Skip to Content

Gifted Graduates Are Industry 'Insurance'


Eric Donahoe (center) receives a plaque, acknowledging his admittance into the 1848 Society, which recognizes generous donors who thoughtfully provide for the University through planned and deferred gifts. Presenting the award are School of Business Administration Dean Ken Cyree (left) and Adam Lee, Business School development officer.

By Bill Dabney

Eric Donahoe, a 35-year veteran of the insurance business, hopes his planned gift to the University of Mississippi will help students discover that there is a lot more to his profession than pushing papers.

For much of his career, Eric has been a soldier of sorts—standing guard over the security of major corporations and being proactive in preventing the businesses from becoming victims of risk. He designs the insurance coverage they need based on their level of potential risk.

Clients may only need minimal coverage to protect their business when a customer slips and falls on the premises, but they need protection from a much greater risk–criminal activity that may compromise a company's internet security.

"We had a client whose network was hacked by a code that prevented the business owner from accessing his own system," Eric says. "The client was locked out, so basically the business was held hostage and there was a ransom. The system was shut down until the client paid the ransom. They couldn't operate."

In situations like this, several things could happen: the company has no insurance against this particular risk and has to pay the hacker's ransom, sometimes in the millions of dollars; the company has coverage but doesn't need to make a claim because tech support finds a way to break the code; or the company's insurance pays the ransom to keep the business afloat.

When Eric, a native of Crystal Springs, Miss., graduated from Ole Miss in 1980, he had no idea the insurance business could be so fascinating.

"It has just been a fantastic career," he says. "I tell people all the time—especially young people—that if you want an exciting career, work in the insurance industry. It's amazing how many opportunities it affords to learn so much about global operations."

Through a $250,000 gift in his will, Eric established an endowment to support faculty and staff in the School of Business Administration's risk management and insurance program at the University of Mississippi Foundation. He hopes the gift will bring new life to an industry he has grown to love.

"I had some discussions with (professor of finance) Larry Cox when I was thinking about doing this and he made a great comment, ‘To attract the best and brightest students, you really have to have great faculty and staff'," Eric says. "Our industry needs bright young people coming into it and if this will help to attract really bright, talented young professionals to our industry, then that's a fantastic thing."

UM School of Business Administration Dean Ken Cyree said private gifts like Eric's help the University establish national credibility.

"Eric's gift will significantly improve the level of faculty and staff we can attract, which directly affects the quality of education our students receive," he says. "We greatly appreciate his generosity."

After graduating from Ole Miss, Eric joined Traveler's Insurance Company of Jackson, where he worked for two years before joining the Bottrell Agency, an independent insurance firm in Jackson that was acquired by Trustmark Bank in 1999. He worked at Bottrell for 24 years before accepting a position with Seitlin, now a subsidiary of the Marsh & McLennan Agency – an insurance brokerage operation in South Florida. Eric says his professional experiences have all been personally rewarding.

"I never knew all that was involved in an automobile dealership, for example, and how that type of business operated until I was in the insurance industry," he says. "You become an essential part of these businesses' management teams because they count on you to manage their risk. That's what you're doing—you're helping them stay in business."

After a decade in the warm Miami sun, Eric felt his family ties had weakened. While visiting Oxford friend and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity brother Mitch Mattingly, Eric decided he would enjoy having a home near his alma mater, as well.

"I knew I would return to Mississippi at some point," he says. "This is home and there are so many wonderful things happening in Oxford. I felt like it was a great idea to be close to the University and experience all the things it offers. I thought I would just travel back and forth from Mississippi to South Florida."

Meanwhile, Bottrell opened an Oxford location and asked Eric to return to the job he held for 24 years.
"It was a great opportunity for me to rejoin the firm that I was with for so long," he says. "During my time away, I would think about what true, lifelong friends I made while I was in school here. When I came back and reconnected, it was like there was no lost time. I just fell right back into those wonderful friendships and relationships."

Eric's planned gift gives him membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the University opened the Lyceum doors to its first students. The society recognizes generous donors who thoughtfully provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts.

"I wanted to give back to the University that has been such a major influence in my life and my career," he says. "I also wanted to give back to an industry that has been such a big influence in my life, and has afforded me so many opportunities."

Adam Lee, development officer for the School of Business Administration, believes Eric's gift will accomplish its goal.

"Private gifts of all sizes are important," he says. "But generations of students, and ultimately the insurance industry itself, will benefit from the support Eric's gift will provide to our faculty and staff. I hope his generosity will inspire others to support programs that have impacted their lives."

For more information about including the University in a will or other estate plans, contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or

eBrochure Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the brochure.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the University of Mississippi a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

Bequest Language

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to the University of Mississippi Foundation [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Ole Miss or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support its mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Ole Miss as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Ole Miss as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Ole Miss where you agree to make a gift to Ole Miss and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.