left her with financial concerns. Grace,
with three small children to care
for, was compelled to negotiate with
Delos over the terms of her severance
Through it all, Grace knew she
needed to protect her children. She
wanted to preserve her husband’s
memory for them by limiting what
they knew of his decline. She wanted
them to remember the good things
“Of course he left a financial mess,”
Meek said. “I had two houses, three
kids, no job,” Meek said.
She really wasn’t sure what to do
“I would have done anything at that
time,” she said of her will to survive.
“Whatever was going to be able to
take care of these children. I knew that
I wasn’t going to give up.”
Soon friends, associates and family
came to her aid. Coincidentally, Meek’s
doctor had just lost her husband to
“Grace,” she said, “remember this,
the absence of a negative is a positive.”
Grace was angry about her
husband’s disease and what it did to the
family. But she knew the doctor was
right. There remained hope and she
needed to take action.
Grace was always a planner and a
hard worker. She got out a legal pad
and started making lists.
“I have to sell this house. I have to
clear this debt,” Meek said. And on
and on and on she went. Adding items,
then crossing them off.
“The list was my way of coping
because as things got crossed off,
suddenly my life was becoming
Meek could point to more than
20 years in the insurance business,
much of it in programs in her work
with Delos, and before that, with
Clarendon. She’d built a reputation as
someone you can trust. Friends in the
insurance business came forward to
offer their support.
“There were people who came out
of the woodwork to help me,” she said.
And her tightly-knit family helped
her too. Her parents put their lives on
hold for two years to take care of her
who at the time was president,
property/casualty with the Allied
World Assurance Company.
Germano informed Meek that Allied
World was entering the programs
business through its acquisition of
Darwin but that it wasn’t ready to
grow it significantly.
Meek thought that door was
closed and crossed Allied World
off her list. But within a month,
Germano called her and suggested
she meet with his boss. Gordon
Knight was president of Allied
World North America at the time.
Grace slogged from New Jersey
through a January snowstorm in
a business suit to interview with
Knight in lower Manhattan. She was
surprised when she met Knight to
see him dressed in jeans, snowboots
and a sweater.
“Here I am in a suit and I
thought, ‘All right, this is not an
uptight company,’” Meek said. Little
did she know that Fridays were jeans
days at Allied.
From the way the interview went,
Grace figured the job was hers.
Once Grace took over the role,
good people, but they didn’t belong
where they were,” Grace said.
Grace also wanted to make sure
the company had a strategy for
programs. Allied’s idea at the time
was to run programs through all the
divisions. She wanted no part of that.
“If you do that there is no way
I would consider taking that job,”
Meek said. “First things first,” she
“We need a strategy. What do you
want this to be?” she recalls saying.
The evidence is clear that Grace’s
deep relationships in the business
and her tenacity have paid off.
Focusing on specialty business has
also been key for Meek and her
colleagues in Allied World’s program
“We don’t do just general
commodity business,” she said.
One of her division’s key
endorsements is its arrangement
with the American Psychiatric
Association, through which it does
about $50 million in business.
Her team also insures wineries,
country clubs and security guards.
The security guards move raised
eyebrows. After all, don’t they carry
guns, the skeptics wondered?
“Everybody thought I was crazy,”
Meek said. But she likes the risk.
After all, security guards are …
Building a good future for her
children and raising them with the
right values are paramount to Meek.
She also wants to retire in good
enough physical and financial health
to be able to play enough to lower
her golf handicap.
Grace is used to leading and
carrying responsibility. When times
were really tough, there was only
so much her family could do for
her, according to her brother David
Orsolino, because she is so strong
and so resilient. There are some
along the way who might have
thought she was too tough. But she
makes no apologies.
“She tends to defy all odds and in
a situation of sinking or swimming,
she always ends up swimming,” her
But Grace, for all her strength,
picked up a good lesson in the value
of getting support from others.
“I think, during that time of need,
it was the first time in my life that I
learned to ask for help. That’s not an
easy thing to do,” she said. &
DAN REYNOLDS is editor-in-chief of
Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at
children when Grace needed a break.
“They didn’t miss a weekend,” she
Grace’s father is a second-
generation Italian; her mother,
Her college friend Donna
Paglia recalls her as a stalwart study
companion with a great sense of
humor who was always active socially.
Both women share the quality of
having relatively thick skin and not
being afraid to be blunt with each
other. Paglia recalls staying up late
one night with Meek to study for
an exam and exasperating her friend
aspect of mathematics.
“‘We’ve been through this! Just
memorize the theorem!’” Paglia
recalled Meek thundering at her.
That directness is just one of the
traits Paglia treasures in Meek.
“If I could pick a sister, I’d pick
her,” Paglia said.
ALLIED WORLD BECKONS
Soon after Meek lost her job with
Delos, a friend in the business got
her a lunch with Todd Germano,
“Grace hangs in there and tries to look at
things creatively. I think that has enabled
her to get some things done, that otherwise
in the market, don’t get done.”
—Bob Kimmel, president and CEO, K2 Insurance
“Grace wanted to educate
me quickly on how valuable
the program space is. That
was my first impression, she
wasn’t going to wait for me
to form my own opinion.”
—Lou Iglesias, CEO of Global Insurance,