Former insurance commissioner Nonnie Burns dies at 79

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – Nonnie Burnes, who oversaw the deregulation of the auto insurance industry in Massachusetts as insurance commissioner under Gov. Deval Patrick, died last weekend after a battle with kidney cancer.

She was 79. Burnes was a trustee at her alma mater, Northeastern University, which published a tribute on Thursday to the former judge and chair of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts. Burnes graduated from Northeastern Law School and practiced for 18 years at the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow before she was appointed to the Superior Court bench as a judge by Gov. William Weld in 1996.

She would leave the judiciary after 10 years to take over the state’s Division of Insurance under a new governor, Deval Patrick, at a time when the state was transitioning from a heavily regulated auto insurance market to one that encouraged competition. She left the Patrick administration in 2009 for Northeastern, where she was a senior university fellow at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

“Nonnie truly was one of the greats,” tweeted former U.S. senator and Patrick general counsel Mo Cowan, describing himself as “being in awe … of her kindness and generosity of spirit” after meeting her following his first year of law school at Northeastern. “I later served with her in a couple of organizations and came to know that her soul was pure and ran deep. She will be missed,” he wrote.

Burnes was married to Richard Burnes, the co-founder of Charles River Ventures, and the couple had three children. Northeastern said services for Burnes will be announced by her family at a future date. 

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