Connecting to a Legacy: A Personal Account

Connecting to a Legacy: A Personal Account

The American College of Financial Services
December 7, 2020

It’s safe to say Rod Abraham, CLU®, has a unique relationship with financial services. Currently the owner and manager of the Rod Abraham Group in Durham, North Carolina, and specializing in event planning, his career spans a number of support and managerial roles, many in the financial services industry. But he also has something not many people in the business world today can claim: a direct and personal connection to one of the original thought leaders of the modern financial services profession and the founder of The American College of Financial Services itself, Dr. Solomon S. Huebner.

With his characteristic good humor, Abraham explains that his relationship with The College started before he even considered a career in financial services. After two years of what he refers to as a “dismal” stint in college, he left to take time off and find a new path in life: this included getting married and returning to undergraduate education at night while working full-time during the day. It was his search for a day job that first brought him to The College—as a mail clerk carrying messages between offices in the late 1950s.

“During that time, I had the good fortune of getting to know an incredible group of academics at The College,” Abraham recalls. “They became my mentors and motivated me to not only deal with the tough grind of attending night classes at Temple University after working all day, but to attempt to excel at both. To this day, I am grateful to those leaders of The College who ‘adopted’ me and instilled in me the desire to succeed.”

One member of that adoptive family, and perhaps the most meaningful, was Dr. Huebner. At that point, Huebner was nearing retirement and had already been building the reputation of The College for several decades, but was not involved in day-to-day operations. So of course, the first contact Abraham had with Huebner was delivering his mail. “Most of The College’s staff revered him, but they didn’t have much time to reminisce or discuss economics with him,” Abraham says. “I would be mesmerized by his stories—and I think he was happy to have someone to share them with.” Abraham remembers his superiors would sometimes have to drag him away from Huebner’s office and remind him of his other duties. “I was overwhelmed by his willingness to spend time with me.”

With time, the friendship deepened, and Abraham says when other colleagues weren’t available, Huebner would invite him to join him for lunch. “He was always animated and got more passionate the longer he discussed anything,” he says. “We would be walking down Walnut Street and he would sometimes grab my arm as if to make a point. I always felt that passing drivers said: ‘Look at that old man giving that kid hell.’” With guidance from Huebner and other mentors, Abraham eventually took and passed the first of the exams needed to obtain his Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) designation. It was at that point that Huebner invited him into his office for an unexpected conversation.

“He began by asking me if I was familiar with the newly created sponsorship program designed to get more practicing CLU® professionals to reach out to a colleague who could sponsor and mentor them through the program—the Huebner Personal Scholarship,” Abraham recalls. “Then, he asked if he could sponsor me. Me! He actually asked me if it was okay. I couldn’t believe it. I also realized now the world knew I would be taking four exams in one year and that I’d been hand-picked by Dr. Huebner. Was I going to be a star, or a loser?”

Huebner’s choice proved to be a sound one: Abraham received his CLU® in 1961 and quickly began working his way up professionally, from a career in life insurance to eventually starting his own businesses. While many people mentored him over the years and helped him achieve his goals, Abraham says there’s one person he never forgets to thank. “There’s no question that I would never have had the confidence to handle those opportunities without my unique relationship with Dr Huebner.”

Over 50 years after graduating from the CLU® program, Abraham returned to The College to tour the new campus in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and donate a set of valuable artifacts to The College’s collection: among them is an autographed photo of Dr. Huebner, a signed copy of an early-edition CLU® Journal, a framed proclamation from The College honoring him when he left to start his event planning business, and a photo montage of Huebner’s career he created after his death for The American Society of CLU®’s newsletter.

 

 

While he officially moved on from financial services in 1981, Abraham says The College is still near and dear to his heart and that he’s impressed by the new facilities and expanded educational offerings. As one of the architects of The College’s original move from downtown Philadelphia to its former Bryn Mawr campus, he says it was difficult to let go, but he’s confident that The College has “maintained its mojo” and is better positioned than ever to provide needed leadership in the increasingly complex world of financial services.

Abraham says he especially hopes to see a continued focus on ethical service to clients in keeping with the code of the CLU® designation, which essentially directs professionals to treat clients as they themselves would want to be treated—another core teaching of Dr. Huebner. “I’ve always strongly advocated for this incredibly good moral compass when mentoring others in my field,” he says. “To serve your clients, you must commit to life-long learning and to a personal code of ethics that stress doing what is best for the client.”

And above all, he reminds financial services professionals old and new alike: “Never stop learning.”