2018 Recipients of the William F. Githens Scholarship

Congratulations to Macey Noon and Sam O'Brien, recipients of the new William F. Githens Scholarship, named for RMA's former CEO. Githens, who retired at the end of the 2017, launched the RMA Foundation to attract the best and brightest talent to the financial industry. Noon and O'Brien were this year's most promising scholarship candidates, who demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and commitment to the financial services industry. 

RMA Scholarships Provide the Groundwork for Financial Services Careers 

After graduating high school in suburban Massachusetts, Sam O’Brien wasn’t quite sure where he was headed. He didn’t feel the time was right yet for college, and was passing time working as a groundskeeper. Six years later, he is getting ready to graduate from the University of Massachusetts Boston near the top of his class and start a career in banking. To make these heady days even sweeter, O’Brien was recently awarded The RMA Foundation’s highest honor: The William F. Githens Scholarship.

“I feel as though everything I have been striving for and setting my goals for has been recognized, and is being respected by the industry,” he said. “I feel a little bit like a star.”

Sam Obrien winner 2018 

Sam O'Brien with Robert Rose, Chief Credit Officer, Brookline Bank

The new scholarship, created to honor RMA’s recently retired President and CEO Bill Githens, will be awarded each year to the top candidates for RMA Foundation Scholarships. Githens was the driving force for the creation of the Foundation and remains a member of its board. The Foundation and RMA’s overall Academic Program are designed to bridge the talent gap facing the industry as baby boomers retire.  

This year’s other Githens Scholarship winner was Macey Noon, who will graduate from Texas A&M University in May. In all, The RMA Foundation awarded scholarships this year to 88 college students who have distinguished themselves through their academic work, industry knowledge, and experience. The total awarded was $242,000. Through the scholarships, student memberships, and other programs, RMA hopes to attract more of the best and brightest to the financial industry. Noon said the Githens scholarship “paid for my whole tuition this year.” That made her parents, who are generously funding her schooling, particularly excited about the honor.

“I’m very appreciative,” she said, calling the scholarship “a great opportunity to be able to represent my school and the banking program there.”

Macey Noon 2018 winner   

Macey Noon with Dwight Garey, Executive Director of the Commercial Banking Program, Mays Business School, Texas A&M, and Robert Messer, SEVP & Chief Financial Officer, American National Bank of Texas and RMA Chair

It was at Texas A&M where Noon became familiar with another RMA effort to bridge the financial industry’s talent gap: The Credit Essentials class that the Association offers through university partnerships. Through the partnerships, which originated at Texas A&M but have expanded to several other campuses, RMA provides curriculum, course books, and other materials for credit risk classes designed to give students a step up during internships and early in their careers. That’s exactly what happened for Noon. When she showed up for the first day of her internship at Green Bank in Houston, she said, “I was surprised at how much I knew. On the first day on a job you are usually clueless.”

O’Brien was also well aware of the value of RMA prior to winning the Githens scholarship: He is active in the New England RMA Chapter. After graduating in May, O’Brien will work at Cambridge Savings Bank as a Commercial Credit Analyst.His path from groundskeeper to banker has included some typical hallmarks of success stories: a fortunate break, networking, and a lot of hard work. “It’s wild,” he said, thinking back on it. “I did not do well academically in high school.” So when he graduated he put college off and took a job as a groundskeeper for a businesswoman. When she was about to move, she told him, “we have to find you a job” and asked about his interests. When he said math and business, she used a connection at a nearby financial institution to get him an interview. He got the job, as teller, and found that he loved it. He enjoyed working in a professional environment and felt like he was making a difference. After all, “Our whole society relies on banking,” he said. He quickly moved up to customer service representative. After a while, he realized that some of the people in his position had been with the bank for nearly a decade without a promotion. The reason? They didn’t have a college degree. “Reality slapped me in the face,” he said. So Sam enrolled in community college night classes while continuing to work full-time. He eventually enrolled full-time at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He started out as an engineering student—his father’s profession—but then realized his true passion was banking and switched his major to management with a concentration in finance.  As he looks forward to graduation in May O’Brien is keeping busy, among other things working to maintain a sparkling 3.84 grade point average and as an intern at Cambridge Savings. But he is also dedicated to giving back, to paying forward the help he has received.  Through one particular effort, he might just be giving direction to some younger versions of himself: mentoring rising high school seniors who are interested in studying finance and banking. 

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