HAYS – The Hays Area Chamber of Commerce was on hand Friday to help cut the ribbon on Fort Hays State University’s new Robbins Banking Institute and help introduce the institute’s director, Alan Deines.
Fort Hays State now offers the most extensive banking curriculum in Kansas and is one of the few universities in the country to offer banking classes both on campus and through distance learning. The Robbins Institute fills the void many banking representatives experience in finding qualified employees. The focus of the curriculum is on commercial banking with additional coursework available related to agricultural lending.
“Few industries are as important to the health of Kansas – particularly rural Kansas – than banking,” said Dr. Mark Bannister, dean of the university’s W.R. and Yvonne Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship. “Agriculture, oil and gas production, manufacturing and other key Kansas industries are highly dependent upon the availability of capital. These industries need local banks to serve them.”
Bannister said banks across Kansas have been telling FHSU about the need for agriculture and commercial loan officers and compliance officers. Banks need college graduates who can be hired, developed and become the next generation of banking leaders in Kansas.
“The Robbins Banking Institute is designed to provide both traditional on-campus and place-bound distance learning students with the educational opportunities they need to become valuable in the banking world,” he said.
“It’s a rewarding feeling knowing I’m learning skills that will enable me to help people and to make a genuine impact on their lives,” said Kiera Schwarz, a Hays senior majoring in finance with a concentration in banking as well as a minor in accounting.
“Learning the right ways to manage money is so important,” she said. “Knowing someday I can work in a bank and help someone buy their dream home or even invest their money in constructive ways to better their futures feels fulfilling. I believe the Robbins Banking Institute will give myself and other students the opportunity to learn more about banking in an environment that is more structured to fit our needs.”
Deines, recently named as the institute’s director, has more than 37 years of banking experience and has worked with hundreds of banks from Wyoming to Illinois and from South Dakota to Oklahoma, dealing with regulatory problems, management issues, mergers, and acquisitions. His experience has also included time in Siberia and eastern Russia advising on issues related to Russia’s economic collapse in the 1990s. He was later an advisor in the Republic of Georgia, in Yemen and Iraq.
“The Robbins Banking Institute gives Fort Hays State the opportunity to be in a leadership position for the banking industry in Kansas and surrounding states. It’s our goal to provide students with a rigorous and practical education for preparation into the industry,” said Deines.
An advisory council is in place to provide advice and consultation to the institute. In addition, Deines spoke about reaching out to banks in the state, the Kansas Bankers Association and the Community Bankers Association of Kansas for financial support, advice, ideas and student internships.
Deines thanked banks and individuals who, through generous support, have made this addition to FHSU’s degree and certificate offerings possible. He first acknowledged W.R. and Yvonne Robbins, the lead givers to the new institute. Other individuals and banks have also committed financially in significant ways. These include:
• Dolores Borgstadter
• Bank of Hays
• Emprise Bank
• Rick Smalley
• Bankers Bank of Kansas
The namesakes of the institute, W.R. Robbins, an FHSU alumnus, and his wife, Yvonne, are longtime, devoted supporters of the university. W.R. is chair of Farmers Bank and Trust, Great Bend, which owns and manages seven locations in central Kansas and two in Johnson County.
“There is nothing more entrepreneurial than starting this institute of banking – nothing,” said Robbins. “There’s very few in the country. In fact, I know of none. We’re doing that right here on this campus of Fort Hays State University.”
He noted that the banking industry is undergoing tremendous change. The big banks, he said, are getting bigger and the community banks, the ones that will benefit from the Robbins Banking Institute, “are having to really scramble and go.” The other factor, he said, is that the nature of banking is changing – young people more and more are banking by phone.
“So what we have to do in our initiative, in the role of this school,” he concluded, “is teach what is next, and what’s next in banking is altogether different than what we’ve seen. We’re going to have that opportunity on this campus with this new school of banking.”
After graduating from FHSU with a Bachelor of Science in education, Robbins spent two years teaching math and science before moving into the banking industry. In 1971, he bought his first bank, Farmers State Bank of Albert, which at the time held $4 million in assets. Presently, Farmers Bank and Trust has assets of about $775 million, nine locations and 110 employees.
During the past 50 years, Robbins has been actively involved with Fort Hays State in many capacities, serving in a variety of executive board positions, including president of the FHSU Foundation. In 2000, he was selected as chair of FHSU’s $30 million Centennial Capital Campaign.
Interim FHSU President Andy Tompkins, concluding the ceremony, noted how appropriate it is that Fort Hays State will be the site for this unique institute.
“Our university has the character of being entrepreneurial, that is looking for ways to make a difference, not only in our community, but also in our region and our state. What a perfect place for this to actually get kicked off.”
“So I want to let you know that we’re honored to be a part of this,” he said. “We’re going to be as great a partner as we possibly can in trying to make this thing helpful to you.
The institute’s website is at www.fhsu.edu/efa/Robbins-Banking-Institute/.