The Origin and Early History of the Graduate School of Banking at LSU

Posted by Don Woodland on Aug 20, 2015 2:45:05 PM

In the late 1940s, a Mississippi banker named Orrin Swayze set out to find a place to develop a school for bankers.  He visited with administrators of numerous schools and universities in the state of Mississippi and other states.  Despite his admirable intentions of providing valuable and concentrated banking knowledge to southern bankers, he couldn’t win approval to host the Graduate School of Banking sessions at any Mississippi institution.

Founder_Orrin_Swayze_right_from_Jackson_MS_with_President_William_Walker_Dothan_ALIn 1950, there were 19,278 commercial bank offices in the U.S., most of which were small institutions and many were family owned and controlled.  Often times, new family members entering the business lacked the formal financial education needed to manage a financial institution, and because of time constraints, enrollment in a university was not an option.  What was needed was a professional school which would provide the broad education necessary to manage a financial institution and which would allow the banker to retain full-time employment in the bank.  The Graduate School of Banking provided this education.

To gain acceptance of the proposed school on a university campus, the founders of the school had to convince school administration that the school would be a serious educational endeavor and would bear no resemblance to a bankers’ convention, which in the early post WWII period featured many purely social functions.  Orrin Swayze was emphatic that the banking school would not resemble a convention, and with this assurance, the administration of LSU agreed to allow the school on campus with the provision that the university had no financial involvement in its operation.

The Early Years at GSBLSU

So, the Graduate School of Banking at LSU was established, originally called School of Banking of the South.  Along with a solid group of founding bankers and executives from the original nine sponsoring state banker associations, Swayze welcomed the inaugural class of 99 bankers in August 1950.  The occasional banker planning for a “convention” received quite the shock when mandatory attendance, intensive assignments, exams, and even disciplinary measures were handed down. 

It didn’t take long for the banking industry to acknowledge that there was, in fact, a delineated difference between what was offered at conventions and at GSBSLU.  The state banking association sponsorship rose from nine to fifteen.

Student enrollment from these 15 core states has been constant throughout GSBLSU history, with 2 exceptions. The enrollment was cut in half in only the second year due to the Korean War.  The school narrowly made it through that period.  Following both the Korean War and WWI, young men returned to their homes to fill positions with family banks and the educational need was again paramount.

GSBLSU, Integrity and Quality in Banking Education

Every banker at GSBLSU has their own personal reasons for enrolling, but for many, their attendance is largely motivated by the desire to improve professionally and to gain a “generalists” banking perspective (as opposed to most students’ current comprehension as “specialists”). GSBLSU is widely regarded for producing valuable future banking executives with the 3 year commitment.

Don Woodland simply states that, “The one tradition that has maintained [at GSBLSU] is discipline.”  Alumni and current students can attest to this standard. It comes as no surprise that diplomas from GSBLSU are prominently placed in the offices of our graduates across the US and now, Mexico.  If you have an interest in becoming part of the banking elite, our applications can be located here for online submission or printing.

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