Florida State University, Dr. William T. Hold and The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research recently celebrated a decade of a partnership that has spawned the top-ranked risk management and insurance academic program in the country.
The 10th Anniversary Dinner and Celebration of the Dr. William T. Hold/The National Alliance Program in Risk Management & Insurance brought together the broad communities of The National Alliance and the FSU College of Business for three hours of celebration and reflection in the Grand Ballroom of the FSU Alumni Center.
“It’s amazing to me,” said Hold, co-founder, executive chairman and retired president of The National Alliance. “I sit and wonder, ‘How did this ever happen?'”
For the program’s success, Hold and others hailed contributions from staff and board members of The National Alliance, as well as from college leaders, faculty and staff members, students and alumni.
The event also featured top university officials, including President Richard McCullough, and the two guests of honor — Hold (BS RMI ’63), an FSU alumnus who also holds an honorary doctorate from FSU, and William J. Hold (MBA ’08), an FSU alumnus who succeeded his father as president of the organization.
Ten years ago, Dr. Hold and The National Alliance invested $5 million in the college to further build an already highly ranked RMI program. Last fall, U.S. News & World Report declared the Dr. William T. Hold/The National Alliance Program in Risk Management & Insurance the No. 1-ranked such program in the nation.
McCullough saluted the Holds and The National Alliance for their “vision, dedication and investment in our great students and faculty and this great university.”
“We have much to celebrate tonight,” McCullough said. The Dr. William T. Hold/The National Alliance Program in Risk Management and Insurance enhances FSU and “elevates the College of Business as it strives for preeminence,” he added.
The college boasts Top 10 and Top 25 rankings in virtually all its undergraduate programs and in several graduate programs. And the Dr. Hold/The National Alliance program’s No. 1 ranking inspired a national-championship theme throughout the evening.
“Tonight, we finally get to rush the field to tear down the goalposts,” College of Business Dean Michael Hartline said during his introductory remarks.
Minutes later, Hartline presented a trophy to the Holds.
Like Dr. Hold, Hartline took the opportunity to reflect on the crowning achievement.
“Ask any national-championship team, and they’ll tell you what it took to get them to the top,” he said. “It took a team of talented, determined and dedicated people who refused to settle for less. It took time, excellence and persistence. And it took a visionary leader who pointed the way.”
For Dr. Hold, the No. 1 ranking also marked a sense of reinforced validation from a decade ago when he persuaded board members of his organization, based in Austin, Texas, to make a significant investment in the RMI program at FSU, some 900 miles away. Hold said the university and College of Business gave him his start – and a break he never forgot – more than 60 years ago.
“Thank God we were able to do it,” Hold said about the building of the program to preeminent status. “And thank God for each of you.”
The spirit of the relationship resonated at the 10-year celebration, including in a series of toasts from representatives of the college and The National Alliance.
“There’s no question that great value was created through this partnership,” William J. Hold said. “And truly in my opinion, hopefully the greatest value is the students who are in this room today, where they can carry on this legacy, where they can be part of this next generation coming into the workforce.”
Judy Wieland, an RMI student and Seneff Honors Program scholar at FSU, benefited from The National Alliance’s support, including an internship early in the pandemic, after her original internship had been canceled.
“I realize how instrumental the support of Dr. Hold and The National Alliance has been on my college career, and I am incredibly thankful,” Wieland said during the celebration.
The Dr. Hold/The National Alliance investment sparked a decade of accomplishments, including stronger faculty research that now boasts the No. 1 (Kathleen McCullough), No. 2 (Cassandra Cole) and No. 7 (Patricia Born) most prolific scholars in leading risk management journals. The college also offers an online RMI master’s degree ranked No. 11 among public schools, and it received the Global Centers for Insurance Excellence designation for high standards in course offerings, graduate studies, industry employment and professional involvement.
The investment also launched the Intercollegiate Insurance Sales Challenge, the only event of its kind; established the Dr. William T. Hold Scholarship Program for master’s students; and created the Dr. William T. Hold Professorship in Risk Management and Insurance for a highly productive scholar, now held by Cole, the MS-RMI program director and chair of the Department of Risk Management/Insurance, Real Estate and Legal Studies.
Because of the Dr. Hold/The National Alliance investment, faculty and staff members can focus more on their students, for generations to come, said Kathleen McCullough, the college’s associate dean for academic affairs and the Kathryn Magee Kip Professor in Risk Management and Insurance.
“We will be able to hopefully change the lives of these students and create the next generation of industry leaders that will transform the industry and will protect businesses, families and organizations from the adverse impact of risk,” she told attendees. “And most importantly, if we do our jobs right, this will ensure that we can change lives the way FSU changed Dr. Hold’s life.”
She and Dr. Hold shared his story of arriving in Tallahassee as a young man in the late 1950s with nothing but a small suitcase and a big drive to make it on his own. So eager was he to succeed that he started a dry-cleaning business and called it Bill’s Dry Cleaning.
He decided to take a couple of insurance courses at the FSU College of Business and caught the attention of Ray Solomon, a faculty member who would become dean. Solomon, who died in 2019, offered Hold a $450 scholarship and later helped him get a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin.
Dr. Hold would earn his bachelor’s degree from FSU, his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin and a 2012 induction into the FSU College of Business Alumni Hall of Fame.
“Education is his passion,” said Ted Ostrander (BS Business Administration ’70), a college Alumni Hall of Fame member and the chair of the RMI Executive Committee. “He has instilled that in this school, with these students, with this faculty, with everyone.”