by Susan Anderson
As part of a young team of executives overseeing the business operations of the
$5.5 billion Community Bank, N.A., Brian D. Donahue, ’79, puts his blue collar work philosophy and matching can-do attitude into high gear every day.
Hard work and determination are nothing new to Donahue.
During his undergraduate years at St. Bonaventure he worked part time to pay tuition after earning an associate’s degree at Morrisville State College, eventually earning a bachelor’s in business administration from SBU. “My father was a truck driver,” he shares. “I just had to figure out a way to get through it myself.”
He lived off-campus, juggling work with a full load of classes. Friedsam Memorial Library became his second home, but it was the Reilly Center that held the strongest pull.
“I grew up watching Bob Lanier. My first memory of Bona’s is just being able to go to those (basketball) games,” he says. “I have great memories of huge wins.” The Olean native recalls the many times his mother would buy game tickets for him — tickets his friends “would have done anything” to get their hands on. Now that he’s older, he has an even greater appreciation for the loyalty of the alumni and fans, and for the commitment of the community to St. Bonaventure athletics.
In 1980, Donahue began his banking career with First Trust Union Bank in Wellsville, NY. He held several management positions during his tenure, gaining experience while the bank grew via mergers from a small community bank to Fleet Bank, a regional bank known throughout the Northeast. By 1992, he joined Community Bank as senior loan officer, managing lending policy and procedure.
Today, Donahue serves as executive vice president and chief banking officer, directing the day-to-day operations of 150 offices in New York and Pennsylvania and overseeing all commercial and retail lending activities within the bank.
More on Brian D. Donahue
CBS Market Watch.
"A Rod The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez” by Selena Roberts.
Treat people the way you want to be treated, work hard, and take pride in what you do.
Best advice for today’s business students:
This is a changing industry. You definitely need a high level of discipline. You need to be patient and also be willing to change. Also, you need to have solid communication skills and be face to face in this business. A lot of times, it comes down to relationships and networking.
|| “Every day is different and is a challenge,” he shares, “but like Nike says ‘there is no off-season.’ You have to give everything you have every day. You have to work hard to succeed — and we do. We have great, dedicated employees who make a difference every day.”
Dave Clark, SBU Class of 1976 with a BBA in accounting, is one of those employees. Recruited to Community Bank in 1993 by Donahue, Clark serves as senior vice president and chief credit officer. He counts Donahue as a close friend and is most impressed by his leadership. “Brian leads by example and has never asked something of me that he would not do or has not previously done himself. He is self-driven, competitive and dedicated to succeed,” he says.
Clark also points out that Donahue is dedicated to helping others. “He has always supported me regardless of how difficult the situation may have been at the time. A common theme from Brian is to just put him in a position to support your efforts, regardless of the outcome. If the effort is there, he will be there in support.”
Donahue’s strong work ethic and commitment to relationships appear a perfect fit with Community Bank, which was again named by J. D. Power & Associates as one of the top 10 banks in the nation in customer satisfaction (2008). The company was also recognized by Business First (Buffalo, NY) as one of the best places to work in Western New York.
“We want our customers to feel they are dealing with dedicated Community Bank employees empowered to provide quality financial service that meets our customers’ needs,” Donahue says, adding that he and his colleagues “are committed to our local communities and are active on some level in civic and charitable organizations.”
The Franciscan values that became second nature to him at St. Bonaventure are now a way of life. “You treat people the way you want to be treated. That’s really a key thing,” he says.
His volunteer and board work span more than three decades in the greater Olean area, where he says he has coached “just about every sport there is.”
One look around his corner office in Blue Bird Square in Olean makes it clear that he has a passion not only for Bona’s and basketball, but also for the connections that make life rich. Tucked in between the sports memorabilia (everything from corporate sponsorship plaques to a Bona Indian head) are photos of family, friends and colleagues; the smiles huge, the moments dear.
Family matters most to him, and it is obvious by the pride and affection in his voice that his wife, Paula, who earned her master’s at Bona’s in 1983, is his greatest inspiration — and strongest source of support. “It takes a lot of understanding,” he says of his long days and busy travel schedule.
Together for 30 years, they have two sons, Chris, a pharmaceutical representative in the Buffalo area, and Sean, a sophomore on the men’s basketball team at Fredonia State, both of whom have strong Bona ties. “We have been longtime season ticket holders and Community Bank has been a corporate partner since the inception of the Bona Backer Program. My boys grew up attending the basketball games and have fond memories, notably the NCAA tournament in 2000,” he says, noting the overtime game against Kentucky — a game “all St. Bonaventure fans will remember forever.”
Donahue and Jim Baron, ’77, the former Bonnies’ co-captain and head coach, share a tight bond, one forged during Baron’s nine seasons of coaching at Bonaventure. Their sons are the same ages (Chris and Jimmy; Sean and Billy) and wives Paula and Cindy are close. “We take the blue-collar view. We’re just hardworking guys who do everything we can to get it done,” Donahue says.
Baron, the head coach at Rhode Island since 2001, has only praise for Donahue. “Brian is an outstanding friend, a tremendous family man and a great role model,” he says, noting that Donahue serves as a strong link and mentor for local interns and new graduates.
When asked what the future holds for him, Donahue says he hopes to continue to be in a leadership role with Community Bank, where the long-range objective is to become a $10 billion bank.
“We’ll be successful,” he says. His confidence crowds out any doubt.
About the University: St. Bonaventure is in the top 15 percent of institutions in U.S.News & World Report’s 2010 ranking of Northern universities that offer master’s degrees. It has a history of accomplishment and service that extends back 150 years. At the heart of St. Bonaventure University is the Franciscan affirmation of the dignity and worth of the entire created order. Fundamental to this vision is an awareness that it is within relationships and community that individuals discover and develop their potential.