John Schiff was insurance giant, philanthropist

Friday, October 16, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

John J. "Jack" Schiff, who helped start what would become Cincinnati Financial Corp. and was a leader in local arts and civic groups, died Wednesday at Deaconess Hospital. He was 82.

Mr. Schiff of Western Hills was an honored man in the insurance industry as well as the community. He is credited with guiding a firm that started with $200,000 in capital into a corporation with $9.5 billion in assets. And he was recognized for his community service in 1997 when the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce named him a Great Living Cincinnatian.

"His business achievements and philanthropic acts left a lasting impression on everyone who knew him," said Robert B. Morgan, chief executive officer at Cincinnati Financial. The company Mr. Schiff co-founded will continue to let his vision guide it into the future, Mr. Morgan added.

Born in Cincinnati, Mr. Schiff graduated from Western Hills High School in 1934 and Ohio State University in 1938. He then attended Harvard University's Navy Supply Corps School.

He took a position with Travelers Group Inc. in 1938, his first journey into the insurance industry. He opened his own independent agency the same year. During World War II, he served as an assistant logistics officer with the U.S. Navy in Germany, and earned the rank of lieutenant commander before his discharge.

He returned to Cincinnati to an independent agency. In 1950, with three other insurance agents, he established The Cincinnati Insurance Co. Starting with 18 agents, the company grew into the nation's 21st largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company.

Mr. Schiff served as the company's chairman and chief executive officer for years. After retiring in 1991, he remained active with the company, serving on the company's board of directors and was chairman of the executive committee.

Named the Cincinnati Insurance Board's 1976 Man of the Year, Mr. Schiff played a vital role in the industry. He was active with the International Insurance Society, International Insurance Hall of Fame, Griffith Foundation for Insurance Education, Ohio Insurance Institute and the American Institute for Property and Liability Underwriters.

He maintained strong ties with the U.S. Navy, serving on the National Board of Directors of the Navy League of the United States, as a trustee of the USS Constitution Museum and provided vital support for the commissioning of the USS Cincinnati, a Navy nuclear attack submarine. He was appointed an Honorary Commodore of the U.S. Naval Institute and received the Secretary of the Navy's Superior Public Service Award.

Mr. Schiff, an ardent fan of Ohio State, his alma mater, was known to have orchestras performing at corporate banquets end the evening with the school's fight song. He also served on the school's Business Advisory Council, President's Club and Development Committee. He received the university's Distinguished Service Award in 1996. Some of his community contributions include posts on the boards of directors at Deaconess Hospital, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the Cincinnati Museum Association.

"Everyone knows his leadership at Cincinnati Financial and their success," said Fifth Third Bank CEO George Schaefer. "However, Jack also contributed significantly to the growth and development of our entire community. His lists of achievements and recognitions are both lengthy and legendary in the Greater Cincinnati area." Mr. Schiff served on the Cincinnati-based bank's board of directors for 12 years.

Mr. Schiff also held leadership posts with the Cincinnati Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Queen City Association and the Ohio State Alumni Association of Cincinnati. He was active with the Cincinnati Music Hall Association, the 1788 Club-Cincinnati Historical Society, Salvation Army and Shiloh Community Methodist Church. The Cincinnati Art Academy in 1990 gave him an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Xavier University recognized Mr. Schiff with an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1992 and, last month, presented Mr. Schiff and his family with the 1998 Xavier Founders' Day Award.

"My father's business legacy is a strong insurance company focused on close personal relationships, an unwavering work ethic and an intense sense of loyalty to people and organizations," said John J. Schiff Jr., his son and chairman and chief operating officer of Cincinnati Financial.

Mr. Schiff was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Reid Schiff. Survivors include three children, John J. Schiff Jr. of Indian Hill, Thomas R. Schiff of Glendale and Suzanne S. Reid of Barnstable, Mass.; a brother, Robert C. Schiff of Indian Hill; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Shiloh United Methodist Church, Anderson Ferry and Foley roads, Delhi Township. Visitation will be at the church Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until time of services.

Burial will be in Spring Grove Cemetery, Winton Place.

Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one's choice.

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