Lake Forest’s Trustmark reaches 100 years
Trustmark President and CEO Joseph Pray dons 1913-era clothing to mark the 100th anniversary of the employee benefits and health management company headquartered in Lake Forest. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 29, 2013 10:06AM
LAKE FOREST — Most of the more than 700 employees who work at Lake Forest-based Trustmark weren’t prepared for the shock that awaited them when they walked into the office on the morning of Jan. 14.
To honor the 100th anniversary of the company — which provides nationwide employee benefits and health management services — the massive office building located on Field Drive in Conway Park was transformed into a scene straight from the early 1900s, complete with a shiny, red 1912 Ford Model-T.
The building morphed into a 1913-era museum, complete with historical picture timelines and a large reproduction of an early 19th century airplane hanging above the lower-level atrium.
The Trustmark executive team, led by CEO Joseph Pray, also got into the spirit by donning their best 1913 attire to greet employees as they walked into work.
The company, which employs 4,500 workers in the U.S. today, moved to its current home in Lake Forest in 1989 from Chicago, where its roots began in the historical railroad industry.
Back in 1913, the company was formed by four men — two blue-collar workers on the Chicago & North Western Railway and the other two were insurance professionals — who came together to find a solution for a railroad worker who was injured on the job but was unable to pay for his medical care because employee health insurance didn’t exist.
While collecting money from colleagues to help pay for his care, railroad workers Gordon Culver and Robert Leitz came up with the idea to start a business providing health benefits to railroad workers.
Culver and Leitz founded the company with Albert Lindsley and William Montgomery as “The Brotherhood of All Railway Employees” (BARE) and moved into a one-desk office in Chicago’s Hearst Building.
The men quickly grew the company from a small start-up with assets of just $6,757 the first year to an insurance giant 25 years later that paid out $2.5 million in assets by 1938 and double that amount six years later in 1944.
The name of the company was changed on its 50th anniversary back in 1963 to “Benefit Trust Life Insurance Company,” before a merger with “Bankers Mutual Life of Freeport” in the mid-1990s resulted in the formation of what is known today as Trustmark.
“Having our home in Lake Forest for so long speaks volumes to our stability and our commitment to providing jobs in the area,” said Kate Martine, senior vice president at Trustmark.
Trustmark will celebrate its anniversary throughout 2013 with parties and events, including a tree-planting ceremony and a newly designed web site, which was unveiled at the beginning of the year.