Simon Lecture strengthens MSU's Actuarial Science Program

Eric Scorsone presents at 2016 Simon LectureThe fifth Ronald H. and Mary E. Simon Actuarial Science Lecture drew a crowd of alumni and students to listen to keynote speaker Eric Scorsone, Senior Deputy State Treasurer for the State of Michigan speak about Michigan public pension plans.

The Simon Actuarial Science Lecture aims to strengthen Michigan State University’s Actuarial Science Program by connecting students, faculty, alumni and industry leaders in actuarial science for an evening of scholarship and community.

“This lecture is a perfect opportunity for students to connect with people in the industry, and it’s great for the program because it gives the program exposure,” said Kevin Clinton, director of MSU’s Actuarial Science Program.

More than 60 people attended the lecture, which was hosted by Michigan State University’s Actuarial Science Program and the College of Natural Science. The event, which was held earlier this month, included an afternoon academic lecture at MSU’s Wells Hall by Scorsone and an evening reception, dinner and keynote address by Scorsone at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing, Mich.

Scorsone, on a leave of absence as associate professor and founding director of the Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy at MSU, earned his Ph.D. in public finance and regional economics at Colorado State University, his M.S. degree in agricultural economics at MSU, and his B.B.A. in economics at Loyola University in Chicago. Scorsone has extensive experience in training government groups and has worked with municipalities across the United States, Europe and the Middle East, as well as the Michigan cities of Detroit and Flint.

Jessica Knop, an actuarial science junior, found Scorsone’s lecture an eye opening revelation of the state of Michigan pension plans.

“It was exciting to be able to understand such complex issues using the education I am receiving from the Actuarial Science Program,” Knop said. “I also found attending the lecture to be an awesome opportunity to network with local industry professionals.”

Actuarial science senior Luke Simons, who will graduate with a B.S. degree in December, was surprised how many companies in Michigan still have traditional pension plans, but that many companies are switching to 401Ks—retirement savings plans sponsored by an employer that lets workers save and invest part of their paychecks before taxes are taken out.

“However,” he said, “there is still a need for actuaries to work with the existing pension plans and some of the 401Ks, which is good news for me in my hunt for employment.”   

Ron Simon received his B.S. in mathematics from MSU in 1967. He worked for Auto-Owners Insurance for 44 years and was CEO of the company until his retirement. Simon and his wife, Mary, recognized the value of education gained at MSU, which led to their decision to invest in the Actuarial Science program with a philanthropic gift to endow the lecture. Their gift will allow for funds to support the program in perpetuity through the endowment.

“MSU’s Actuarial Science Program is doing very well,” Simon said. “The guest speakers at these lectures are really here to inspire the students to see opportunities other than the pure mathematics of the Program because there are so many places where actuarial science can be used.”

In addition to the Simons, this year’s lecture was sponsored by The Doctor’s Company, Auto-Owners Insurance, the AF Group and The Actuarial Foundation.

MSU’s Actuarial Science Program was established as an undergraduate major in 2012. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the program is housed in and supported by both the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Statistics and Probability in the College of Natural Science.