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Sagamore Honors the Life of Founding
Board Member Jerry Semler

March 5, 1937 - July 24, 2023

Jerry Semler changed both the skyline and shape of Indianapolis. Soon after he took the reins of OneAmerica (then American United Life) from his father-in-law, Jerry oversaw construction of the epic OneAmerica building in downtown Indianapolis. Simultaneously, he worked with his longtime friend Jim Morris and others to implement the sports tourism strategy that gave rise to the city’s economy and global status. 

As he moved to OneAmerica chairman emeritus status in 2004, he joined former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats as co-chairman of Sagamore Institute, a think tank start-up that replaced the Hudson Institute. Jerry was the only member who served every year on Sagamore’s board since its founding – a nearly two-decade long string of service. He also served for a time as Sagamore’s interim chief executive.

Dan Coats reflected on his collaboration with Jerry when news broke of his death: “Jerry epitomized Hoosier values. He was kind to everyone, relentless in his service to his community, active in putting his faith to work and loyal to his friends.”

Jerry, who died July 24 at age 86, joined AUL (now One America) as a trainee in 1959. He retired, 45 years later, as the company’s chief executive officer. 

In addition to his service with Sagamore, he helped to guide many of Indiana’s leading institutions, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Central Indiana, Indiana Historical Society, Purdue University, and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Jerry was passionate about promoting innovative policies that helped to improve the lives of his fellow Hoosiers. As a leader with Sagamore, he helped Indiana’s think tank develop solutions promoting economic and educational opportunities for all Hoosiers as well as strengthening civic engagement.

Jerry was recognized as a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor given by a governor of Indiana to leaders who have demonstrated outstanding levels of wisdom, public service, and commitment to improving the lives of their fellow citizens.

In that regard, Jerry Semler was a Sagamore among Sagamores.