John Rathmell ‘75 operates from a prominent posture of prestige, the president of Lockton Marine & Energy at Lockton Companies, part of a global professional services firm that has grown to become the world’s largest privately held, independent insurance broker.
His professional rise was in response to the country’s most unspeakable catastrophe – the sudden and massive terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He was instrumental in restructuring a recovery plan to unprecedented loss and destruction. And in 2020 Rathmell has assumed a similar leadership role for Lockton during the unprecedented disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, empowering his team of elite corporate professionals to react to change, think creatively, and achieve results.
A deep introspection to Rathmell’s broad swath of success and unshakable ethics, both professionally and personally, reflects his deep connections to his beloved St. Thomas. And why his extensive accomplishments and rich involvement with his alma mater will be celebrated Saturday, November 7, during The 20’s Roar Again, the virtual 2020 Auction & Gala.
“What remains most vivid and relevant to me today from my high school years are the relationships,” Rathmell says. “The Basilians who made up most of the faculty, a great group of friends who crossed ethnic and financial lines. I grew up in River Oaks, attended St. Anne’s (Catholic School), and was looked upon as the so-called rich kid. But there was a great acceptance throughout our student body, a fraternal community. I developed bonds with classmates, got to know parents and families, and appreciated their experiences. It was enlightening academically and spiritually. Those years formed my foundation, the building blocks where I have stood in life.”
From St. Thomas, Rathmell studied at the University of Texas at Austin during the freewheeling, youth-driven 1970s before the lazy college town morphed into the eternal boom. And then the eternal festival. And the eternal traffic jam. And the eternal tech start-up. And the eternal food truck.
Rathmell’s undergraduate years intersected with the down days of Darrell Royal, the thundering tour de force emergence of eternal Longhorn icon Earl Campbell, the uprising hoopdom of Abe Lemons, dizzy nights at the Soap Creek Saloon and Broken Spoke, and chicken fried frenzies at The Stallion. The signature soundtrack was crafted by Willie, Wayland, and the boys – a host of cosmic cowboys and redneck rockers giving birth to outlaw country. Counterculture was popular culture. Politics through protest. Onward through the fog.
Amid the unrest, Rathmell graduated and chose to follow a traditional business path that paved the way to his stellar distinction leading to, and continuing with, his breakthrough at Lockton, a driven career marked by relentless commitment and unquestioned measurable returns. Yet, no achievement has proved as rewarding as reconnecting in the last decade with his St. Thomas roots.
Rathmell played an integral role in the 4500Forever capital campaign, the most ambitious in St. Thomas history raising more than $60 million for property acquisition to expand the campus north boundary. He has also continued on the school’s Board of Directors following his emphatic tenure as president from 2014-17.
“When I looked at my life several years ago, I recognized that St. Thomas clearly had a great influence on whom I became as a person,” Rathmell says. “I had to give back. It was important for me to become more involved with the community, establish new relationships with the Basilians. And now through the property purchase and fundraising, my long-lasting friendships are even stronger and more powerful, just a wonderful and deeply rewarding experience. I tell people I’m from St. Thomas. I wear it like a badge. I couldn’t say that with confidence if I wasn’t giving back to the school.”
Rathmell believes the rich heritage of Basilian education is as dynamic and essential now as during the volatile ’70s of his youth, as when the institution was founded in Houston in 1900 – educating young men, allowing them to grow in their faith, and put that faith into action in the service of others. In essence, live the ethos of Teach Me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge.
“Every time and place is different but St. Thomas remains critically important to the broad spectrum of families it serves and our city as a whole,” Rathmell says. “A Catholic all-boys institution in the heart of Houston where traditional values meet contemporary times … that is St. Thomas. I see students today not that much different than I was, forming a belief and trust in faculty, coaches, and mentors. That purpose is why so many of us fought against long odds to enhance the school’s future into this next century. We all want the next generations to benefit from the same faith-based experience we were afforded.”
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.