Jim Henderson was a math major at Florida State in the late 1960s, studying and working toward his degree. A conversation with a friend then set him on a path to a new major but also one that would pave the way for a successful business career.
“One of my friends one day was telling me they have an equivalent of math over in the business department but it’s incredible where the salaries are going,” Henderson said. “It was the accounting school.”
Henderson found his passion and graduated in 1969, beginning a career where he started at Ernst & Ernst before eventually holding CFO roles with a variety of companies. He would later become president of Brown & Brown before retiring in 2010.
It was a brief retirement.
Henderson “got bored” and jumped back into the business world, starting AssuredPartners in 2011. Just eight years later, the commercial insurance brokerage fi rm is now the 12th largest agency in the U.S.
“We now have around 6,000 employees and $1.3 billion in revenue,” Henderson said. “It’s grown rapidly.”
While Henderson has been busy with AssuredPartners, he has also retained close ties to Florida State and joined the Board of Trustees in 2018 a. er his appointment by Gov. Rick Scott. Henderson’s five-year appointment will continue through 2022.
An extensive business background, including 18 years of service as a trustee for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, made Henderson an easy choice.
“It’s a very, very good board,” Henderson said. “We have a very good chairman. We have a very good president. John Thrasher does a fantastic job of blending the university purpose with the ability to go to the Capitol and get the money to back it up.”
Henderson knew when he was appointed to the Board of Trustees that he wanted to give more than just his time and expertise. He and his wife, Carole, had the desire to make considerable contributions to FSU athletics and the construction of the new business school.
“What better way of giving back is there than through education and helping people?” Henderson said. “You see such a direct positive impact of your contribution. To help kids in their career, what they’re doing and where they’re going. I don’t think you can find a better place to devote your resources.”
The Hendersons chose to direct $1 million toward FSU athletics, with half going to scholarships and half to the new football operations building. Jim Henderson has seen up close the success of the athletics program, with another top-10 finish in the Director’s Cup in 2018-19. And he is bullish about the future of the football program.
“I am very optimistic about coach Willie Taggart,” Henderson said. “I am very hopeful that a good person can succeed and win a championship. This year, the president and the board have been very supportive in looking at the coaching changes and to give him all the weapons that he needs to get the program where he would like to have it.
“Facilities cost money. Myself and others, we need to step up to help provide that. It is a facilities war out there and I don’t think we would expect our players and our coaches to have anything but the best.
“Jim and Carole understand business and the needs of athletics and the university and are willing to give of their time, expertise and the resources they have earned,” said Seminole Booster President and CEO Andy Miller. “They also care deeply about enhancing the lives of all of FSU’s students, including our student-athletes.”
Equally important to facilities are the student-athletes. The Hendersons want to bolster a scholarship fund to help ensure student-athletes will achieve their dreams of earning a college degree without incurring debt. Henderson notes that some college football, basketball and baseball players are visible in the headlines for their contracts and signing bonuses, but the majority of student-athletes are preparing for another career path.
“For those who can go on to the pros, they do well,” Henderson said. “For those who do not, we probably need to do those things that help them as well as a graduate and leave with the skills to make sure their life goes forward well. Education is such a key. Improving and changing their life. If you’re not going to be a top draft pick or play a pro sport, let’s see what we can do to help them.”
Before making the contributions to athletics, Henderson said he had extensive conversations with Taggart but also BOT Chairman Ed Burr and Athletics Director David Coburn.
Henderson already had a strong relationship with FSU leadership but it was reinforced during conversations with those men, and it is clear that Henderson’s accounting background connected with Coburn’s budget mindset.
“I like his people, I trust them,” Henderson said. “They love the university. I get a little too busy to micro manage that. I think we need to trust them and see if we can’t provide the resources to continue to take us forward.”
Coburn has been a chief of staff under Thrasher and Eric Barron. He appreciates that the Hendersons want what is best for all of the FSU community.
“Jim Henderson certainly understands business and business processes and is a great resource for the FSU Board of Trustees and me personally as athletic director,” said Coburn. “He is a person who is not only a great sounding board but also one who cares deeply about the university and our students including our student-athletes.”
Henderson also wanted to give back to the business school that helped put him on his career trajectory. He also realizes that FSU has consistently produced business-school graduates who have contributed to the success of Assured Partners.
“Our company recruits at Florida State,” Henderson said. “Our company, and me specifically, we’ve made another $500,000 pledge to the new school of business building and a classroom to be named after our company and after me. It was another way to give back for the education that I received. The skills helped perpetuate my career.”
It’s this gift, as well as those to athletics, that will help sustain a legacy for future students and athletes at FSU.