Published on May 16, 2023 by Morgan Black  
Yerkes and Richard Adams
Yerkes, left, shakes hands with supporter Richard M. Adams.
In December 2022, a substantial gift was made to Samford University establishing the Thomas J. Adams Sr./AutoTec Endowed Professor in Risk Management and Insurance (RMI). In April 2023, Associate Professor Rusty Yerkes was named as the inaugural holder of the professorship.
The establishment of the newly endowed professorship is part of a multipronged initiative to prepare students for careers in the risk management and insurance industry. Brock School of Business launched its RMI program in response to a substantial current and projected need for risk and insurance professionals, especially in the areas of finance, risk consulting, professional sales and data analytics. With this understanding, leaders in Brock School of Business, with Yerkes at the helm, created a strategic plan for the program that will sustain long-term student success including:
  • cutting edge, industry informed curriculum; 
  • a professional advisory board to assist with student mentoring, internships/early career opportunities and financial support; 
  • a student fraternity to foster professional development, networking and industry recruiting;  
  • a dedicated lab and working space to build community and provide software/hardware resources for student projects; 
  • scholarships to recruit and reward students; 
  • an excellence fund to support student travel to conferences; 
  • and, a program director to coordinate and execute these activities.
During the April 2023 meeting of Samford’s Board of Trustees, Yerkes was approved as the first holder of the new professorship. The appointment of Yerkes will ensure sound leadership of the program which aims to produce high quality risk and insurance professionals for many generations.  
The professorship is named for Thomas J. Adams Sr. who was instrumental in the continued growth and expansion of AutoTec, a sixth-generation insurance and technology company that started in Birmingham in the late 1880s and continues to thrive. Adams, a member of the 2018 Birmingham Business Hall of Fame, attended Howard College and, along with his family, had a deep appreciation for the role that Samford and Brock School of Business play in the developing ethical business leaders.
Richard M. Adams, vice president of AutoTec, said, “Samford is a vital part of the community where our employees live and where our business has thrived. We applaud and share the Brock School of Business’ emphasis on integrity and ethics and are honored to support the university and the business school in this way.”
Samford has deep ties to the risk management and insurance industry including early university benefactors Frank Park Samford Sr., Ralph and Dwight Beeson and A. Gerow Hodges, all of whom were successful executives with Liberty National, now part of Globe Life Insurance. More recently in 2015, Samford opened a new home for Brock School of Business in honor of Gary M. Cooney, co-founder of McGriff, Seibels & Williams Commercial Insurance Brokerage, now part of Truist Insurance Holdings.
Similarly, the Adams family has a historical connection to Samford. Richard and Tom Adams Jr. are the great nephews of Chapman Fuller Manly, who was instrumental in securing the Homewood, Alabama, property for Howard College, and grandsons of William Hester Manly, for which a longstanding business scholarship is named.
Yerkes said, “I am grateful to Richard Adams and Tom Adams Jr., Chuck Redden, Charlie Adams and the entire Adams/AutoTec family for their generosity in supporting this program. Thomas J. Adams Sr. launched, in Birmingham, Alabama, what has become an industry leading provider of data and insurance products and services for the automotive and numerous other industries across the country and around the world. I am honored to be associated with the Adams/AutoTec legacy.”
Future plans for the program including leveraging Samford’s Daniel House to more closely connect with Lloyd’s of London and the broader London market which remains the epicenter for global risk management and insurance.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.