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USF gets $5.26M from Baldwin Risk Partners to bolster insurance profession

It’s the largest gift to date for a Sarasota-Manatee campus trying to move beyond its commuter school image.
Lowry Baldwin, co-founder of Baldwin Risk Partners, spoke to a crowd at the University of South Florida's Sarasota-Manatee campus on Aug. 24, 2022, after announcing a $5.2 million donation to the School of Risk Management and Insurance.
Lowry Baldwin, co-founder of Baldwin Risk Partners, spoke to a crowd at the University of South Florida's Sarasota-Manatee campus on Aug. 24, 2022, after announcing a $5.2 million donation to the School of Risk Management and Insurance. [ DIVYA KUMAR | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Aug. 24

The University of South Florida announced a $5.2 million gift Wednesday from the Tampa-based national insurance distribution holding company Baldwin Risk Partners, resulting in a name change for part of its business college.

The university’s School of Risk Management and Insurance will bear the Baldwin name, marking the largest gift to date for its growing Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The campus is adding a new STEM building and a student center and residence hall as it attempts to move away from its reputation as a commuter school.

Related: How to build a Florida insurance company, one acquisition at a time

USF president Rhea Law said the gift will help fill the talent gap in the insurance field. A survey she quoted found that 16 percent of insurance professionals believed there would be enough graduates to fill roles in their field by 2025. The number of employees in the field over age 55 has increased by 75 percent over the last 15 years, she said, and 25 percent are younger than 35.

“We want our students to be prepared to go into that arena and be able to raise the whole industry,” Law said. “We know, because our industry partners are telling us, that they see a need, and we want to make sure the University of South Florida is here to meet that need.”

USF began offering risk management as a minor on the Sarasota-Manatee campus in 2015 and expanded it to a major in 2017. Law said that was because of industry demand.

When all USF campuses were consolidated in 2020, the program became the School of Risk Management and Insurance under the Muma College of Business. The state Board of Governors has dubbed it a “program of strategic emphasis.”

Lowry Baldwin, one of the co-founders of the company, said the investment could change the trajectory of students’ lives as well as the industry.

He gave the industry a grade of C, saying workers entering the field have an “extraordinarily large variability in talent and ethics” and that its branding could be improved.

Baldwin said he hopes the gift will allow USF to better develop “precision and professional acumen” among the field’s workers and get them to think through how to better message the merits of their profession.

He said the money will be used in part for scholarships, special programming with industry leaders and developing conferences and certification opportunities for professionals. In addition, he said, the company and USF have formed four or five work groups to figure out other ways to activate their partnership.

GJ de Vreede, interim dean for the college, said Wednesday’s announcement was a watershed moment that would grow the school into a “powerhouse in the region.”

Baldwin, a fourth-generation Tampa native, said he believed the gift was a “down payment on our collective future.”

“Great communities are often anchored by fantastic universities,” he said.

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