H. Edward Hanway: From tenacious CEO to Catholic education champion

H. Edward Hanway retired as head of Cigna in 2009.
H. Edward Hanway retired as head of Cigna in 2009.
Posted: August 23, 2012

When Ed Hanway, who made millions as chairman of Cigna Corp. and is devoting his retirement to reviving Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia region, goes to Eagles games with his children, he parks in a far lot and sits in the stands with the masses.

"No VIP treatment for the chairman of Cigna," said Charlie Pizzi, who has known Hanway for about 20 years. "I think that illustrates the kind of person he is and why he wants to give back now."

When asked Tuesday about his Philadelphia Eagles habit, Hanway, who buys his own season tickets, maintaining a family tradition that goes back to 1958, laughed and said: "Super boxes are not where the real fans are."

When it comes to his Catholic faith, H. Edward Hanway, 60, is no more inclined to keep his distance.

The business executive is chairman and interim chief executive of the Faith in the Future Foundation, which is scheduled Sept. 1 to start managing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secondary and special-education schools.

His motivation is simple. "I've had the good fortune to be very successful in my career," said Hanway, and his Catholic school education played a big part in making that success possible. Hanway graduated in 1970 from Cardinal O'Hara High School in Marple Township, Delaware County.

Hanway grew up in the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in nearby Media. His father was a machinist, his mother a stay-at-home mom. Hanway has one sister, Pat, who is a nun with Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and works at the Drexel Neumann Academy in Chester.

Hanway and his wife, Ellen, have three adult children. The Hanways live in Media and have houses in Avalon and Naples, Fla.

Turning around the diocesan high schools won't be easy. "We have twice the number of seats as children who are in them," Hanway said.

It won't be the first big challenge for Hanway, who retired from Cigna at the end of 2009 after a 31-year career at the company, which moved its headquarters from Philadelphia to Bloomfield, Conn., after Hanway's retirement.

During his 10-year tenure as chief executive, Hanway oversaw the company's transformation from "a broad, unfocused financial organization" to one focused on health insurance, said Robert H. Campbell, a former chief executive of Sunoco Inc. and a Cigna director from 1992 to the end of 2009.

"That's a treacherous course," Campbell said. "Ed did that. He was successful."

Wendell Potter, a former top spokesman at Cigna, said Hanway was all business. "He's likable, but he can be very detached," said Potter, who left Cigna in 2008 and became a critic of the health-insurance industry.

"He can be very much focused on business and make hard decisions that affect people adversely. There were a number of layoffs during his time at the company and a number of divestitures," Potter said.

Friends from high school and the business world said Hanway has never been one to draw attention to himself.

"He's low-key and collegial, yet he gets things done in a dramatic way," said Brian P. Tierney, a communications and marketing executive who said he has known Hanway about 15 years. "He does it in a style that is quiet and gentlemanly," Tierney said, "but relentless, too."

Hanway's high school classmate Mike Bracken, who lives in Clifton Heights, said Hanway was "honest, never aggressive." The two have stayed in touch. "He was at my son's wedding three weeks ago," Bracken said.

Hanway's wealth - the executive's total compensation during his last four years at Cigna was valued in regulatory filings at $78 million - has never come up in their relationship, Bracken said. "It's none of my business."

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, another 1970 Cardinal O'Hara graduate, said he was not part of the same crowd as Hanway, but remembered him as a "good guy" who was smart and well-liked.

A couple of months ago, Sestak crossed paths with Hanway at the Court Diner in Media. They talked about Catholic education and the Faith in the Future Foundation, Sestak said.

"He was quite thorough and passionate," he said. "He really does care about what he is trying to do."


Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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