The best advice that Eric Stevenson can give to prospective young business leaders is to be as well-rounded as possible. “Any time I connect with young people, I encourage them to make sure they have a strong foundation in place,” he said. “If they go into college or the business world with a good background in math, writing and the basics, it makes it easier for them to succeed, once they decide what they want to specialize in. It’s important for our young people to learn how to think and worry less about their GPA. When I am hiring, I am looking for candidates that might have taken more challenging classes with a slightly lower GPA than a prospective employee with a 4.0 who padded their schedule with easier courses. Companies are looking for employees who can bring that ability to think and that overall well-roundedness to the table.”
It is perhaps Stevenson’s own well-roundedness that led Governor Kevin Stitt to appoint him to the University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents in March and both the Senate Education Committee and the Oklahoma Senate to approve him in April. Having earned a BBA in Finance at OU (1985) and previously served on the Price College Advisory Board, Stevenson is excited for the opportunity to expand his involvement with the University.
“The University is fortunate to have a leader like Eric Stevenson add his talents and experience to the Board of Regents,” said Price College Dean Daniel Pullin. “Over the years, OU’s Price College has benefitted from his executive-level business acumen and commitment to advancing the reputation and impact of the Division of Finance, where he has served on its advisory board.
“In addition to his service as an industry mentor to students in our Multicultural Business Program, Eric, alongside Davia, his wife, has made important investments in supporting student scholarships and other college funding priorities. At every turn, the Stevensons have worked together to ensure all OU business students have access to a world-class education as they graduate and become the leaders needed for Oklahoma and beyond.”
Stevenson serves as the senior vice president of retirement plans distribution at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest insurance and financial companies in the word. Though he now lives in Columbus, Ohio, Stevenson still feels a strong connection to Oklahoma. Even as a teenager in Wagoner, he had his eyes on the University of Oklahoma.
“I actually applied to both OU and OSU, and my grand plan for college was just to go to whichever I heard from first,” Stevenson said. “But OU was definitely my family’s school of choice, and I had lots of support as I became a Sooner.”
When asked about his undergraduate days, Stevenson readily recalls the excitement of being an incoming freshman and the impression that the large classrooms and sizeable student body made on him.
“I can still remember students hanging out in the South Oval and sitting on the steps of Dale Hall,” he said. “I walked by those same steps recently and thought ‘Hey, weren’t those bigger?’ But, in all seriousness, I will always be impressed by our campus, especially the magnitude and grandeur of Bizzell [Memorial] Library.”
Stevenson credits his days at Price College for helping to lay the stepping stones for his early career success.
“My time at Price provided my academic foundation for business,” he said. “I learned so much from the companies that Price brought to campus. It was the access to companies such as Xerox, Procter & Gamble and Mobil Oil that gave me exposure to business leaders and helped me to understand early on what was important to them.
“My time at OU also helped me to realize the importance of working well with others. I discovered that I was always more prepared for exams after group assignments, and I would learn so much more when I worked with others,” Stevenson said. “This carried over into my career. I truly learned the importance of teamwork in helping to gain better perspectives and insight.”
Stevenson also was introduced to his wife, Davia, at OU.
“There was a student group holding a fundraiser where you could send a card to someone in the dorms for Sweetest Day [a holiday that encourages romantic deeds or expressions], so I sent her a card,” he said. “We had our first date shortly after that, and the rest is history!” The couple shared their connection to Norman as they raised their children, bringing them to OU football games and other Norman attractions.
His new appointment as a Regent will continue to strengthen his connection to Norman.
“The Regents are an amazing team led by Chairman [Leslie] Rainbolt-Forbes, and I was brought in to complement that team,” he said. “My sense is that the next appointee will bring in yet another perspective. Our goal is to build the strongest team we can for the betterment of the University.”
His initial focus as a Regent will be inclusivity.
“We need to look at ways to get our hands around college expenses and bring in the most students that we can,” he said. “It’s not just about diversity, it’s about inclusion. It’s important that students feel included and heard. The more we engage, the stronger we will be. I look forward to helping set the tone and establishing a clear vision to help the university be a place for everyone in the future.”
Reflecting on his own future, Stevenson said that he will continue on the career path that he finds so rewarding.
“I am fully committed to retirement plans,” he said. “So many people are not prepared for retirement. We work with institutions and help them empower their employees for retirement. It’s all about preparation and helping people to be excited as they transition to the next chapter of their life. I’ve been doing it for 13 years and I am honored to do work that really matters.”