Not just another day at the office

Within this tight-knit office community at Gibson is a group of Sycamores, who have more in common than just their alma mater.

Employees say when they go to work every morning at Gibson, they do not feel as if they are simply clocking in another day at the office. Instead, it’s more like they are coming home.

That is the work environment that CEO Tim Leman,’97, has worked to create at the South Bend-based independent insurance agency.

“We try to make it as fun as we can because when we have fun together, it enhances all we can do together,” he said.

Leman was appointed to the position of president in 2009, the position of CEO in 2011 and the chairman of the board in 2014. In 2013, he was named one of Business Insurance magazine’s Forty Under 40 Broker Leaders. Leman’s leadership has led Gibson to be named as a Best Places to Work in Indiana among several other awards.

Within this tight-knit office community is a group of 13 Indiana State graduates, many of whom joined the Gibson organization through connections with fellow alumni.

“For somebody coming out of school and going into the insurance agency system, the camaraderie found at Gibson is unique,” said client executive David Walters, ’11.

However, Indiana State graduates have more in common than just their alma mater.

“ISU grads have a really strong work ethic and level of professionalism,” Nicole Fallowfield, ’97, director of health risk management, said. “They come into the workplace willing to learn and have an appetite to learn more.”

Indiana State graduates have almost 50 years of combined experience at Gibson. The level of experience individually ranges from seasoned insurance veterans to recent graduates.

“I’ve only been here three weeks, but I think that what I will be doing here is going to be exciting,” Patrick Harpenau, ’14, employee benefits consultant, said.

Indiana State graduates working at Gibson said the networking opportunities offered by the university contributed to their success in the industry. Several employees received the Gongaware Scholarship, which provides full in-state tuition for students pursuing degrees in insurance and risk management, or the Networks Scholarship, which offers full in-state tuition and professional development training. Many also participated in Gamma Iota Sigma, an insurance and risk management fraternity for which Leman serves on the national board.

“ISU has a great program that puts us ahead of a lot of other grads,” said associate client manager Andrew Graman, ’13.

Others credited the experiential-learning component of ISU’s curriculum for their success.

“The internship teaches you to be comfortable in your own skin and take what you learned in the classroom to the industry,” said Erin Seifer, ’06, client manager and commercial carrier liaison.

Fallowfield, who graduated with a degree in exercise science, added: “The internship allowed me to see opportunities within my field of expertise. It encourages you to pursue other avenues and get a feel for what you want to do outside of the classroom.”

It is Leman’s belief in Indiana State’s risk management program that has prompted him to serve on the Dean’s Executive Council at the Scott College of Business, meet with students and classes and head up a $1 million endowment campaign to help strengthen the university’s insurance program.

“There are great people coming out of other universities too,” he said. “ISU has to continue to evolve and grow to remain competitive. We’re getting a great product from ISU but there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

Graman, who is helping Leman with the campaign, said that in addition to giving back to Indiana State, the experience has given him the opportunity make connections and build relationships with fellow professionals in the insurance industry.

“We’ve got insurance professionals that have no ties to ISU that are getting on board because they believe in the program,” he said.

Another connection between all Indiana State graduates? Shared memories of professors and classes past.

“I graduated in ’97, but no matter who I talk to from ISU or what year they graduated, we can actually quote lines from Dr. (Peter) Mikolaj and Dr. (William) Warfel’s classes and they haven’t changed,” Leman said with a laugh.

Leman describes the partnership between Gibson and Indiana State as a “home run.”

“Every year I don’t think it can get any better and it does,” he said. “We’ve got what I like to call three number one draft picks this year that came from ISU and a summer intern who I hope continues with us after she graduates next year. ISU has been a huge driver of talent for our organization.”

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