By Michael Reardon
Fred Eppinger ’81 would probably be embarrassed to be called a “hometown hero,” but that’s exactly what he is. Eppinger, who was raised on a chicken farm in neighboring Spencer, was instrumental in saving Allmerica Financial Corp. from financial ruin and, in the process, preserving this Worcester-based institution, as well as thousands of jobs.
Eppinger joined Allmerica as chief executive officer in 2003, following a year when the company lost $306 million, saw its stock drop from a high of $52 to $7 a share, and its debt rating downgraded five notches below investment grade. The outlook for the company was bleak.
Allmerica’s directors looked to the local guy Eppinger—a veteran of 20 years experience in the insurance and financial services business, most recently as Executive Vice President at The Hartford—as the man to turn the company around.
“I care about this company and I care about the community,” Eppinger says.
Under Eppinger’s leadership, Allmerica, now known as The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc., has set out to become a world-class insurance institution. The company has rebounded financially, consistently beating its core earnings, and generating top shareholder returns for publicly traded property and casualty companies.
But Eppinger is quick to credit The Hanover’s employees for the turnaround, saying they refused to let the company that meant so much to them go under. The Hanover has hired more than 2,000 new employees in the last 30 months.
Although Eppinger considered enrolling at Brown University in Providence, R.I., he chose to stay in the area to be able to continue to work on the family farm while attending school. His brother, Charles, who received his degree from Holy Cross in 1970, spoke highly of the College.
At Holy Cross, Eppinger was greatly influenced by the emphasis on balancing academic and professional success with service to the community and other people. His parents were also teaching him this lesson at home.
In his present position, Eppinger takes this idea and applies it to the values of the company. Since joining The Hanover, he has beefed up its foundation, which has allowed the corporation to make significant contributions to Worcester, as well as in Howell, Michigan, where the company employs another 900 people.
“We’re very involved with making things happen in the community,” Eppinger says. “It’s a big part of who we are.”
In recent years, The Hanover has contributed $1 million to the UMass Memorial Emergency Care Campaign and worked with Holy Cross to bring the Tornadoes baseball team to the city.
The Hanover announced in December 2006 that it was contributing $2 million to the construction of a performing arts center in downtown Worcester—which is to be called The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. The Eppingers privately donated a six-figure gift to this effort.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done as a company and as a team in the last four years. It has been an extraordinary accomplishment,” Eppinger says.
How did you meet your wife, Patty?
We went to graduate school together—and I was her accounting tutor.
Who were your best friends at Holy Cross—and do you still keep in touch with them?
Jim Hennessey ’81, who lives in Washington, D.C., and Lenny Leader ’81, who lives in Lunenberg, Mass. We met the first week of school—and we’ve been friends ever since. Both of them were in my wedding.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a dad, and when you have young children, every minute you spend with them is precious. It’s a very rewarding part of my life watching them grow up.
Whom do you particularly admire?
My dad, Fred, far and away. He brought up six kids. His work ethic is extraordinary. He taught us about self-respect—and that everybody is created equal. He instilled in us the importance of education.
Who had the most influence on your life?
My mom, Leona. She was valedictorian of her high school class. I didn’t want to study, but she got me to appreciate learning and to make the most of the opportunities you have.
- Birthplace: Spencer, Mass.
- Date of Birth: Feb. 4, 1959
- Current Residence: Grafton, Mass.
- Family: wife, Patty; twins, Lauren and Andrew; and daughter, Katie
- Profession: President and chief executive officer, The Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester