Building stronger communities, board by board

Building stronger communities, board by board

 

On Sunday afternoons in the years following P.W. Huntington & Co.’s creation, the bank president’s horse and buggy would stop twice on its route. The first stop was the bank; the second was Green Lawn Cemetery’s offices. P.W., a cemetery trustee for 42 years, wanted to make sure Green Lawn’s business affairs were in order.

On Sunday afternoons in the years following P.W. Huntington & Co.’s creation, the bank president’s horse and buggy would stop twice on its route. The first stop was the bank; the second was Green Lawn Cemetery’s offices. P.W., a cemetery trustee for 42 years, wanted to make sure Green Lawn’s business affairs were in order.1

P.W. Huntington took board membership seriously. The list of businesses, institutions and philanthropic causes that have benefited from the contributions of time and talent by the founder and Huntington colleagues over the past 150 years is staggering.

Besides his board position at Green Lawn, P.W. served on the boards of multiple banks and railroads, the Columbus Gas Co., the First Presbyterian Church and the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (now the Columbus Museum of Art), where Huntington and later, his son Franz, aka F.R., served as board of trustees president.2Franz’s board résumé also included directorships for Ohio Bell Telephone, Erner & Hopkins Electric Co. and the Midland Mutual Life Insurance Co., which he co-founded.3

Henry Gassaway Davis, the West Virginia founder of Piedmont Savings Bank in 1858 (later Davis National Bank), presided over three railroads, seven coal companies and the state board of trade.4That was along with co-founding and working as a trustee for Davis and Elkins College and leading philanthropy for Davis Memorial Hospital, several YMCA chapters and the Child’s Shelter of Charleston.5

And Jacob Den Herder, the western Michigan merchant who in 1878 founded the Den Herder Bank (later First Michigan Bank), found time in a life filled with business and civic responsibilities to serve as board of trustees director for Michigan’s Zeeland School District.6

P.W. Huntington’s youngest son, Baldwin Gwynne, or B.G., who became bank president in 1932 and Huntington chairman in 1949, built an especially distinguished board résumé. It included duties as secretary and treasurer of what is now Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, trustee for the Community Fund and president of the same Green Lawn Cemetery Association that was so dear to his father.7

Though Frank Wobst, who became Huntington president in 1981, served on many boards, including those for the Columbus Art Museum, Downtown Columbus Inc., the Capital Square Renovation and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, his involvement was anything but ceremonial.8

“Frank chaired all of those boards at one time,” former Ohio Power Co. Chief Operating Officer Bill Lhota said. “He was a strategic thinker. He provided strategic direction and (was) just an excellent leader in developing new board members. … You couldn’t ask for a better leader.”9

Huntington’s expanding footprint, especially after interstate banking’s advent in 1985, opened new board opportunities for the bank’s colleagues; they could expand networks, grow professionally and embrace causes. This board involvement has helped Huntington establish a meaningful presence in new markets.

A 36-page list shows how enthusiastically Huntington colleagues have seized those opportunities. Across the bank’s 11 regions, 575 colleagues fill more than 1,000 board slots, including positions in 20 different United Way chapters. More than 200 colleagues sit on two or more boards; six colleagues are active on 10 or more.

It appears P.W. wasn’t the only member of the Huntington Bank family to take board membership seriously.

Copy of 04662v - Henry gassaway davis LOC (2)
Henry Gassaway Davis founded the Piedmont Savings Bank in 1858. He also co-founded and worked as a trustee for Davis and Elkins College, Davis Memorial Hospital, several YMCA chapters and the Child’s Shelter of Charleston. Credit: Library of Congress
Copy of 1980s Wobst (2)
Frank Wobst in the early 1980s. Credit: Courtesy of Columbus Citizen