My earliest blessings were very gifted parents who were models for curiosity and lifelong learning. From my father, I learned the importance of discipline, as well as a love of language. From my mother, I gained the unconditional acceptance that I could do anything I chose. Although I had four brothers, I think our mother took special care to instill confidence and self-esteem in my sister and me. Our brothers say she overdid it! It was only as an adult that I realized how lucky we were.

After graduating from college, I married my husband, Paul. A few weeks later, I began work at State Farm as a claims representative in the Chicago area. In the next five years, we had two children, who are now grown and still the delight of their parents.

For the first 13 years of my career with state Farm, I changed jobs frequently to follow my husband’s career. That meant sometimes taking a step backward. In retrospect, it was a wonderful opportunity to experience many different areas of our complex organization in several geographic locations. Along the way, I had many mentors.

One of those mentors, a man named steve williams, passed away recently. As I reflected on his mentoring, I realized that he was still influencing me many years after his retirement. Without his gentle but candid feedback my journey might have been different. I was reminded once more of his lessons of leadership and my debt to mentor those who will be here long after me.

I believe strongly in servant leadership, and with each promotional opportunity that responsibility grows. In the Great lakes Zone, which I lead, we have more than 5,200 employees and almost 2,200 independent contractor agents. Our revenues in 2007 exceeded $5.6 billion. My responsibilities to those associates, our customers, and to the greater enterprise are something I never forget.

I was blessed to begin in an organization with integrity that recognizes talent in all facets of diverse individuals, nurtures it, and provides great opportunities. That is a strong element of our culture. My commitment is to continue the development of talented individuals and to effect even greater success for our future.