Our Future Is Bright

Last week I was honored to deliver the keynote address to the 2012 graduating class of the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an alumnus of GSB, who can trace back much of my good fortune to the education at GSB and the relationships formed there, it was a cherished request to be asked to speak. I arrived on campus early enough to sit through a few classes, where I witnessed the outstanding level of instruction and the quality of the students in attendance.

I often worry about the future of banking: Compliance, technology and unfair competition keep me up at night. I slept well, however, in Madison. When I saw firsthand the high caliber of students … make that future bank leadership … I knew we are in good hands. Today’s GSB bankers are intelligent, astute, and they delve deeper into subjects than I can recall doing as a student 25 years ago. I saw their passion for tackling problems and issues. I also saw their tight teamwork — impressive considering that these people met for the first time just two years ago, and have since been together only once a year for two weeks of classes.

While in Madison, I got to spend time with GSB staff. I already knew from my five years as a member of the board of trustees that we have excellent leadership in Kirby Davidson, the school’s president and CEO. What I experienced, though, was a family atmosphere among the staff. They work as a unit, not as a group of employees simply doing a job. You can see the pride on their faces as they guide students, support faculty and even take time to help visitors like me. We are indeed fortunate to work with such a warm, cohesive staff, who support the dedicated faculty in their mission of preparing the next generation of bank leadership.

A highlight of my trip was attending a retirement party for Ann Kleist, GSB vice president of administration and CFO, who has cheerfully given 37 years of service to the school. Many current and former staff members traveled long distances to honor her. Ann’s contributions are too numerous to mention, and she will be greatly missed. She helped set the GSB bar high, and I am certain that remaining staff will continue to uphold GSB’s reputation as the top banking school in the country. Farewell, Ann. Thank you for your legacy, and best wishes for a fulfilling retirement!

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