Tom, the former chairman and CEO of Mutual of America who passed on Saturday, launched himself like a torpedo at whatever he wanted to achieve.
Tom Moran dared to dream the impossible. He dreamed of peace in Ireland, of a job running a major insurance company (he worked as a hot dog salesman, cemetery worker and taxi driver to make ends meet).
A life heading a major American corporation seemed a fanciful dream. Tom pulled it off.
He dreamt of helping the dirt poor kids in Africa and Asia, of helping kids with severe physical disabilities.
Hell, he even dreamt of winning the Kentucky Derby though that goal came up short.
Tom, the former chairman and CEO of Mutual of America who passed on Saturday, launched himself like a torpedo at whatever he wanted to achieve. He joined Mutual of America after college. One of his first jobs was paper clipping various claim letters and forwarding them upstairs to the big bosses.
One of the bosses was Bill Flynn, the company’s CEO and like Tom a working-class Irishman, he from Queens, Tom from Staten Island.
They hit it off in that Irish way, bonding over a period of years where Mutual of America became one of the largest insurance companies on the East Coast.
When Bill stepped aside it was only natural that Tom stepped in. He did a superb job.
When massive insurance companies like AIG were teetering on the brink, Tom’s careful policy of avoiding risky investments as the Dow soared turned out to be the correct one. Mutual was one of the few companies to come out of the 2008 market crash with an enhanced reputation.
Then there was the little matter of peace in Ireland. Bill, his mentor, had become deeply involved too, and Tom decided to jump in.
He did a remarkable thing. While the vast majority of Irish Americans sided with nationalism and shunned unionism Tom embraced them, especially the paramilitaries.
That was Tom, with the impossible dream of drawing the most hardline Loyalists into the peace process. Against all odds, he prevailed.
Three years ago the Staten Island kid, who only started to speak in second grade, became chancellor of Queen's University in Belfast, an improbable honor but so well deserved that it seemed like an obvious thing to do.
If that were not enough he made the acquaintance of Father Aengus Finucane, head of the Irish poverty relief charity Concern. Tom recognized a true humanitarian and deeply committed man. He rushed to help.
Soon he was chairman of Concern, whose spokesperson on Monday called him “an unstoppable force for good.” Through it all, he kept Mutual of America highly profitable.
Charity and humanitarian mindsets are often inimical to success in business but Tom achieved his goals in both worlds. He also worked hard on a charity that helped kids with disabilities.
For recreation he loved the horses, had a few good ones and ended up in the winner’s circle at Saratoga, a horse lover’s dream. He never had the Kentucky Derby winner, but every year he attended and typically Tom sat in the equivalent of the bleachers --I know because he gave me his tickets one year and everyone around me was visibly disappointed Tom couldn't make it.
Lesser men would have taken huge pride in even one of Tom’s achievements, but what you need to know is the man himself never changed -- the rapier Irish wit, the convictions of what was right, the unparalleled vision.
Last Saturday a great life came to a close and Tom left us, ironically just a few months after Bill died. His greeting was always the same -- “What do you say, Niall” or whoever he was talking too.
Right away it tapped him as a listener, not someone who wanted to lead every conversation. That was Tom all right, a force of nature, a force for good, a force for what is right. We will long speak of him.
Here is a video of Tom Moran receiving an honor by Irish America magazine: