When it’s time for Mississippi bankers to step up the ladder, they inevitably head to Baton Rouge.
Many of the state’s prominent bank executives are graduates of the prestigious Graduate School of Banking (GSB) at Louisiana State University (LSU), made possible by the Southern States Conference at LSU and sponsored by the State Bankers Associations of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
“Attending the LSU Graduate School of Banking was the best career move I’ve made in my entire lifetime,” said George Schloegel, president and CEO of Gulfport-based Hancock Bank. “I’d been in the banking business for 22 years when I made that decision, and I’ve been here 48 years, so that’s saying a lot.”
Since the program was established in 1950, nearly 14,000 bank executives have completed the 25-month program. It includes three two-week resident sessions, during which bankers/students receive more than 200 hours of classroom instruction. Between resident sessions, which are usually centered around Memorial Day, students must complete organized evening study assignments, written exams and a series of 11 bank study projects, five the first year and six the second year. Between 20 and 30 hours is required for each project. The $3,025 per year fee covers tuition, room and board and instructional materials.
“The Graduate School of Banking at LSU continues to excel as the premier graduate-level banking education experience in the U.S.,” said John M. Hairston, executive vice president and COO of Hancock Bank. “The course offerings provide an outstanding and unrivaled blend of leadership, managerial and core financial services education. The faculty is a diverse group of experts from the banking, investments, regulatory, legal and consulting professionals. Just when you think it can’t get any better, you find yourself forging long-term relationships with bankers hailing from all across North America, all of whom are anxious to share their experience and expertise with classmates.
“Surely, the road to the corner office passed through the Graduate School of Banking at LSU.”
In 2004, two-thirds of the student body represented vice presidents or higher levels of authority. Nearly 70% have more than five years of banking experience, and approximately 90% hold at least one college degree.
Last year, of the 627 enrolled bankers from 21 states, Mexico and Belize, 107 were women, a growing percentage of the class makeup. The state with the largest student enrollment was Mississippi, with 83. With very few dropouts, the graduation rate is a robust 98%. “With those enrollment numbers, the Graduate School of Banking at LSU continues to be the largest school of its kind in the nation,” said a spokesperson for the program.
Dr. Don Woodland, director of GSB-LSU, recalled that “Orrin Swayze, a senior officer with the old First National Bank in Jackson (now Trustmark) was instrumental in founding the school because he believed bankers should be taught things they’ve never done before: to open their eyes to the world of finance and banking, to be innovative and take the initiative to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise.”
“When bankers arrive, they’re usually very good commercial lending officers, but they know very little about other aspects of banking because they haven’t been exposed to it,” he said. “Once they leave GSB, they have a broader perspective of the financial services industry.”
Schloegel was so impressed with the school that he joined the 65-member faculty, of which 40% are practicing commercial bankers. He has also served as trustee for the state, trustee-at-large and president.
“I learn so much as a teacher because I am touching base with about 750 students a year, all of whom have good questions, comments and solutions,” said Schloegel, who teaches a case study course for freshmen and a lecture series for juniors during resident sessions, and is an advisor throughout the remainder of the school year.
Mac Deaver, executive director of the Mississippi Bankers Association, is chairman of GSB-LSU this year, a position that rotates among the 15 state bankers association chiefs. Clifton Fowler, an executive from the National Bank of Commerce in Starkville, was installed as president of the governing body on September 24.
“As you can tell, we have a lot of Mississippi connections here,” said Woodland.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.