Mary O’Connor, executive vice president of logistics and creative brand management for Country Club Bank in Kansas City, Mo., has been named the ABA Foundation’s 2021 George Bailey Distinguished Service Award winner for her community leadership and commitment to helping those in need. O’Connor will be recognized on Oct. 19 at ABA’s Annual Convention in Tampa.
Now in its seventh year, the George Bailey Distinguished Service Award recognizes a non-CEO bank employee who demonstrates outstanding initiative, commitment to their customers and community, and the ability to inspire others. The ABA Foundation selects the winner after a review of nominations submitted by banks of all sizes across the country.
“Each year, we hear countless examples of bankers who have made service to others a fundamental part of their daily life,” said Rob Nichols, ABA president and CEO. “Mary O’Connor’s nomination stood out this year for the depth and range of her community commitments. Everything she does in her work at Country Club Bank and in her personal life seems designed to help others. Her remarkable commitment to the Kansas City community continues to inspire others at the bank to give back themselves.”
O’Connor has made it a priority to shine a light on local nonprofits, small businesses and civic initiatives throughout Kansas City. In fact, she launched a weekly podcast, Banking on KC, focused specifically on highlighting the inspiring work of these organizations. Since the fall of 2019, the podcast has featured more than 100 nonprofits, business owners and community leaders and has helped connect these groups to those in need of their services throughout the city. She also saw an opportunity to co-brand the bank’s local billboards with these nonprofit groups to help spread awareness about their offerings.
Additionally, O’Connor encouraged bank leadership to lease a 9,000-square-foot building on one of the bank’s highly visible campuses, with rent forgiven to University of Missouri-Kansas City’s E-scholar program for entrepreneurs and subsequently to the Women’s Employment Network (WEN). Country Club Bank continues its commitment to the building and neighborhood with an interior building refurbish, parking lot improvements and ongoing maintenance to the space. The centrally located building is on a bus line, providing the low- to moderate-income women WEN serves better access and availability to their career support services.
When O’Connor learned that the Black Archives of Mid-America was in need of new computers to launch a Genealogy Lab, she once again got to work. Understanding the importance of heritage and history to the Black community, O’Connor and Country Club Bank moved quickly to secure the donation of the 12 needed computers to make the Genealogy Lab possible.
In addition to her daily work and volunteerism through Country Club Bank, O’Connor serves on a variety of boards including Lead to Read literacy program for grade school students, Powell Botanical Gardens, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Women’s Leadership Council, Junior League Advisory Board, chair of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Business Council, Main Street Redevelopment, and is past chair or committee member to the MS Society, Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater KC, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, UMKC Annual Henry Bloch Entrepreneurship Week, among others. She also served on the board of the Command and General Staff College Foundation at Ft. Leavenworth and helped identify ways to work with retired, career military professionals on civilian workforce reentry.
“Mary is a well-known leader throughout Kansas City, and her philanthropic efforts are so wide reaching that it’s almost impossible to capture all the ways in which she has helped our community,” said Paul Thompson, chairman and CEO, Country Club Bank. “With the support of Country Club Bank, Mary continually finds ways to assist others where they are, in the moment, with whatever they need. She leads by example and inspires our staff to prioritize volunteerism in our everyday lives.”
Her community efforts in the Kansas City area on behalf of the bank and other local organizations and non-profits are even more impressive when you consider how she has channeled family tragedy into positive philanthropy. After her sister was shot in a robbery attempt in 1986, O’Connor helped care for her while also supporting an annual run to raise funds for traumatic brain injury research. The run has now raised over $2 million and counting. When other family members developed MS and diabetes, O’Connor again devoted her time, energy and commitment to fighting these deadly diseases and finding cures.
“Mary O’Connor’s commitment to the community shines through in everything she does,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “We are thrilled to select her as this year’s George Bailey Distinguished Service Award winner. She is a wonderful example of banking at its best.”
O’Connor has spent her 35-year professional career in both the banking and construction industries. She began as a banker at UMB, serving as a commercial calling officer. She then co-founded a general contracting company that combines architectural services, general contracting and interior design services in the commercial market alongside her husband John. In 1983, she joined the board of directors at Platte Valley Bank to assist with its strategic planning. Platte Valley Bank is a sister bank in the Country Club Bank system and in 2004, she was appointed to serve on the Country Club Bank board of directors as well. In 2009, O’Connor moved from vendor to a full-time role at Country Club Bank as the senior vice president of logistics. Her priorities include supervising construction and rehabilitation of all Country Club Bank facilities – more than 21 locations to date – as well as overseeing the facilities management and marketing departments. O’Connor is a graduate of the University of Kansas where she received a degree in journalism and marketing.
In addition to the George Bailey Distinguished Service Awards that goes to an individual bank employee, the ABA Foundation also recognizes banks annually for their commitment to their communities in six different categories. For a full list of the 2021 Community Commitment Award winners, as well as honorable mentions, visit aba.com/awards.