Nell Hennessy was the “definitive source of knowledge” on everyaspect of the benefits world and made a number of contributions foremployees throughout the years, according to industry leaders.

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Hennessy, who many described as a champion for employee benefitsfor the past 30 years, died Feb. 4 at age 61.

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She was posthumously honored last week by the InternationalFoundation of Employee Benefit Plans with this year’s publicservice award for her “outstanding contribution to and concern forthe benefit of others through support and advancement of employeebenefit programs.”

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Hennessy’s husband, Frank Daspit, accepted the award on herbehalf.

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“Nell’s contributions to employee benefits and plan participantswere many,” says Jack Simmons, International Foundation presidentand chair of the board. “Her commitment to the industry was trulyawe-inspiring.”

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Hennessy was part of one of the most significant benefittransactions in U.S. history when she worked with the Department ofLabor and negotiated an agreement with General Motors thatpermitted GM to contribute employer stock to its hourly plan. Thatplan formed the basis for a ground-breaking prohibited transactionexemption that allowed GM to subsequently spin off its EDSsubsidiary, according to the Employee Benefits SecurityAdministration.

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Hennessy was president and chief executive officer of FiduciaryCounselors Inc., a registered investment advisory firm that acts asindependent fiduciary for employee benefit plans. From 1993 to1998, she was deputy executive director and chief negotiator of thePension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and headed PBGC’smultiemployer program. She also had served as president of AonFiduciary Counselors and was a partner at a law firm—advisingclients on a wide range of benefit, investment and corporategovernance issues— after beginning her career as an attorney withfirst the Internal Revenue Service and then PBGC.

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Hennessy negotiated the restructuring of TWA’s debt to PBGC andCarl Ichan, which allowed TWA to successfully reorganize. The EarlyWarning Program she headed at PBGC was awarded one of the firstfederal Innovations in American Government Awards by the FordFoundation and the Kennedy School of Government at HarvardUniversity.

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Since 1985 Hennessy was an adjunct professor at GeorgetownUniversity Law Center, where she helped develop the graduatecertificate program in employee benefits.

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Beyond her professional accomplishments, though, she will beremembered for her sense of humor, warmth and energy, Simmonssays.

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“Her passing is a great loss to our industry,” he says.

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