Robert J. Myers, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration (1947–1970), passed away from pneumonia on Saturday, February 13. He was 97.
Bob Myers, as he was known to friends and colleagues, began working on Social Security in 1934 – the year before the program’s enactment – as a young actuary with the Committee on Economic Security. After serving as Chief Actuary at SSA, Bob later became Deputy Commissioner of Programs (1981–1982). He continued to champion Social Security as Executive Director of the National Commission on Social Security Reform (1982-1983), also known as the Greenspan Commission; as Chairman of the Commission on Railroad Retirement Reform (1988-1990); as a member of the Prospective Payment Assessment Commission (1991-1997); and as a member of the Commission on the Social Security ”Notch” Issue (1993-1994).
Energetic and tenacious, Bob was the author of more than 900 articles and five books on the Social Security program. According to the SSA website, he held a Guinness Book of Records world record for testifying before Congress 175 times, during his tenures as Chief Actuary and Deputy Commissioner of SSA. A lifelong Republican, he believed deeply in the principles of social insurance. Like his contemporaries, Bob Ball and Wilbur Cohen, he devoted his life to this program – continuing to write and speak about the program well into his 90’s, until he became too frail to continue.
A founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), Bob served on its Board of Directors from 1986 to 1997, and on the Editorial Board of Social Insurance Update. He and his wife, Rudy, also endowed a Library of Social Insurance, which has been housed at NASI since 1989.
Bob received his M.S. from the University of Iowa and LL.D. from Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College. He and his wife Rudy, who passed away in 1995, were married for 56 years and had two sons, Jonathan and Eric.
“Trusted and respected completely by Democratic and Republican leaders alike, Bob was a man of the highest integrity. A giant in the field, he was responsible for setting the utmost professional and ethical standards for the Office of the Actuary at the Social Security Administration, where he served this nation so well. An extremely warm, kind, and generous person, he is owed a debt of gratitude by all Americans, though most will have never heard his name. The economic security of Americans is greater and their lives are better because of his important work,” said Nancy Altman, NASI Board member and Co-Director of Social Security Works. “His death truly marks the passing of an era. He will be deeply missed by all of us who knew him. He is now rejoined with his wife, Rudy, with whom he shared a deep and abiding love, apparent to anyone who knew them or even simply saw them together.”
Bob was a leading figure in the actuarial field and a member of numerous professional societies, including serving as President of both the Society of Actuaries and of the American Academy of Actuaries.
“Bob was a man of principles. As one of the founding leaders of Social Security, he was committed to ensuring a secure retirement for all Americans,” said Fred Kilbourne, an actuary and a founding member of NASI. “He was a legendary public servant and a mentor to numerous actuaries and others.”
In 1996, SSA Historian and NASI member, Larry DeWitt, sat down with Bob for an oral history interview about Social Security and his career. The full transcript of this interview, as well as additional info about Bob’s career, can be found on the SSA website.
NASI would like to provide a forum where those who knew Bob Myers can continue to honor his life and work, and those who did not know him can learn about his impact. If you would like to share your memories or reflect on Bob’s legacy, please visit the Discuss section of NASI’s website. Click here to view the first reflection posting by Steve Goss, Chief Actuary of SSA.
A memorial service for Bob Myers will be held on Saturday, March 20, 2010.
Time: 2:00 PM
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
7410 New Hampshire Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912-6907
Tel: (301) 434-0444
A reception will follow the service. Please RSVP here if you plan to attend.
In lieu of flowers, Bob’s family asks that contributions be made to Autism Speaks.
The National Academy of Social Insurance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation’s leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to promote understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security and a vibrant economy.