Partner Profile: Dan Rigby talks teen suicide, starfish and personal satisfaction

Jan 28, 2016

Before he retired, Rigby had a successful three-decade leadership career in the life insurance industry. He lives with his wife Ann in Paradise Valley, and they have two adult daughters, Elizabeth and Bridget. His interests include acoustic blues guitar, ancient philosophy and fly-fishing for western trout. He’s been involved with Social Venture Partners Arizona (SVPAZ) since its inception in 1999.

What brought you to SVPAZ?

I went through a soul searching period after I retired at age 52. I had been overly committed to work, and besides family, I didn’t do much else. I was trying to figure out what I might want to do when I read a newspaper article about founder Jerry Hirsch. It sounded like something I would be very much interested in. So we met for breakfast.

How many hours do you volunteer annually?

Even though my activity ebbs and flows a bit, I’m probably one of the top three or four most active individuals in our group.

How would you say SVPAZ is unique?

Arizona is such a singular place. I’ve been on the Board for our international SVP for seven years, and I’ve interacted with many others. One interesting observation I made when I began serving on the Board, was that SVPAZ was a bit suspicious and protective of our position as it related to the larger organization. That turned out to be myopic and mistaken. For the most part, I’ve found many more similarities than differences among our chapters. It’s been very satisfying to get such a large contingent of people from different places together, all committed to same ideas and goals.

Can you share an engagement that really resonates with you?

Well, early on, I was the lead partner in Team Lifeline, a suicide prevention hotline. We trained kids to be on a hotline, teaching them to help solve distress. I had a brother who committed suicide, so that experience is close to my heart. I’m currently the Board Chair of New Global Citizens, a former SVPAZ investee. They have been able to grow exponentially thanks to the right kind of resources.

What have you personally seen in term of the impact of SVPAZ?

I’m not much of a Pollyanna about these things. There are always going to be poor people, people in pain and suffering; I don’t foresee a perfect world. But I do see people who are able and willing to make a contribution being a critical link in certain places where they can touch lives through volunteering, contributing money, leading an initiative or trying to build capacity to do more.

It’s like story of the guy who’s walking along the beach. He sees all these starfish washed up on the sand and a guy picking them up, one by one, and throwing them back into the ocean. That guy made a difference to that one starfish. My oldest daughter, a professor at George Washington University, studies inequality. She’s much more idealistic than I am, but we agree that on a one-to-one basis we can have impact on those outside ourselves.

Through your engagement with SVPA, you’ve taught a lot. What have you learned?

What I learned was something I suspected all those years ago: I had a hole in my life. I need to be of service to others in a way I define as meaningful. It shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, but SVPAZ filled that hole.