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University of Alabama insurance program celebrates 100 years in annual event

Photo courtesy of Wiliam Rabel

The University of Alabama’s Risk Management Insurance program celebrated 100 years of enrollment during Alabama Insurance Day on Oct. 13. The 38th annual event featured keynote speakers discussing a variety of topics including fraud detection, cyber security, lobbying for federal insurance development and financial planning for women. It occurred at the college’s Bryant Conference Center.

Retired UA professor William Rabel said this year’s I-Day was particularly special because of the centennial. Lee Bidgood, former business dean, taught the program’s first course in 1921. However, Rabel said he does not want students to forget the practical purposes of the insurance industry today.

“A centennial is always important of course, but insurance is particularly important because it does so many things,” Rabel said. “First, it protects people from risk. It also provides lots of great jobs in the economy.”

Rabel said the event is important for many reasons. It provides prospective insurance agents, certified public accountants and lawyers opportunity to continue their licensing and professional development. It also provides insurance executives and professionals an opportunity to share their work. Rabel said what makes the event most important is its impact on students.

“It’s important for people in the business, but the whole focus of I-Day is to make money to provide benefits for our students,” Rabel said.

The Alabama Insurance Planning Commission has overseen the event since 2007. The commission acts as an advisory group of executives and professionals for the college’s insurance program. I-Day serves as a fundraiser for students in the insurance program to travel nationwide for conferences, invite speakers and provide funding for a faculty fellowship, the Harris Schlesinger Memorial Faculty Fellowship. Attendees were required to pay a $175 fee.

Rabel estimates that 300 attendees including students enrolled in the university program, faculty from the school of business and business professionals attended I-Day.

A lot has changed since this and last year’s I-Day. Last year’s I-Day was held entirely online. This year’s I-Day was entirely in-person, but it did require masks and social distancing. It also included program sessions specific to the pandemic including how the coronavirus interrupted the industry and the virus’ impact on the life insurance industry specifically.

Rabel said the effort the Alabama Insurance Planning Commission put into planning this year’s event was extraordinary. I-Day Event Chair holder Lawrence “Butch” Boland, along with other volunteers, commit 80 or more hours to the event every year. Rabel said he hopes students recognized the committee’s efforts in making this event possible.

“Because of their love for The University of Alabama and their love for the insurance industry, they’ve had great success,” Rabel said. “All of these folks have been successful in insurance, and they just want students to have a chance to see what the industry is like, and this is a way to help them do that.”