2008 Distinguished Alumnus Shun-Zer "Bill" Chen


M.S. Statistics, Purdue University, 1967
Ph.D. Statistics, Purdue University, 1970

Shun-Zer "Bill" Chen did not even know about actuarial science until after his PhD, when he learned about it from a friend. Like many statistics students, he had assumed after graduating he would go into research either as a professor at a university or someplace like Bell Labs. He requested information about the field from the Society of Actuaries. He learned about the 10 actuarial exams and about how actuarial science involved a wide variety of other disciplines such as medicine and law, which Bill found very exciting. And Purdue had given him a good background to deal with the technical part of actuarial science. 

Every day Bill spends his time doing three things: (1) creating marketing and generating revenue; (2) solving an internal crisis; and (3) making sure the financial bottom-line is doing well. "Every day in business I have a crisis…every crisis is different. Every day is different," he says. While that may sound stressful to some, Bill clearly revels in the excitement each crisis brings. "Doing a PhD helped me learn to think." Bill advises that the research ability statistics student learn in school will help them substantially in dealing with reality. "Statistics taught me how to analyze the alternatives," he says, and to make a good decision for how to handle a crisis and when to take risks. Few CEOs have the statistical background Bill has, and he feels it puts him at a distinct advantage.

Last year, Bill received the Outstanding Alumni Award in Actuarial Science from the Departments of Statistics and the Department of Mathematics. 

Career Highlights:

  • 1989 - Named president and CEO of The New Era Group
  • 1985 - Became senior vice president, chief actuary, and board member of Columbia Universal Life
  • 1981 - Named senior vice president and chief actuary for Great Southern Life
  • 1971 - Joined Liberty Life as an assistant actuary
Announcement that was given at the time of the award. 

To read more about Shun-Zer "Bill" Chen, read his Alumni Profile.