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 MILWAUKEE, Jan. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Francis E. Ferguson, 72, who led Wisconsin's largest company as CEO for more than a decade, died Tuesday, Jan. 4, in Phoenix, after a long respiratory illness.
 Ferguson was elected president and trustee of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1967 and was named chief executive officer in 1968. He was elected the fourth chairman of the company in 1980 and served as chairman and CEO until 1983. He retired as chairman in 1985 and from the board in 1991.
 Under his leadership, Northwestern Mutual's assets more than doubled, from $5.7 billion in 1968 to more than $13 billion at the end of 1982. He also presided over several company milestones including introducing disability income insurance in 1969; introducing its "Quiet Company" ads on national television in 1972; forming partnerships with major oil companies in offshore oil and gas drilling ventures beginning in 1972; passing $100 million in annual premiums in 1976; breaking ground for a new home office addition in 1977; offering policyowners a $3 billion Update program in 1980; and acquiring Robert W. Baird & Co. in 1982.
 "Fergie was a giant in the company, the community and the industry nationwide," said James D. Ericson, Northwestern's president and CEO. "As CEO, Fergie successfully led the company through the turbulent economy of the 1970's and early 1980's. He also played a leadership role in the insurance industry as it coped with the effects of runaway inflation."
 Ericson noted that "Fran Ferguson made a number of key contributions to the Milwaukee community, among them the revitalization of the Wisconsin State Fair, helping move the Brewers to Milwaukee, and, perhaps most importantly, rejuvenating the city's downtown through the development of the Grand Avenue."
 "Through all of this, he was a man of integrity, energy and vision. He leaves behind a legacy from which we will all benefit into the 21st century," Ericson said.
 Ferguson played a major role in a number of civic and charitable activities. He headed the United Way fund drive in 1965, he was president of the Milwaukee Redevelopment Corporation and was chairman of the Wisconsin State Fair board.
 For his untiring efforts on behalf of Milwaukee's business and community organizations, Ferguson received numerous awards, among them: the Milwaukee Press Club's 1973 Headliner of the Year; the 1974 Pro Urbe Civic Award of Mount Mary College; the Milwaukee Foundation's 1982 William C. Frye award; the 1983 Lamplighter Award of the Greater Milwaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Kiwanis 1983 Milwaukee Award and the award of the Junior Achievement Women's Association. He was named 1969 Executive of the Year by the Sales and Marketing Executives of Milwaukee; he was the first recipient of the St. Francis Children's Activity and Achievement Center Community Service Award in 1983 and he received the Israel Peace Medal in 1985.
 During his career, Ferguson served on the boards of a number of prominent national corporations including: The Singer Company, Ralston Purina Company, Kaneb Services, Inc., Continental Bank Corporation, WICOR, Wisconsin Gas Company, Allen-Bradley Company, Green Bay Packaging, Inc., Oscar Mayer Foods Corp. and Rexnord.
 He received honorary degrees from Michigan State University, his alma mater, as well as from Ripon College and Cardinal Stritch College.
 Ferguson was born Feb. 4, 1921, in Batavia, N.Y. He served four years in the Air Force during World War II, attaining the rank of captain. A B-17 pilot, he was shot down over Schweinfurt, Germany, and spent 19 months in a prisoner-of-war camp. After the war he returned to Michigan State University from which he graduated with a degree in agricultural economics in 1947.
 Ferguson joined Northwestern Mutual in 1951 as an economic specialist in the Mortgage Loan department and progressed to vice president of Mortgage Loans before being named president. During his tenure in the investment department, Ferguson pioneered many innovations in farm mortgages, joint venture lending, commercial real estate and student housing. Before joining Northwestern Mutual, he was employed by the National Farm Loan Association and as an extension specialist for Michigan State University.
 He is survived by his wife, Patty, daughters Penny and Susan and four grandchildren.
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 /CONTACT: Thomas W. Towers of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, 414-299-7179/

CO: Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance ST: Wisconsin IN: INS SU: PER

CM-BM -- CL015 -- 9820 01/06/94 14:22 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 6, 1994

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