Portland, ME – The University of Southern Maine (USM) has announced that it will establish the MEMIC John T. Leonard Endowed Chair in Risk Management and Insurance, only the second endowed chair since USM’s founding in 1878.
The Board of Directors of workers’ compensation insurer The MEMIC Group has committed the company to honor its outgoing and founding CEO John T. Leonard by helping to fund the endowment to support the new chair.
“As the first and only President and CEO of MEMIC, John Leonard turned a company that had no assets except for a $500,000 line of credit loan into a $1.3 billion company with offices all the way down the East Coast,” said MEMIC Board Chair David M. Labbe. “John has built a great company that not only serves employers here in Maine by driving down the overall cost of workers’ comp, but is also contributing mightily to our economy as an important employer in the region. As the company continues its growth, it will have a clear need for more people who have education about risk management.”
“We’ve had a very successful partnership with John Leonard and MEMIC over the years addressing issues of workforce development; I look forward to future innovative endeavors,” said USM President Glenn Cummings. “John is known in the insurance industry as a great supporter of education. We believe this endowed chair and the benefits that will accrue from it are perfect ways to honor John’s legacy to Maine.”
There is only one other program in all of New England similar to USM’s Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program, which was launched in the fall of 2008 through a collaboration with MEMIC and other industry partners. The RMI program’s graduates have found well-paying jobs at roughly 40 different insurance organizations throughout the region, with MEMIC being the largest single employer of RMI graduates.
The insurance industry is an important economic engine, providing more than 12,000 good-paying jobs in Greater Portland with more than $1 billion in compensation in Maine in 2015. Insurance companies paid almost $100 million in taxes and in 2014 contributed $1.8 billion to the gross state product, more than 3 percent of total GSP. The economic impact of the insurance industry in Maine is far greater than most other states, Maine ranks 2nd in the nation for its concentration of insurance claims workers and 7th in underwriters.
With roughly 50 percent of the current insurance workforce likely to retire within the next 15 years, the endowed chair will double the capacity of the RMI program. USM is soliciting matching gifts to MEMIC’s initial investment of $300,000, which will continue annually for five years.
“Maine is aging fast, and the insurance industry is aging even faster,” said Michael P. Bourque, a 22-year veteran of MEMIC who will replace Leonard as president and CEO in September. “Now is the time to invest in the next generation in this industry. These are good jobs and the industry is poised to grow here in Maine.”