By SHERIDAN ROY
The Southington High School Wall of Honor has honored a long list of SHS graduates who have gone on to do great things in their careers and personal lives, but as Bob Brown looked at the plaques that line the wall outside of the auditorium, he said that he noticed something: most of the people on the wall were men.
He said that adding Dawn D’Onofrio this year was important him, to the WOH committee, to the wall itself, and of course, to the nominee, who was more than qualified to be honored.
D’Onofrio is a successful woman in the insurance industry who has received national awards for her underwriting skills. Her underwriting leadership was a catalyst for ongoing program development, and increased capital support. Her plaque states: “She is highly respected in the industry for her commitment to both employees and business partners.”
In 2016, she was named one of Business Insurance’s women to watch, and in 2017 she was named CEO and president of CorRisk Solutions and WKFC Underwriting managers.
Right after finishing high school, D’Onofrio left Southington and didn’t look back. She moved to California for her education and ended up relocating permanently.
“My intent was always to get a few years of experience under my belt before attending graduate school,” said D’Onofrio of how she got into her career. “What I planned and what actually happened exceeded my expectations. I fell in love with my career and the people I worked with.”
D’Onofrio said she was fortunate to work for an employer who allowed her the flexibility to work and get her graduate degree simultaneously.
She now resides in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. and commutes weekly to New York where she works, but she has not forgotten her roots in Southington.
“Southington was and continues to be a wonderful place to spend your formative years. To this day, I have wonderful friendships with people I met either at St. Thomas Junior High or SHS,” she said. “You do not realize until you live elsewhere how fortunate we are to have such a close knit community, great neighbors and small classroom sizes.”
D’Onofrio had several influencers during her youth—one of which was Cathy Conway, a teacher at St. Thomas and D’Onofrio’s gymnastics coach.
“Cathy had the gift of instilling confidence in so many of her students—confidence that maybe we thought we lacked—but she found us,” said D’Onofrio. “I know she was just as impactful to her students at SHS. She was such a role model for teachers but equally a role model for strong female leadership.”
She also accredited SHS teacher Philip Goodrow, who made learning fun and interesting. Unfortunately, he passed away her senior year.
“He made a point to get to know his students, their interests and their aspirations,” she said. “He made me feel that I had the skill set to do whatever I put my mind to, and this is such an important trait in a teacher.”
The insurance industry titan who has made a name for herself in Connecticut, California, Florida and New York offers a word of advice for current students: take this time seriously. Take advantage of extracurricular activities even if you are not sure you have interest, and seek counsel from teachers.
“Find a role model for life and be a role model. Write down your goals and commit to a plan to achieve your goals,” said D’Onofrio. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and know that it’s okay, and in fact, essential, to fail along the way. It’s the failures that help form your character as much as the successes.”
Follow along in upcoming Southington Observer editions as we continue to profile the rest of the SHS Wall of Honor inductees for 2019: Barry DePaolo and Matt Galka.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.