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Shelby success stories: Gene Roberts is a man of business, man of God

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Gene Roberts grew up in Shelby County but bought a business in Florida and attends seminary in Louisville. And that dedication to his career and God’s path is why you might find him at home in Central Florida or in Simpsonville.

By Lisa King

When Gene Roberts was starting out in the insurance business in the early 1980s, doing workers compensation claims, raising three children with his wife, Robin, and teaching Sunday school at First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, he never dreamed, he said, that one day he would be president of his own insurance company and an ordained minister.

There’s an even more unusual twist –  his company, Protegrity, with 20 employees, is located in the suburbs of Orlando, Fla., his official area of residence since 2000, but he maintains a farm in Simpsonville, traveling back and forth several times a year.

“We are frequently traveling between Orlando and Shelby County for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Robin and I are excited about the future and look forward to continuing to see where the Lord leads us, both in his church and in business.”

Roberts worked in the Louisville area after graduating from Morehead State University with a degree in business administration, doing workers comp claims for several companies, before going to work for Humana in 1985.

He wore many hats there, including managing the employees’ workers comp program, until 1993, when the hospitals were split from the insurance company, when he began workers compensation products for outside clients.

Then, in 2000, he took a step up, when he purchased the company that provided insurance service for Humana.

“The company that I acquired was a workman’s comp service company,” he said.

In addition to that company, Roberts started four more insurance companies, but ended up selling them, keeping the company he acquired from Humana, which he had renamed Protegrity.

That company was headquartered in Orlando, so he and Robin – the former Robin Nichols,  also from Shelby County – moved there but kept their farm on Fields Lane in Simpsonville.

“Robin and I both love Shelby County,” he said. “It’s the community we grew up in, and we have a lot of friends and family here.”

The couple lives in Shelby County for several months a year, and while they are here, Roberts pursues his PhD in systematic theology at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville and teaches a class at Simpsonville Baptist Church.

“I came up Aug. 5 and will go back to Orlando in October for fall break, and then I will come back up here until I finish in December,” he said. “Then I’ll go back to Florida for two months in the winter, and then I’ll come back again.

“When I was going to school in Orlando, I was in the office three days a week,” he said. “Now I operate off of management reports and E-mail, and phone calls. It’s not ideal, but I have some good people who understand what I’m doing.”

Roberts said the inconvenience is worth it.

“I had long felt the Lord placing a higher call upon my life,” he said.

 

A teacher

He was ordained in 2010 and graduated from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

He is pursuing his PhD at Southern because the Reformed does not offer a PhD program, and he said Southern has one of the best programs he has found in conservative Protestant theology.

He plans to obtain his PhD in three or four years, but he says he doesn’t think his calling will lead him to the pulpit fulltime.

“Teaching is more my gift, although I have preached on several occasions,” he said. “Being a pastor is different than anything else and takes a lot of dedication. I would have to reorganize my life.”

He said he thinks he ultimately wants to end up in a teaching capacity at a community church.

“I would also like to do some guest preaching,” he said.

Roberts has authored two books, From the Garden to the New City and Bloodlines of Jesus, published in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

 

The Lord’s business

How does he mesh the business and religious world?

“I became a Christian when I was in college, and I have been very dedicated to try to follow the Lord’s leadership in my life since then,” he said. “I raised our family at First Baptist Church in Shelbyville and taught Sunday school and was a deacon there for close to 20 years.

“The world of business is all about economics and the dollar, and you must operate with integrity in your business dealings, but the goal is still to make a dollar. But within the theological world, the goal is to spread the good word about Jesus Christ.

“The goals are different, of course, but both require organization, both require a purpose and a vision. There’s a lot of commonality between them in that regard. I don’t try to separate the two. To me, it’s all one kingdom, because it’s all God’s world.”

 

The future: ‘No idea’

Where does he see himself in 10 years?

“More on the gospel side of things,” he said. “The business could still be there; we’re doing fine, even in the recession. And I have some good people who could manage it and run it.”

Roberts said he doesn’t know where will decide to live full-time.

“Right now, it’s like I have two homes, and two communities,” he said. “Certainly Shelby County is more community-oriented; everybody knows everybody. And Orlando is very high-paced, what you might call a transient community. And that’s my dilemma, because they both have their pluses and minuses. I have been blessed to be able to do what I’m doing. We need the business world, but there’s no doubt that America needs to hear the good news, so I have no doubt that is the greater need of the two.

“To sum it all up, I guess I will say that I’m fifty-six years old and transient,” he said with a chuckle. “And I have no idea of where that is going to lead.”

Remember:

Gene Roberts

 

FULL NAME:Gene Roberts.

JOB TITLE:President, Protegrity.

EDUCATION:Shelby County High School (1974); bachelor’s degree in business administration, Morehead State University; Masters in Business Administration, University of Louisville; Masters in Divinity, Reformed Theological Seminary.

HOMETOWN: Shelbyville.

NOW LIVES:Simpsonville and Orlando, Fla., maintains a home in both cities and commutes.

AGE:56.

FAMILY:Wife, Robin, daughter, Lauren, sons Drew and Tyler and a 3-year-old granddaughter, Brooklynn.