“Butler is my college,” Michael Bill is saying. “Right along with my college that I graduated from.”
That would be Syracuse University, where Bill played center on the football team—that included the legendary Jim Brown in the backfield—and received the grounding to begin a more than 50-year career in the insurance industry.
And while he’ll always love the Orange, the Chairman of the Board of Indianapolis-based MJ Insurance showed his Butler Blue streak last year when he, along with MJ Insurance, gave the University $250,000 to start a student-run insurance company beginning in May of 2017.
The Butler business, known as a “captive insurance company,” will insure certain programs at Butler, perhaps including the live mascot, Butler Blue III, or physical damage to University vehicles. The idea is to give students hands-on experience that will jumpstart their careers.
Bill learned his trade in the 1960s during a two-year training program at his first employer, Commercial Union Insurance Group. “When they trained you, they would not let you out in the field until they thought you knew everything you had to know in all areas,” he said.
Fast-forward 50 years, and colleges are expected to do the training.
That’s where his gift comes in.
Bill wants Butler students to learn insurance from the ground up, from the state of incorporation to actuarial work, claims, investments, and more—the way he did. He also wants them to zero in on the area of the business they like most so they’ll have fulfilling careers.
“We’re going to go out and create a workforce,” he said. “There’s a huge shortage of people in our industry. The average age at big insurance carriers is in their 50s. In the next five years, the students coming out of Butler University with a degree in insurance in a specific area will be highly compensated. You’re going to have a waiting list for people to get in there.”
Bill started MJ Insurance when he was 27. He’s 80 now, and said he still loves the business. He also appreciates the practical teaching approach taken in Butler’s Lacy School of Business.
“I fell in love with the business because I had great teachers,” he said. “That’s the key—great teachers and great mentors. This gift is my way of giving back to a great community and a great college. It was probably the easiest check I’ve ever written.”