Samford University The BelltowerSeptember 2003

Founders Trust CEO Feels Privilege and Responsibility of Success

"Just as it's our privilege to receive an education and pursue our dreams, it's also a privilege to help others succeed--to not only make ourselves better, but to better our world."

In May Samford School of Business named as its Alumna of the Year Founders Trust Company President and CEO Della Fancher (B.S. '84, M.B.A., '88.) In addition to more than two decades of financial services experience in the private banking and asset management areas, Fancher is founder and president of the Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation, serves as chairman of the 36-member Samford School of Business Advisory Board and is active in many charitable and civic organizations. The Belltower spoke with Fancher about service leadership, ethics and her Samford experience.

TB You seem to feel a deep personal responsibility to honor military veterans with the new Alabama Veterans Memorial Park. How did that particular project begin?

DF I have been involved in a number of civic groups and projects, but the Alabama Veterans Memorial Park is the one I take most pride in. My brother, Tommy, was retired from the Navy and living in Oregon when in 1985, during a visit home, he first talked to us about his Vietnam experience. I think we had thought he was on a large ship, when in fact he had commanded a river patrol boat. He talked about being the only one to survive one night's mission. While he censored the details, he talked about the horrors of war. Those who know anything about the Vietnam War will confirm just how dangerous being a “River Rat” really was.

The more I thought about it, I just felt that something should be done to thank those who served and to ensure that we never forget the price that has been paid for freedom. A group interested in honoring Alabama's Vietnam veterans came together and determined we would find a way to honor all of our state's veterans of the 20th century, regardless of branch or service or war. This way, we are saying all veterans are equal in that they served their country when called. The fact that you lost your father, husband, son or other loved one to war is not made easier because they were in a particular war or branch of service.

TB Is leadership of such projects good business practice--not in a cynical or manipulative way, but in the sense that it demonstrates unity of corporate and public values?

DF Without question. Clearly, to perpetuate the memory and stories of our state's veterans is a way to unify corporate and public values. As the Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation begins a corporate campaign to raise the additional monies needed for the education center and permanent endowment, I am certain corporate Alabama will participate. Only because of what veterans have done do we have the privilege of doing business as we have come to know it. To understand the sacrifices made, you need only visit the park, read the veterans' stories and reflect on those 11,000 names of Alabamians killed in the 20th century defending our freedom.

TB As far this sort of service leadership is concerned do you have any advice for current Samford business students or recent graduates?

DF Yes. A Samford business degree is an important achievement, and it gives you credibility. But, it remains just a piece of paper until you give it substance. When you think about how you might display that hard-earned diploma, think also about how you will display your heart and actions. Stepping out and becoming involved in your community is an integral part of succeeding in any career. Rather than civic duty, I think of it as a privilege. Just as it's our privilege to receive an education and pursue our dreams, it's also a privilege to help others succeed--to not only make ourselves better, but to better our world.

TB How does your Samford education relate to this sense of privileged responsibility and to business ethics in general?

DF What I felt at Samford was the weaving of business ethics throughout the business program. I felt ethical behavior was a base, or given, of all courses. Having been a part of Samford's M.B.A. night program, I had the opportunity to experience great real-life discussions from business people who had observed and had been affected by both ethical and unethical behavior. I think good business ethics start at home. In my opinion, you don't have strong business ethics without having strong personal ethics. It was wonderful to be part of Samford, where both are reinforced.

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Alabama Veterans Memorial

 

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