In Memory of
Thomas Hans Wysmuller of Ogunquit, Maine, passed away at the age of 77 on June 29th 2021 after a long fight with cancer.
He was born in the Netherlands and emigrated with his family to the United States in 1948, achieving citizenship 5 years later. He attended public schools in NYC, graduating from Bayside High School in 1961. His early jobs involved summers in the Netherlands working on the families’ sea-going Tug and Salvage business and stints as a meteorologist at the Royal Dutch Weather Bureau. Tom went on to attend NYU (BA, 1966), The New School for Social Research, Long Island University, and Stanford University. His ties to NYU remained strong, having become Director of and Acting President of their Medallion Society, and eventually president and a multi-decadal director of NYU’s Alumni Association for all of NYU’s schools.
He married Catherine Martini from Portsmouth, NH, in 1969. They met while living at NYU’s Heights campus, where Catherine attended on full Academic Scholarship.
In 1968, he was one of nine people chosen through a series of nationwide exams for NASA Executive Interns in the U.S. He worked at NASA before, during, and after the moon landings. His programming skills were so well-known throughout the agency that at one point he was the youngest person ever selected to serve on NASA’s Source Selection Board for agency–wide computer services.
His ties to NASA remained strong as well, delivering multiple climate-oriented lectures at NASA Field Centers, and in 2009 he co-founded the NASA TRCS (The Right Climate Stuff) climate research group. He considered it one of his greatest achievements when in 2018, he solved the discrepancy of Sea-Level Rise (SLR) reported by The University of Colorado and NASA’s Satellites in comparison to land coupled tide gauges. His “reverse-engineering” technique showed how a programming error generated the much higher rate of SLR being reported by satellites vs world-wide tide gauge measurements.
When the Apollo Space program ended, he moved to Connecticut in 1973 as Administration Director of the government operations at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford. The mathematics he developed to optimize production run levels for jet engines was published by Texas Instruments and became widely used throughout the insurance industry. It can still be found today in the POLYFIT program for Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheets.
In the 1980’s, he joined Phoenix Mutual and served as Vice President of group insurance, Vice President of Phoenix's property-casualty operations, and finally, Vice President of investments. He introduced “participative management” techniques (the kind that managed the solution to Apollo 13’s accident) to a broad swath of the company. Adoption of these principles enabled the managers to eliminate massive Medical Claims Backlogs that had exceeded critical levels, and thus successfully allowed Phoenix to also round out its portfolio with a competent Dental product.
In 1985, along with a former president of Phoenix Mutual, he co-founded The GroupAmerica Insurance Company, as a Connecticut Mutual/Standard of Oregon subsidiary that rapidly grew to become one of the nation's premier disability insurers. Tom left just prior to the sale of GroupAmerica, when Connecticut Mutual was absorbed into Mass Mutual.
A few years later, the Delta Dental Insurance Company of NY approached Tom and asked him to join its board of directors. Delta’s board had ample Dental expertise, but needed Dental Insurance experience to balance their board’s skill set. Tom later served as the Delta Dental NY Board Chair, as the first non-dentist to do so. Tom would quip that “…before my term as Board Chair, Delta was the Best Dental Insurance company on the planet, and at the end of my term, they were even better!”
It was clear from the beginning of his board memberships that Delta Dental’s actuaries had done a superb job of pricing “insurable claims events” and their probabilities of recurrence, so that their reliance on reserve protecting re-insurance could be reduced. This was systematically implemented and drove retained premium and reserves higher. When reserves cruised through 10 times state minimum requirements, AM Best began rating Delta with an “A-category” rating, allowing many new clients to provide Dental insurance to bid on Delta’s superb product line. Delta has consistently given back to its policyholders and clients – over 90% of premiums collected – a long-term record unmatched in the insurance industry!
He believed that he lived in the Golden Age of Humanity, due to our collective developments of technologies, exploration of our solar system, and awareness of ourselves, the earth, and our Universe. “Humanity has explored the earth to greater heights, the depths of the oceans, the mysteries of our genetic make up and much more. What an exciting time to have contributed to our knowledge and wisdom!”
Tom was also an avid poker tournament competitor, skier, world traveler, and frequent guest lecturer on topics including the moon landings, climate change, and Dutch-American history.
He is survived by his son, John; his daughter, Jannine; his brother, Allan; his son-in-law, Aziz, and step-grand-daughter, Laila; many cousins, nieces, and nephews; and countless friends. He was predeceased by his wife, Catherine, and his brother, Andrew.
There was a private ceremony for the family. In lieu of flowers:
For individuals wishing to make a gift in Tom's memory to the NYU University General Scholarship Fund, please call 1-800-698-4144 M-F between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM ET.
To make a donation to the Anne Frank Center in Tom’s honor by credit card online, please visit https://www.annefrank.com/donate . Checks may be sent c/o Vik Gupta, Anne Frank Center, 115 Oakland Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306
In addition, he served in director’s or officer’s capacities with:
Delta Dental Insurance Company of New York
The Anne Frank Center USA
The Brooklyn 12:30 Club
The Netherlands-America Foundation
The Netherlands-American Amity Trust
The New Netherland Museum
The New York University Alumni Federation
The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association
The New York Casualty Insurance Company
- Written by Thomas Wysmuller, lightly expanded and edited by John and Jannine Wysmuller