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An Interview with Deb Stone (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2016/09/08


An interview with Deb Stone. She discusses: geographic, cultural, and linguistic background; influenced on development; pivotal moments in major cross-sections of early life; interest in mathematics and education; interest in operations research connected to mathematics and education; benefits and purposes for memberships in organizations; lessons from actuarial experience; and general lessons from the diverse, but associated, professional stations.

Keywords: American Mensa, Deb Stone, Mensa.

An Interview with Deb Stone: Chair, AMC (National Board of Directors), American Mensa (Part One)[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Footnotes in and after the interview, & bibliography & citation style listing after the interview.*

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?

I was born in New Hampshire, and with the exception of a few years in southern California I have lived my life in the northeast US (New England, upstate NY, grad school in Philadelphia and a three years in New Jersey.) My ancestors on one side came from England (17th century) and from Ireland, Scotland & Sweden (late 19th & early 20th century) and on the other from eastern Europe (mostly Russia, Poland & Ukraine) in the late 19th & early 20th century. The eastern European part of the family is Jewish and the other side is mostly Christian. We are American/English speakers primarily, although my paternal grandparents were born in Russia and Ukraine and learned English when they arrived as kids, and on the maternal side my great-grandmother arrived in this country from Sweden at age 20 speaking no English.

2. How did this influence development?

I have relatively traditional Yankee values because I grew up mostly in NH and CT, with parents who were Yankees as well. There was a focus on education & learning on both sides of the family, but more so from the Jewish side. My family is very diverse (multiple races, religions, etc) which made me relatively socially liberal and I like to think open-minded and non-judgmental. The cultural diversity of the family is also, I expect, behind my own fascination with other cultures and languages.

3. What about influences and pivotal moments in major cross-sections of early life including kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, and undergraduate studies (college/university)?

I realized pretty early on that I didn’t really need school. I was reading by the time I was about 2 ½ or 3 and I told my parents when I started first grade (age 5) that I was going to go to UNH and study math. Up until then, my parents were my biggest influence. They provided an environment in which I could learn, they were both readers and encouraged my love of reading and they also encouraged my desire to know things and to keep learning. Once I started school I was lucky to have a few good teachers along the way. By good I mean they let me explore things on my own while providing support, and kept exposing me to stuff outside the normal curriculum. Like many Mensans, I became a de facto teacher’s aide and tutor.

Also like many Mensans, I was painfully shy and somewhat withdrawn (a lively internal life helped with that). Also, my family moved fairly often, which meant I was often in an environment in which I didn’t know anyone and starting over to try to make friends. When we relocated near the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I entered a new school about a week into the school year, not knowing anyone. At lunch that first day, a girl came over to me as I was looking around the cafeteria, and said “We saw you in French class and Algebra – would you like to come sit with us?” I made friends that day that I still have now (45 years later). I was so grateful for the way she made me feel welcome, that I decided that I wanted to be able to do that for someone else someday. So, thanks to Chris Braen, I started trying to reach out to people, learn to listen and draw people out, and come out of my shell. She was a huge influence, because she was instrumental in helping shape the rest of my life.

College was in some ways more of the same. I entered (UNH as a math major!) with credits for the first full year of calculus, and exempted from certain other requirements through testing. That meant I was once again a little bit of a fish out of water, since I wasn’t in very many classes with freshmen. I also worked for the math department as a calculus exam grader in their testing center, which again set me a little apart from the people coming in to take exams who were mostly those same freshmen. My college roommate started dating the son of one of my first college math professors, and I got to know the whole family. Dr. Ross was another big influence on my; he accepted me, and encouraged me in my math studies and in leading a full life.

4. You earned a BS (1974-1977) in mathematics and education from the University of New Hampshire and an MBA (1980-1981) in operations research from University of Pennsylvania (The Wharton School).[5] What was the interest in mathematics and education for you?

I always loved math, right from the beginning when it was just arithmetic. I have a very analytical mind (and approach to just about everything) and I loved the problem solving. My friends and classmates hated the word problems, they were my favorites! And I found that by learning how to approach a problem, taking disparate pieces of information and acknowledging when there was incomplete information, I could still come up with a way to solve the problem. It was not only natural to me; it was a joy as well. And, as I mentioned earlier, I really enjoy learning new things. Even though I graduated from college a semester early, I still completed a double major (math and education) as well as a minor in history. I ran out of time with that early graduation, or I would have completed an Economics minor as well. And this analytical/strategic/problem-solving ability has been a huge benefit to me in my professional life as well.

