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George Ensley

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George Ensley Obituary
Lt. Col. George E. Ensley, US Army (Ret.)

George H. Ensley, retired Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, retired USAA senior executive, and community leader, died March 26, 2014 at the age of 86. He was born on December 9, 1927 in Hemet, California, one of three sons born to Katherine and Oliver Ensley. After graduating from Hemet High School, Ensley enlisted in the Army. He served one and one half years and then received an Honorable Discharge. He entered the University of California, Berkeley to study Accounting and worked his way through the University on the G.I Bill. It was during his college years that he met his wife-to-be, Lucille Lichens. In three weeks, the young couple was engaged and on August 28, 1949, just three months later, they married.

In June 1950, the Phi Beta Kappa graduate accepted a regular Army commission in the Finance Corps, but was detailed to the Armor Branch. When the Korean War broke out, Ensley was assigned as a tank platoon leader with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. Famed military historian S.L.A. Marshall recounted the Division's struggles near the Yalu River in his The River and the Gauntlet. Ensley was in the middle of that action. On one occasion, when Chinese troops attacked en masse at twilight, Ensley's reinforced tank platoon helped repel the enemy forces. Wounded in action, Ensley received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for Gallantry.

In 1951, Ensley returned to the United States and in 1952 was assigned to the Finance Corps. Ensley stood near the top of his class at the Army's Finance School and, in 1954, tied for first out of 200 graduate students in his MBA degree program at Stanford University. His military career included finance, comptroller and plans assignments. His last tour of duty was as a budget officer for the Deputy Chief of Staff of Personnel at Army headquarters in the Pentagon.

Having reached eligibility for an Army retirement and with an outstanding reputation for his financial acumen, Ensley was targeted by many national companies. In San Antonio, Texas, USAA President Brigadier General Robert F. McDermott received a highly favorable recommendation on Ensley from one of McDermott's West Point classmates. USAA offered Ensley the position as vice president and treasurer in the growing company. While he appreciated the offer, Ensley wanted to return to California. Soon after, while the CEO of a San Francisco-based company spelled out the salary and benefits of a terrific offer, Ensley was looking out the window facing the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge was packed with traffic, inching along the span. Unable to picture himself in such traffic, Ensley suddenly stood up and told the astonished CEO that he was no longer interested in the offer. Ensley headed straight to San Antonio and USAA in what was to be a lengthy, fruitful and happy relationship. San Francisco's loss was USAA's and San Antonio's gain!

From the beginning, Ensley was a key contributor to USAA's success and became McDermott's right-hand man. Always working in the background by choice, he helped bring many of McDermott's ideas into fruition. In 1976, he designed and created the Employee Benefit Association that became the primary vehicle to administer employee benefits and rewrote the retirement plan, reducing vesting from ten to five years. In 1983, Ensley recommended that USAA become a broader-based financial services company. He advocated an investment management company, offering mutual funds and a brokerage service, a bank offering a full line of services including credit cards, and a real estate investment company. This would give USAA a full range of personal financial services including property and casualty insurance, life insurance, banking, and real estate. With McDermott's and the Board of Directors' approval, the legal structure was put in place with the final action of opening the USAA Federal Savings Bank on December 29, 1983. During his tenure at USAA, he also chaired the Charitable Contributions function that channeled millions of dollars to San Antonio non-profits. In 1987, Ensley became Deputy CEO and held that position until his retirement in 1993 with over 24 years of service to USAA.

Over the years, Ensley also made many significant contributions to the community. At different times, he was a member of the Board of Directors or Trustees for a large number of institutions and organizations including the McNay Art Museum, the San Antonio Public Library System, Las Casas Foundation, San Antonio Medical Foundation, San Antonio Zoological Society, San Antonio Area Foundation and the Cancer Therapy and Research Foundation. When he retired from USAA in 1993, he wanted to do more. Ensley told everyone that he planned "to repay San Antonio in part for the wonderful things that have come to Lucille and me since moving here in 1969." In July of 1993, he became the President of the Rotary Club of San Antonio. He led the club to become the 7th largest in the nation and initiated a number of innovations that increased enjoyment for the members and funds available for various educational and charitable activities. He also introduced an award called "Service Above Self" for Rotary members that could have symbolized Ensley's place in business and the community. He later became the Chairman and CEO for the Texas Research Park Foundation. The members and employees of USAA and the citizens of San Antonio have a better quality of life and a happier one thanks to the many contributions of this modest man.

Ensley was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers, Clark and Harold. Surviving him are his wife of 64 years, Lucille, sons Craig and his wife Sue, Ross, and R. Douglas and his wife Carolyn, 12 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by all his family and those who knew him.

The family would like to express deep gratitude to Senior Bridge and to the many caregivers who have lovingly provided care, compassion, and support over the past years.

APRIL 7, 2014
10:30 AM

Private interment in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery for family. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the UTHSC Children's Cancer Research Institute Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Oncology; 7703 Floyd Curl Dr., MC 7835, San Antonio.
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Published in Express-News on Apr. 6, 2014
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