Jason Conkin ’97 is quick to share his praise for Olivet College and the programs, opportunities and people who helped shape his path. He gives back to Olivet in a myriad of ways with one unyielding goal — to support today’s students as others once generously supported him. Regardless of where Jason’s path has taken him, he has always remained a Comet at heart.
The spark that led Jason to Olivet College was ignited when he was just 7 years old, the day his father introduced him to the game of golf. The duo enjoyed playing the sport together for many years to come. In high school, Jason dreamed of taking his golf game to the state level and set out with grit and determination to achieve his goal.
“In January of my junior year in high school, I decided right there and then that I was going to be the state champion in golf in the fall of my senior year,” Jason said. “It struck me so hard that I began working on it immediately. I wrote down my goals and how I was going to get there. I began working on my rebuilding my swing indoors and made thousands of putts to a fake golf hole while the snow was still falling. As the summer progressed, my scores started to improve from the 90s to the 80s, and ultimately to the 70s, which is when I finally beat my dad for the first time.
“My confidence began growing, and I fully believed I had prepared myself to be the state champion that year. And when the final moment arrived … I wasn’t the state champion. But the journey was worth the effort. I improved enough to receive all-conference honors and did qualify to play in the state finals that fall, while learning a great lesson during the process. The lesson was that setting goals and working hard to reach those goals will lead to success. Success, for me, came in the form of a letter from the golf coach at Olivet College, Gary Morrison, inviting me to play on his team, which was a highly regarded program. It’s important to note that I did have academic goals when choosing a college, but like many others who come to Olivet, being able to continue playing the sport I loved was a major factor in my final choice.”
To this day, Jason remembers the awkward but exciting transition from high school student to college student. He developed time management skills, adjusted to the new environment, overcame homesickness and learned from his mistakes. Years later, when Jason moved to a new city to launch his career, the skills he developed adapting to changes from high school student to Comet came in handy once again.
“Olivet offers all of these traditional college experiences that I feel are invaluable to learning. Because guess what happens after you graduate from Olivet and begin your career? The process starts all over again — new town, new job, new people, new agendas, new routines and new living environment — and it can all be overwhelming in the early years of your career.” Jason said. “I had gone through that experience at Olivet, and it proved to be a hidden benefit that helped prepare me so I could focus on other things, like the job I was learning.”
As Jason’s college journey progressed, he became more involved on campus. He joined Adelphic Alpha Pi and even served as president of the fraternity, building leadership skills and creating brotherhood bonds that influenced him well past graduation.
“Adelphic also provided something else for me — a new network,” Jason said. “I can clearly remember sitting on the porch with an upperclassman named Kevin Pollard ’95, and we were talking about where my future was heading. At the time, I was still a little lost on what I wanted to do. He told me I should check out the insurance program and go to a Gamma Iota Sigma meeting. I went to a meeting and what I found was a program that rivals any other in the nation. I may have found those programs without meeting Kevin, but that was a very important day in my Olivet history.”
Jason seized many travel opportunities through Gamma Iota Sigma. He visited New York City during the Intensive Learning Term and dove into the insurance industry. On another trip, Jason traveled to Chicago and connected with Bill Palmer, a manager at General Star in the Sears Tower. Through these experiences, Jason felt his career goals solidifying.
“When looking for a job out of school, Bill didn’t have any positions available, so I took another job that sent me to work in their Minneapolis office,” Jason explained. “About a year later, a position opened up at General Star, so Bill called an Olivet College alumnus who was working for General Star in the New York office to find me. That alum happened to be Kevin Pollard, the guy who suggested I look into the insurance program. Kevin tracked me down in Minneapolis and said ‘Bill is looking for you.’ I was on a plane to Chicago within two days, interviewed and accepted the job. I’ve been working for Bill ever since, for 15 years. He’s been a terrific mentor and has helped me succeed.”
Today, Jason serves as the executive vice president for Arch Insurance Group in Chicago, but he is never far from Olivet. He serves on the OC Board of Trustees, regularly interacts with current insurance students and stays engaged with Adelphic. Jason has even provided internships and employment to students and is continuously working to build alumni networks as well.
“Olivet College opened doors to opportunities that I never knew existed and prepared me well to enter the workforce,” Jason said. “My connection with Olivet is driven by a desire to give back to the school so that others can have the same opportunity. I find it exciting to see all of the positive developments that have occurred at Olivet during recent years, including new programs and facilities on campus. The College is doing well but is certainly challenged by outside competition and economic headwinds, plus COVID-19 has delivered further additional pressure. Staying connected to OC gives alumni an opportunity to share their ideas for development, provide financial support, lend a helping hand and reconnect with others.”
Jason’s story is a valuable and extraordinary example of dedication, hard work, humility, loyalty and service, but he summarizes it simply.
“I like to think of my path in this way: Putting my heart into something I loved steered me to Olivet College, where I found a great education and a new network at Adelphic. This led to another network in the insurance program, which opened the door to employment in the insurance industry, where I met my wife, with whom I live in a comfortable home in a nice community where we can raise our kids.”
Jason hopes other students will take advantage of Olivet College’s offerings to write their own magnificent story, and that fellow alumni never lose sight of how the College can positively impact the legacy students create.
Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admission at 269-749-7635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.