As for education, what better joy is there than passing that love of learning and, if possible, how to actually apply what one knows effectively to solve problems, to others as well? I found that I could help other people learn, and that I was pretty good at communicating to many different audiences. To this day, I do tutoring of adults through a program that works with immigrants and those studying for high-school equivalency or life skills. One of the great things about working with others is not only does one teach them but one can learn so much.

5. What about interest in operations research connected to the educational background of mathematics and education?

Operations research was a natural fit for the way my brain works. It’s mathematical modelling to solve business problems. I started at Wharton expecting to be a finance major, but as soon as I started the required O/R course (part of the core curriculum for all MBA candidates) I realized it was just FUN! While I no longer use much in the way of those actual techniques, the study of it and the few years that I worked in that field, contributes every day to my approach to problem-solving.

6. You remain a member of the Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (FCAS) and member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA).[6] What benefits and purposes come from membership in these organizations?

I have worked at least partly in the actuarial field since 1985, and achieved my ACAS/MAAA in 1995 and my FCAS in 1997. The designations allow me to practice in the actuarial field, and do the things a designated actuary can do (that an aspiring actuary is not qualified to do.) The designations as extremely well-known in the insurance industry, and in many cases pre-requisites for certain positions. I intend to maintain them for as long as I have any involvement or interest in working in the insurance industry.

7. You held a number of positions, as follows: NNIC (1987-1991) as an actuarial assistant, Hanover Insurance (December, 1991-March, 1999) as a director, William M. Mercer, Inc. (April, 1999-September 1999) as a principal, Firemans Fund Insurance Company (April, 2000-May, 2005) as a regional actuary and finance director, Allianz Global Risks US (June, 2005-December, 2005) as a vice president and chief actuary, NH Insurance Department (November, 2006-July, 2010) as a P & C assistant actuary, RiverStone Resources (August, 2010-January, 2011) as a vice president and chief actuary, NH Insurance Department (February, 2011-June, 2012) as a P & C assistant actuary, NH Insurance Department (July, 2012-May, 2014) as a actuary and director of market regulation, and NH Insurance Department (May, 2014-July, 2015) as a director of financial regulation.[7] With this background in mind, what particular lessons came from the experience as an actuary?

Experience as an actuary has taught me a lot. It solidified my love for and appreciation of creative, analytical problem-solving. In order to do the job in the best way I could, I felt that it was necessary to understand not only actuarial techniques and methods, but also the entire spectrum of insurance and how it works. So I learned all I could. It has given me a network or thoughtful, insightful and intelligent folks that I can rely on to help me out when I met something in my professional life that I needed help with. Being a working actuary also exposed me to the new methods and ideas that have come along over my more than 30 years in the industry – I get to keep learning new things, and learning and applying things in way that help others, whether they are friends, colleagues, management of my company or clients.

In addition, because I am a person with a more strategic view of the world and the ability to apply my knowledge and skills in different arenas, I have been fortunate enough to have expanded my horizons beyond just the actuarial side. I have worked in finance, as an underwriting director, as an insurance executive in charge of a ‘Small Business’ unit, I have been an insurance regulator, I am a partner in a real estate investment business and also a new real estate company and I now run a business as a private consultant covering actuarial, risk managements and business.

8. What general lessons came from experience throughout these diverse, but associated, professional stations?

The lessons one learns are myriad, but here are a few of the things that I think about:

  • Never give up – there is always another way to address a problem, issue or situation.
  • Nothing happens in isolation. Always try to think strategically – what are the implications of what you are doing or saying?
  • Take joy in what you do, and leverage that into better work and better relationships.
  • Don’t get into an analysis/paralysis situation – at some point it’s necessary to make a decision and take action.
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; that’s how one learns. If you never make a mistake, you aren’t taking enough risk. (And that’s from a risk professional).
  • Always look to learn something new. And welcome challenges; we learn through them.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Chair (2015, July), AMC (National Board of Directors), American Mensa; Owner (2015, August), Stone Business & Risk Consulting LLC.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 8, 2016 at; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2017 at

[3] Thompson River University (1986-1988); Douglas College (1984-1986); Kamloops Senior Secondary.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Deb Stone.

[5] LinkedIn. (2016). Deb Stone. Retrieved from

[6] LinkedIn. (2016). Deb Stone. Retrieved from

[7] LinkedIn. (2016). Deb Stone. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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