Patrons: Don and Pat Gongaware
"I got into the field in the classic way - by accident," says Don, who retired in March 1998, as chief operations officer and executive vice president of Conseco. "I had one semester of school left and my GI Bill was running out. I had a wife and three kids at home, and needless to say, I needed to supplement my income. "An employment agency asked me if I wanted to become a group underwriter. It didn't pay much, but I jumped on it as a temporary job until I got my degree. Thirty years later I retired from the insurance industry."
As his career progressed, he began to notice that he wasn't the only one who had been introduced to the business in this fashion. "One thing that always kind of bugged me was that you could graduate CPAs, you could graduate attorneys, and you could graduate actuaries. Where were the graduate managers for the insurance industry? No one was getting trained in the overview and strategy of insurance," he says. "I asked myself: 'Why is this?'"
What he discovered was that even with the development of a number of excellent insurance studies programs at American universities over the past several years, there was still something missing from the equation. "I saw that there is really no niche for general insurance management studies in our universities, even with the many fine programs in the field that now exist," he explains. "Outside of some specialties such as actuarial science, accounting, and finance - as important as these are - nobody is really teaching students and industry per se.
"There's no focus on the concept of insurance, on what's really involved in this tremendously complex business, or on how it operates in today's world," he adds. " I felt this situation needed to be addressed."
So Gongaware and his wife, Pat, moved to fill the vacuum. In 1998, the means that they chose was a $5 million gift - one of the largest in Indiana State's history - to be used to fund an endowment for the Donald and Patricia Gongaware Center for Insurance Management Development. "Our ambition is to make ISU's Insurance and Risk Management Program the top program in North America," said Indiana State's President John W. Moore. "The Gongaware's gift will not only enable us to pursue that goal but to reach it."