Ronald R. Harder, chief executive officer of Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., was honored Monday in New York City for his leadership, expansion of jewelry insurance coverage and crime prevention in America, and commitment to the jewelry industry over three decades by leaders of the industry in advance of his retirement in May.
The Jewelers Mutual Gala, held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Time Square, had a tongue in cheek “James Bond” theme—playing off Harder’s unassuming nature and successes, and insurance “agents”—complete with “dossier” programs, music videos from Bond films, and even a “007” ice sculpture.
Some 150 invited guests—including Harder’s wife Carol and children Melissa, Darlene, and Brian; industry leaders, and Jewelers Mutual colleagues, officials, and policyholders—attended the glittering event. (A second gala will be held Feb. 1, at the Tucson Convention Center, during the American Gem Trade Association Tucson GemFair, in Tucson, Ariz.)
A highlight was a 15-minute video tribute featuring various trade leaders, policyholders and colleagues, who cited his, and Jewelers’ Mutual’s, accomplishments, prompt help for and personal involvement with policyholders during his tenure. It ended with each of the video’s many speakers raising a glass in toast to Harder.
Harder—an easy-going, soft-spoken but shrewd executive known to all as “Ron”—has been with Jewelers Mutual since 1973, and was its president and chief executive officer for 23 years. Darin L. Kath, chief operating officer, succeeded him as president in 2006 in a succession plan devised by Harder and the board of directors.
Under Harder’s lead, the company became a national insurer with policyholders (including some private jewelry owners) in all 50 states and in Canada (totaling over 10,000). It has also become a leader in jewelry store security and loss prevention, producing several Hollywood-quality anti-crime videos and two online security training courses, all for jewelers. It works closely with the Jewelers Security Alliance (all policyholders are required to become members) and with the FBI. In the past decade, JMI has paid out nearly $20 million in dividends to policyholders. In 2005, Harder was recognized with American Gem Society lifetime achievement award.
Both Kath and Harder—escorted under a spotlight to the podium after the video by attractive models to James Bond music—made brief remarks.
Kath praised Harder’s “34 years of dedication, leadership and commitment to the jewelry industry.”
Harder briefly reminisced about his career and Jewelers Mutual’s achievements during his years there; thanked its employees, officials, policyholders and his family, and noted “the relationships and friendships I have formed have warmed my heart.” His wife Carol and “her constant support” came in for special thanks. She was “my secret weapon,” he said. “She was able to talk to anyone about anything, and brought many new clients to Jewelers Mutual.”
Noting he was a man of few words, Harder ended with a saying of Ben Franklin’s to sum up his goal during his career: “Well done is better than well said.”
Then, the guests were all served champagne and led by Kath raised their glasses in a toast to Harder, as flurries of silvery confetti fell from the ceiling, amid cheers and applause.