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$1.25 million gift launches risk mgmt. program

Friday, February 3, 2017

Mercyhurst University announced today a $1.25 million investment to develop a risk management program aimed at educating a growing workforce, creating economic opportunities and advancing the high-demand field.

The program is being made possible through the generosity of Betsy Hirt Vorsheck, a 1977 graduate of Mercyhurst and a board member of Erie Insurance. Vorsheck is the daughter of F.W. Hirt, longtime CEO and Board Chairman of Erie Insurance and trustee of Mercyhurst University, and Audrey Sitter Hirt ’49, after whom the Audrey Hirt Academic Center at Mercyhurst is named.

The investment will be used to develop and expand academic programs in risk control, insurance underwriting and insurance claims through the university’s Walker College of Business, and programs in cybersecurity, data analytics and cyberintelligence in the insurance industry through the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences. Mrs. Vorsheck is making the donation in honor of her late father, William Hirt, to support the talent needs of the Fortune 500 Company.

The program will be named the F.W. Hirt Erie Insurance Risk Management Program at Mercyhurst University.

“I’m happy to make this investment with Mercyhurst University to prepare students on the changing needs of the insurance industry,” said Vorsheck. “This program is a great way we can honor my father’s legacy while looking toward the future.”

Erie Insurance has committed in-kind resources that will help guide the design of the risk management program.

In announcing the new initiative, Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor said, “We are most grateful to Mrs. Vorsheck and Erie Insurance for their commitment to this partnership, which we believe will be transformative in nature, benefiting not only our two institutions, but creating new jobs and opportunities in the Erie region.”

This is the second time in the past six months that Mercyhurst has been linked in projects identified as “transformative.” The first was Oct. 12, 2016, when Mercyhurst received a $4 million grant to create a Downtown Erie Innovation District focused on safety and security with corporate partners Erie Insurance, McManis and Monsalve Associates and Velocity Network, Inc. It was funded through the Erie Community Foundation, Susan Hirt Hagen Fund for Transformational Philanthropy and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.

The new risk management program will support the innovation district on several fronts, among them creating cutting-edge academic programs and research projects that advance the insurance field and developing innovative products and new areas of business.

In addition, the program will create a strong pipeline of available talent, with opportunities for interns to new hires; reduce “time to proficiency” among entry-level hires; and provide continuing education and training for Erie Insurance employees and others interested in the field.

Mercyhurst’s program will teach traditional risk management skills, augmented by cutting-edge science in big data and cybersecurity to identify threats and opportunities and protect information networks.  According to the Cybersecurity Jobs Report, the growth of the internet and the corresponding rise in cybercrime has triggered a workforce shortfall with companies competing for cybersecurity experts.

Mrs. Vorsheck’s investment will pay for top faculty in their respective fields who will implement the academic curricula and drive synergies between the two institutions.

Partnerships of this kind between universities and the insurance industry are not uncommon; however, this particular hybrid, which infuses data science directly into the risk management curriculum, is altogether “unique,” noted Caleb Pifer, vice president for advancement and external affairs at Mercyhurst. Pifer, along with Mercyhurst Provost David Dausey, worked collaboratively with President Victor and Erie Insurance officials to launch what they concur will be a great opportunity to continue to grow risk management talent right here in their own hometown.  



Mercyhurst University, founded in 1926 by the Sisters of Mercy, is a fully accredited, four-year, Catholic comprehensive institution for men and women in Erie, Pennsylvania. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate majors, nine graduate programs, and a variety of post-baccalaureate and advanced certificates. In addition, Mercyhurst provides certificate and associate degree offerings at branch campuses in North East, Corry and the Booker T. Washington Center. It also maintains an academic center in Dungarvan, Ireland. Learn more at


According to A.M. Best Company, Erie Insurance Group, based in Erie, Pennsylvania, is the 10th largest homeowners insurer and 12th largest automobile insurer in the United States based on direct premiums written and the 15th largest property/casualty insurer in the United States based on total lines net premium written. The Group, rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best Company, has more than 5 million policies in force and operates in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Erie Insurance Group is a FORTUNE 500 company. News releases and more information about Erie Insurance Group are available at