Insurance Forum – which is now in its 39th year.

Belth received significant accolades for his work.  In 1966, for “outstanding contribution to the literature of insurance,” Joe received an Elizur Wright Award from ARIA for his book, Participating Life Insurance Sold by Stock Companies.  In 1991, for “intensive scrutiny of the insurance industry since 1974,” The Insurance Forum received a George Polk Award [in the special publications category], which is one of the most coveted in journalism.  In 1999, “in recognition of distinguished service to education and professionalism,” Joe received a Huebner Gold Medal from The American College.  He has been profiled in three national publications – The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and The New York Times – and is listed in Who’s Who in America.

Joseph Belth - Then 1958In 1974, Belth was invited to be commencement speaker at ACC, the first alum so honored.  In his address, Joe asked students to consider their responsibilities to society.  Retired now for 18 years, he and his wife continue to live in their home outside Bloomington, Indiana.  They have three children, four grandchildren and one step-grandchild.

An Internet search provided, in the words of the late Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story.”  We discovered that Belth’s name is almost synonymous with life insurance.  Nationally recognized as one of the foremost authorities and one of the most respected critics of the industry, he has testified before congressional subcommittees and regulatory commissions since the early ’70s.  Joe has been extolled and criticized by colleagues, life insurance executives, and regulators alike.  He has witnessed the life insurance industry’s sales practices scandals of the 1990s and the failure of several insurance companies and has remained a steadfast advocate for the average consumer.  Over the years, Joe has been quoted extensively by national media and his name continues to appear in the press.  Enter the name “Joseph M. Belth” into any search engine and see what you get.  Pretty impressive.

Finally, we wish to extend our thanks to Dr. Belth for continuing to remember his alma mater.  In 1974, he established an award in memory of his parents, Irving and Helen Belth, which to this day recognizes a graduate for both outstanding scholarship and student citizenship.

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