John Atkinson

Champaign, IL – John Atkinson has transitioned from his posts as chairperson of the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) and the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to become the chairman of Intersect Illinois.

Atkinson is managing director and chairman of the Chicago Office at Marsh, the world’s leading insurance broker and risk advisor. He was tapped by Gov. Pritzker to take on the role of chairman of the Intersect Illinois board of directors beginning this fall.

Atkinson has served as the chair of SURS and the IBHE since 2019, guiding SURS through digital system updates, investment portfolio restructuring, trustee elections and the global pandemic. In 2021, he led a nationwide search resulting in the hiring of SURS’ first woman director since the original SURS administrator in 1941. Atkinson also strongly supported organizational diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, as well as SURS diverse investment manager program promoting opportunities for minority-, women- and persons with a disability-owned (MWDB) investment firms.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as chair of the SURS Board of Trustees,” said Atkinson. “Working with my fellow trustees and collaborating with the SURS staff has been gratifying and productive. Together, we accomplished a great deal in the interest of SURS members.”

“Chairperson Atkinson has been an exceptional leader for SURS through extensive system changes including initiating a new pension administration system, redesigning our core defined contribution plan – the Retirement Savings Plan (RSP) — creating our supplemental Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP) and overseeing the SURS portfolio reallocation,” said Executive Director Suzanne Mayer. “His leadership, dedication, and ability to unify the board to accomplish our goals has been invaluable. SURS sincerely thanks him for the positive mark he has left on the organization.”

Atkinson’s tenure coincided with the implementation of the 2018 SURS asset liability study results. The portfolio changes that followed were designed to protect System assets in the event of a major equity market correction and were implemented over multiple years. Final implementation of the changes occurred in February 2022. SURS portfolio was not immune to the challenging market environment of Calendar Year 2022; however, when compared to a peer universe of other large public pension plans, the SURS portfolio return exceeded that of 94% of other large public plans.

“Chair Atkinson was a proponent of the portfolio redesign,” said Chief Investment Officer Doug Wesley. “The SURS investment team appreciated his support and his contributions throughout the lengthy process. It has been a pleasure to work with him over the past four years.”

A new SURS board chair has not yet been named. Pranav Kothari, the newly named chair of IBHE will join the SURS board. State statute dictates the chair of IBHE serves on the SURS Board of Trustees.

The SURS board is comprised of four elected contributing members, two elected annuitants and five trustees appointed by the governor.