Donna Pearcy has brought risk management to a new level of awareness.
The adjunct lecturer for the Vaughan Institute serves as the University’s chief risk officer. As such, Donna has been the leading staff member in planning for and responding to the 2008 flood. On April 1 — almost a year after flood-planning meetings began — Donna received the Distinguished Leadership Award at the annual Celebration of Excellence and Achievement Among Women held at the Old Capitol.
“As our chief risk officer in the Department of Risk Management and as leader of our flood response group, Donna has played one of the most important roles in our response and recovery,” wrote Sally Mason, president of The University of Iowa, in her nomination letter. “The University community weathered the flood event so well thanks to Donna’s expertise, sensitivity, and dedication.”
A Special Honor
The Distinguished Leadership Award was created to honor Donna based on nominations from people all over campus. Judie Hermsen, senior assistant director, Human Resources, observed Donna’s above-and-beyond performance throughout the University’s flood planning process.
“Donna was enacting the flood response plan for the first time and became our first incident commander,” says Judie.
Comprised of University leaders, the flood team peaked at 100 members. Led by Donna, meetings commenced weeks before the Iowa River lapped at the steps of Mayflower. Throughout the flooding and aftermath, she kept them on point and on time, and rallied people to create a coordinated response.
“Donna creatively reached out to persons who had the talents and resources needed for specific dilemmas, even though the expectations of them were outside their normal duties,” Judie wrote in her nomination, noting, “Our recovery has been so remarkable that FEMA has sent members of their staff to observe our process.”
Donna feels touched and thrilled by the recognition.
“I feel so honored that Judie and so many people thought enough to nominate me,” Donna says. “The flood recovery hasn’t been an easy process for anyone, and these compliments and those of the National Guard and FEMA help you persevere.”
Donna is quick to note that campuswide partnerships are crucial to successful risk management.
“Risk management is not a department. It is a cross-functional and operational approach for the institution. The risk management team is the catalyst and organizer,” she explains. “It simply wouldn’t work without partnerships. Everyone from senior leadership on down worked together for the common good.”
Teaching Balances Practice
As an adjunct lecturer for the Principles of Risk Management and Insurance course, Donna shares her years of practical expertise. Despite the demands of the flood recovery, she was determined to continue educating students about personal insurance and the insurance industry.
“We are an educational research institution. The students are key,” she says. “Besides, when everything else is chaotic, teaching keeps me calm and in balance.”
With her previous experience with an insurance carrier, grocery chain, airline caterer, major airline, and community college, Donna adds invaluable insights to the risk management and insurance fundamentals. For Donna, it’s about piquing interest in the field and creating a foundation for those seeking the RMI certificate.
“It gives students information they can use in life, so they understand their benefit choices at work and with auto, life, and homeowners insurance. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about an extremely large industry with many career paths.”
Despite her work and weekly lectures, Donna serves as a director of the University Risk Management Insurance Association. She is also a member of the Risk Insurance Management Society and Professional Risk Managers’ International Association. Donna, her husband, and their son enjoy hitting the trails near their Iowa City home. Donna unwinds in her garden and home with crochet, sewing, quilting, and reading.