Gao Appointed Coffey Professor of Insurance Studies

group photo of Coffey Professorship

Dr. Siwei Gao has been appointed to the Thomas and Rebecca Coffey Endowed Professorship in Insurance Studies at Eastern Kentucky University.


The Coffey Professorship became the University's first endowed professorship when it was established in 2004. Gao joined the EKU Risk Management and Insurance faculty in 2012 after teaching one year at Temple University and is an "internationally recognized scholar," according to Dr. Burke Christensen, the Robert B. Morgan Chair of Insurance and director of EKU's Risk Management and Insurance Program.


Both Tom and Becky Coffey, of Nashville, have spent their professional lives in the risk management profession. Mrs. Coffey is an account executive who services large captive insurance interests in the workers compensation and property casualty arenas. After earning bachelor's degrees in political science and English from Eastern in 1965, Mr. Coffey distinguished himself on the battlefield, earning a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and an Army Commendation Medal for his service in Vietnam. He then went on to become president and CEO of the Lincoln National Life Midsouth Corporation, one of the largest financial services firms in the Kentucky-Tennessee area. After he retired from Lincoln, he held several key executive positions in the insurance and financial services fields.


"Helping the Risk Management and Insurance Program at EKU attract and retain great faculty was and is our objective," Mr. Coffey said. "We could not be more pleased that Dr. Gao is the recipient of our Professorship."


Coffey, a member of EKU's Hall of Distinguished Alumni, former president of the University's International Alumni Association and a long-time member of the EKU Foundation Board, has been an active supporter of Eastern's Risk Management and Insurance Program.


"There is a big demand for our students," he said, "and rightfully so. Our students are of the highest quality because we have great faculty."


Coffey, who also received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from EKU in 2010, visits the Richmond campus often to share his own insights with students in the program.


"I try to let them know that although there is a big world out there, they are as well prepared and as good or better than any other candidate in the marketplace," Coffey said. "I want them to show their best side in terms of work ethic, strong values and enthusiasm. I also tell them to 'fail early.' I know this sounds crazy, but I want them to take bigger risks with their career early when it makes little difference ... The real message is to compete at the highest level you can early when a setback makes little difference and experience is priceless."


Gao earned her bachelor's degree in economics from the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and a doctoral degree in business administration from Temple University's Fox School of Business.


Her appointment is for three years and is renewable.


For more information about EKU's Risk Management and Insurance Program, visit

Published on March 15, 2015

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