Margaret Callihan didn’t take the direct route to banking.
The Galveston, Texas, native graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in business administration and took her first job working in the public relations office of the Country Music Foundation in Nashville.
She thought it was the right place for a “people person” such as herself, but, after a year, she began contemplating where she was going.
Callihan ultimately decided to enroll in a trainee program at SunTrust Bank forerunner SunBanks. Now, 35 years later, the Longboat Key resident is chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank, Southwest Florida.
“I never intended to be there 35 years, but I kept getting new opportunities,” Callihan said. “It wasn’t a deliberate journey. I was like the accidental tourist.”
The journey took Callihan not only up the career ladder, but also put her on the path to community involvement.
Thursday, Nov. 15, she will receive the American Jewish Committee (AJC) West Coast Florida 2012 Civic Achievement Award, at a gala dinner at Michael’s On East, in recognition of both her community contributions and professional accomplishments.
When describing her community involvement, Callihan quotes a SunBanks founder whose motto was: “When you build your community, you build your banks.”
“Eventually, you develop a passion for it,” Callihan said. “You really enjoy the work that you do. When you have a great community, you have a great place to work.”
Callihan and her husband, Matt, a Sarasota Military Academy algebra teacher, have three grown children and moved to the area in 2005, after Callihan transferred from Chattanooga, Tenn.
Since then, Callihan’s community involvement has grown to include chairing the campus board of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and the board of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. She is also a board member of the SunCoast Chapter of the International Women’s Forum and a recent past chair and current board member of the Economic Development Corp. Board.
The AJC award isn’t Callihan’s first recognition for her community service. Jewish Family and Children’s Services named her a “Woman of Valor” in 2011, and the National Council of Jewish Women named her one of its “Women in Power” in 2012.
Callihan, a longtime supporter of the AJC, said that she admires the group’s work, particularly its human rights advocacy.
IF YOU GO
American Jewish Committee West Coast Florida Civic Achievement Award Dinner Honoring Margaret Callihan
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15
Where: Michael’s On East, 1212 East Ave. S., Sarasota
RSVP: Contact Brian Lipton at 365-4955 or email@example.com