NYSIF Mourns Loss of Commissioner Robert H. Hurlbut, Rochester Business Leader

March 5, 2013


New York State Insurance Fund Chief Executive Deputy Director Dennis J. Hayes today announced the passing of long-time NYSIF commissioner and former Chairman of the Board Robert H. Hurlbut.

Mr. Hurlbut died unexpectedly at his home in Honeoye Falls on Monday, March 4. He was 77 years old.

A highly-respected Rochester, New York, businessman and philanthropist, Mr. Hurlbut was the longest-serving NYSIF commissioner in continuous service to the workers’ compensation and disability benefits insurance fund.

“On behalf of the New York State Insurance Fund, I extend our deepest condolences to the Hurlbut family,” Mr. Hayes said. “Commissioner Hurlbut will forever hold a special place in NYSIF annals, in the hearts and minds of the people he touched through his association with NYSIF and through his work on behalf of his much-loved Rochester, New York, and communities across the United States.”

Born in Rochester, NY, Mr. Hurlbut earned a degree in hotel administration from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He founded, led and consulted for companies specializing in nursing homes, long-term health care facilities and retirement complexes throughout the United States since 1956. Most recently, he founded and served as president of the Hurlbut Trust since 1994, offering financial and consulting services for healthcare facilities and rental properties.

A member of the Rochester Business Hall of Fame and a winner of the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester, Mr. Hurlbut was appointed to NYSIF’s Board of Commissioners in 1989 by then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo.

24 Years as Commissioner
For 24 years as a NYSIF commissioner, he rarely missed a board meeting, serving as vice chairman from 1995 to 2006, and as chairman from 2006 to 2012. True to form, he attended the Board’s most recent meeting in February 2013.

A staunch advocate for New York businesses, he was a firm believer in NYSIF’s mission and particularly recognized the devotion, caliber, knowledge and skill of the people who work for the agency.

NYSIF commissioners with whom he served expressed heartfelt sorrow at news of his passing.

“I am in disbelief,” Acting NYSIF Chairman H. Sidney Holmes III said. “Bob was a lovely, kind and good man and a dedicated and stable presence at NYSIF. I will miss him.”

During service both as deputy executive director and two terms on the Board of Commissioners, Kenneth Theobalds knew Commissioner Hurlbut for 21 years.

“From 1992 to today, I have never, never met a finer gentleman who never, ever had a bad word to say,” Commissioner Theobalds said. “It was a dream, I guess, to think he would always be here, because for so long he always was. We are diminished by his passing. It was truly an honor to serve with Robert. God bless you, Bob. I miss you already.”
 
'A Good Man'
“Thursday I received a beautiful gift basket [from him] with a lovely note congratulating me on [my acceptance to] the Wall Street Hall of Fame,” Commissioner David Ourlicht said. “That was the type of gentleman he was. He will be sadly missed.”

“This is so hard to believe,” Commissioner Mario Musolino said. “He was such a good and decent man. He will be missed greatly.”

In 1964, Mr. Hurlbut became president of ROHM Services Corporation, which he founded in Rochester, providing management and consulting services for nursing homes in western New York exceeding 1,000 beds. In 1992, he became chairman of the board of ROHM Services Corp.

In 1968, Mr. Hurlbut founded and became president of Vari-Care, Inc., overseeing the operation of 24 long-term health care facilities with a capacity of over 2,600 residents and retirement complexes located in Alabama, Arizona, Florida and Texas. He served as a member of the board of directors of the Houston-based Living Centers of America, which purchased Vari-Care, Inc., in 1993 and operated over 20,000 beds in the United States.

Mr. Hurlbut’s commitment to enriching people’s lives extended beyond his business success. Long a friend of Rochester's cultural, educational and business communities, in 2006 Mr. Hurlbut received the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester for outstanding achievement and service in the healthcare industry in New York.

The university’s archive contains a news release that states Mr. Hurlbut “made an indelible mark on the University of Rochester, supporting the Medical Center, the School of Nursing, the Eastman School of Music and the Memorial Art Gallery. He has been personally involved in many aspects of healthcare in Rochester and throughout New York State, from healthcare planning to delivery to financing, and has emerged as one of this region’s most insightful and dedicated healthcare leaders.”

Guidance and Compassion
Mr. Hurlbut contributed to the Animal Health and Education Complex at the Seneca Park Zoo, and received the Mental Health Compeer, a Boy Scouts of America honor. He was recipient of the Rochester Business Journal Fifty Over 50 and Forty Over 40 awards in recognition of contributions to the Rochester community. In 2008, his induction into the Rochester Business Hall of Fame, selected based on his outstanding leadership to business and community, drew 700 people to the ceremony at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

A New York state-licensed home administrator and a fellow in the American College of Health Care Administrators, he served as chairman of the board of the University of Rochester Medical Center, a trustee of the University of Rochester, and vice chairman of the University of Rochester Eastman Dental School and Foundation Board. He was a life member of the Cornell University Council and served on the boards of trustees of St. Mary's Hospital and Foundation, Roberts Wesleyan College and St. John Fisher College, from which he received an honorary Doctorate of Law Degree.

He also served on the board of directors of the Rochester Area Foundation, Blue Cross, the Monroe County Long Term Care Program, Lifespan, the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, and HSBC Bank, and as chairman of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

When he stepped down as NYSIF chairman in 2012, the Board honored Commissioner Hurlbut with a resolution that cited him, in part, for “consistently providing meaningful guidance to the Fund, and [showing] compassion and… committed support to all members of the NYSIF family since the beginning of his service with NYSIF.”

“We will not forget him, his guidance and the spirit of his compassion,” Mr. Hayes said.