Glenn Holden Sr – A Passion for Polo


 April 23, 2024 

Joining the USPA in 1957, Glen Arthur Holden Sr. served as Pacific Coast Circuit Governor from 1976 to 1985. 

“I was so passionate about polo and the friends I met, I became deeply involved for life.”  – Glen Holden Sr.

Glen Arthur Holden Sr. passed away on Thursday, April 18, at the age of 96. Born on July 2, 1927, in Boise, Idaho, he grew up on a ranch near Portland, Oregon. After serving in the U.S. Army, he pursued higher education at the University of Oregon, where he met his beloved wife, Gloria.

While working at a campus clothing store, he met a local insurance agent who sparked his interest in the insurance industry, leading him to take classes in insurance and finance. He was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1951. Later in his life he received two honorary doctorates from Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. Further, the University of Oregon’s Holden Center for Leadership and Community Engagement is named for Glen and Gloria Holden.

In 1956, he formed and operated Glen Holden Associates, an insurance agency. Later, in 1964, he was hired as president and director of the Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co. (VALIC) of Washington, D.C. and Houston, Texas. Under his guidance, VALIC pioneered the variable annuity product in the U.S. and many other innovative products, which were subsequently adopted by most major life insurance companies. In 1973, he founded and became chairman and CEO of Security First Group, The Holden Group, all of its subsidiaries, including Security First Life Insurance Company and Fidelity Standard Life Insurance Company. The group provided investment and insurance services to public employees, including those in Florida, Tennessee, Texas and California.

His numerous civic, cultural and educational activities included the board of regents of Pepperdine University; board of governors of The Performing Arts Center; board of governors of Hugh O’Brian Youth Foundation; founder of the Citizens for American Educational Foundation; a member of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and the International Foundation for Learning Disabilities of LA, among others.

In 1986, he was honored as a recipient of the American Humanities Hand to Youth and Exemplar Awards. Four years later, he received the Oxford Cup, Beta Theta Pi fraternity’s most prestigious alumni award. In 1996, he was an inaugural recipient of the National Association of Variable Annuities (NAVA) Hall of Fame award for his development of the variable annuity industry in America.

President George H. W. Bush, with bipartisan support, appointed Holden to U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica from 1989-1993, playing a key role in formulating U.S. policy in the Caribbean. He later served as chair of American Friends of Jamaica for 14 years.


On the field, Holden earned a 2-goal rating. He and his Gehache polo team won the 1990 America Cup, the 1993 U.S. Open Polo Championship, the 1986 Pacific Coast Open and the Governors Cup. ©Photo courtesy of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame

Holden established his love of horses when his dad brought home a pony for him when he was just 3. Growing up, he rode in a Western saddle, helping train horses to earn spending money during the Great Depression. Eventually he was invited to play polo in an arena in Portland and loved it so much, he played every week from then on. The club manager gave him lessons and helped him buy his first two horses. He went on to own several hundred polo ponies over the years. Several years ago, when he was asked to name a favorite, he replied, “They are like your children. You love them, would do anything for them. [They are] each different, but you never loved one more than the others.”

He played his first polo game at the Lake Oswego Hunt Club, just outside Portland. Later, he took lessons from 10-goaler Bob Skene. They became lifelong friends and traveled together to places like Singapore, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, and Jaipur, India, to play polo. Holden once said, “I was so passionate about polo and the friends I met, I became deeply involved for life.” Standing 6 feet tall, with locks of wavy white hair and striking blue eyes, he made everyone feel like a close friend. It did not matter if you were a groom or a 10-goal player, he greeted everyone with a warm, wide smile.

Holden joined the USPA in 1957. He visited California, playing at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California) for the first time in 1963. He eventually moved there in 1972 and played at the Will Rogers Polo Club in Los Angeles for the first year, traveling to Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (SBPRC) to play on the weekends. Soon after, he joined the board of trustees at SBPRC. Around that time, the club faced financial hardship, and Holden played a pivotal role in restoring its stability by personally guaranteeing its debts. He went on to serve as Pacific Coast Circuit Governor from 1976-1985.

Holden was a founding member of the Federation of International Polo and was its president from 1997 to 2005. He, along with Marcos Uranga, created the FIP World Polo Championships. He also served on the board of directors of the Polo Training Foundation and the National Museum of Polo as well as the museum’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee from 1996 until his death. In recognition for his outstanding contributions to the sport, he was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 2002.

On the field, he earned a 2-goal rating. He and his Gehache polo team won the 1990 America Cup, the 1993 U.S. Open Polo Championship, the 1986 Pacific Coast Open and the Governors Cup. Holden played with many great players, including Skene, Ruben Gracida, Daniel Gonzalez and Alfonso Giannico, all who became lifelong friends. While he retired from playing when he was 81, he regularly attended polo events both in the United States and abroad.

He is predeceased by his wife Gloria and daughter Georgianne Holden Stone. He is survived by his son Glen “Jeep” Holden Jr., daughter Geannie Holden Sheller, nine grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. The family is planning to hold a celebration of life this summer.