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AEA President

From the President

Exit, Gracefully, a Champion

AEA President Nick Wyman

President Nick Wyman
photo credit: newhartphoto.com

By Nick Wyman

September 7, 2011

I'm sure you didn't notice, but an era ended last month at Equity: my grandmother shed her last official duties. Jeanna Belkin stepped down as a Trustee of the Equity-League Pension and Health Plans, capping an unparalleled record of service to the Funds that dates back to 1965. For most of those 46 years, Jeanna had been Chair of the Equity P&H Caucus and co-Chair of the Funds. Now, Jeanna Belkin is not literally my grandmother. She is barely old enough to be my mother, and at well shy of either five feet or 100 pounds, she is a poor genetic match for the hulking behemoth that is our President. She is, however, part of my AEA lineage. Thirty-some years ago, Jeanna encouraged a young man named Patrick Quinn to run for Council and, when he became a Councillor and an Officer, she gave him guidance, counsel and support. Ten years after Patrick joined Council, he encouraged me to run and, upon my election, he gave me guidance, counsel and support. Jeanna did too. Indeed, I have rarely felt as honored as I did some ten years or so ago when Jeanna chose me to be a Trustee of the Pension and Health Funds.

When she declined to run again in 2009 and was named a Councillor Emeritus, Jeanna had been on Council for since 1955 - 54 years! Her longevity on Council and as a Pension and Health Trustee are remarkable but it has been the quality of Jeanna's service that has astonished me. As Chair of the P&H Caucus, she continually fought to achieve a level of health contribution on our contract that would keep the Health Fund solvent. As a Trustee of the Health Fund, she has battled to cover as well as possible as many people as possible. As a Trustee of the Pension Fund, she championed a conservative approach to investing that kept our Pension Fund in the Green (safe) Zone when so many others fell into the Yellow (Endangered) and Red (Critical) Zones. From the 1960 strike that gave us our Pension and Health Funds to 1974's ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) to last year's PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), Jeanna was the maven and mistress of all the arcana that come with a Trustee's fiduciary responsibility.

On Council, in addition to insisting on the necessity of sufficient and appropriate health contributions for the Health Fund, she was the champion of the Chorus. Jeanna - who joined AEA in 1945 -- began her Equity career as a dancer, appearing in several shows on Broadway in the 50's and 60's. Indeed, Jeanna was also a member of Chorus Equity, the separate union for chorus dancers and singers founded in 1919, which merged with AEA in 1955. Whether serving as AEA's Chorus Vice-President (which she did for many years) or simply as a member of Council, she battled fiercely to protect the Chorus contract and to prevent any diminution of its particular strengths and advantages.

She was also the unofficial Council Parliamentarian, every clause and codicil of Roberts' Rules of Order stuffed into her brain, and woe betide you if you brought a third motion to the floor when there were already main and substitute motions. In these three personae - Chorus Champion, P&H Trustee-in-Chief, and Parliamentarian - Jeanna has served us wisely and firmly for not just years but decades. She is irreplaceable and will be sorely missed. If you have ever worked a Chorus contract or qualified for Health Coverage, you might want to drop her a line of thanks c/o my e-mail or the NYC office.


Contact President Nick Wyman at president@actorsequity.org.

 

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Thank You

Long-time Councillor Nick Wyman is elected the President of Actors' Equity Association

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