University of Massachusetts Amherst

Search Google Appliance


Human Performance Lab Receives $50,000 Grant from Arbella Insurance Foundation

The Arbella Insurance Foundation has awarded a grant of $50,000 to the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory as part of its “50 to 25” program, which presented one-time grants of $50,000 to 25 local charities throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. The “50 to 25” program was created in recognition of the Arbella Insurance Group’s 25th anniversary and the important role the foundation plays in supporting the communities Arbella serves. The Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory is a multi-disciplinary research facility at the UMass Amherst College of Engineering. The lab’s research focuses on understanding driver behavior, on identifying factors in and outside of the vehicle which affect driver safety, and on developing training programs to improve driving skills.

“It is only through the generosity of the Arbella Insurance Foundation,” said Professor Donald Fisher, director of the Human Performance Lab and head of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, “that we have been able to undertake a broad-ranging program of basic research on driving simulators and in the field targeted at reducing the large number of deaths on our highways among our most vulnerable populations such as novice and older drivers, and among the larger population of drivers who have become increasingly distracted by technologies inside and outside the vehicle. We, the students, staff, and faculty working at the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory, thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their steadfast support over the most of the last decade.” 

Efforts are currently underway in the Human Performance Lab to develop simulator-based driver training platforms that target different populations, including younger, older, and middle-aged drivers, as well as commercial and public safety drivers. The training programs address different problems, including the increased distractions created by the large number of in-vehicle and nomadic devices. Future efforts will include investigating the best way to translate the lab’s proven training systems in the laboratory for use by those organizations and individuals – driving instructors, occupational therapists, fleet training centers, non-profits – who can successfully put them to the most effective use in the field. 

The Arbella Foundation’s selection committee chose the 25 recipient charities from proposals thoughtfully submitted by Arbella employees, independent insurance agents, and longtime charitable partners. Checks were presented to the selected charities at a celebratory luncheon in Quincy, Massachusetts, on September 10. The selected charities are involved in social services, health, and/or education.

“We’re proud to be celebrating Arbella’s 25th anniversary this year,” said John Donohue, chairman, president, and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group and chairman and president of the Arbella Insurance Foundation. “In recognition of that milestone and the important role Arbella’s Foundation plays in supporting our communities, we wanted to do something that would have a real impact in our communities. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate Arbella’s 25 years of serving New England than to recognize the charities that are helping to make this region thrive.”

Beverly Tangvik, director of the Arbella Insurance Foundation, added that “It’s gratifying to see how much the grants mean to these charities. They’re doing wonderful work to make a difference and improve the lives of those in need. We are so proud to support the important contributions these charitable organizations are making to our communities.”

Established in 1988, the Arbella Insurance Group ( is a company with more than $600 million in revenue with approximately $1 billion in assets. Arbella is a customer-focused regional property and casualty insurance company, providing personal and business insurance in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and business insurance in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Arbella Insurance Group founded the Arbella Insurance Foundation in 2004. The mission of Arbella’s Foundation is to engage in activities and to support not-for-profit organizations that have a significant positive impact on the people and communities served by Arbella. (September 2013)