Putting Safety First
By Jeff Murphy
Other people who read this story rated it:
On an afternoon in mid-April, Dennis Smith stands at a podium preparing to address a gathering of about 40 people in the University of Central Missouri Administration Building foyer. As the former Missouri senator prepares to announce a significant gift to the Department of Safety Sciences, he recalls what made the whole event possible.
"I will never forget May 16, 1994, the Senate adjourned at 6 o'clock in the evening, and as soon as it adjourned, I walked up to the dais and handed the president pro-tem my resignation because I was assuming the presidency of a new company," he shares.
The Republican legislator from Springfield had served Missouri since 1978, first as a state representative, then as a state senator before giving up his political seat to become president and chief executive officer of the just-formed company, Missouri Employers Mutual. His leadership since that time has enabled MEM to become the No. 1 provider of workers compensation in the state, headquartered at a finely groomed facility in Columbia, with offices in Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis.
"No one knew what was going to happen to this company, including me," he humbly admits. "I was putting an awful lot of eggs in one basket, but because of the way in which we do business and the people we have been able to surround ourselves with - the partners that we have, vendors and others, and the support of agencies in the state of Missouri - we have enjoyed great success over the years."
"I walked up to the dais and handed the president pro-tem my resignation because I was assuming the presidency of a new company,"
Such success has given the company the financial means to provide leadership support for Central Missouri's Department of Safety Sciences, which has produced more than 4,000 graduates, many of whom have found jobs in the insurance industry.
While he was on campus, Smith announced three gifts from MEM to help the department. Two of the gifts are for the department's undergraduate lab, to expand and renovate the current space as well as to create a fund for its annual maintenance. A third will establish a new undergraduate scholarship.