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Family first: Bank president reflects on hardship, career path

Cindy Yulich juggles a career in banking and motherhood. For four years, she also served on the Lawrence School Board.

Cindy Yulich juggles a career in banking and motherhood. For four years, she also served on the Lawrence School Board.

July 6, 2009

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Tough economic times, heeding fatherly advice and a temporary assignment led Cindy Yulich, 49, into a banking career.

“When I graduated from Emporia State University in 1981 with a B.S. in business administration, times were tough,” recalls Yulich, president of Emprise Bank in Lawrence.

“Jobs were hard to find, interest rates were 20 percent and there was no way (husband) Mitch and I could afford to buy a house. Luckily, I’d listened to my father, who told me I’d always find a job if I could type, so I went to work for Kelly temp services.”

Her second assignment was with Security Bank of Kansas City, where she stayed for 10 years. The banking world suited her despite a senior banker telling her early in her career that women would never make good commercial lenders.

“He lived to eat his words,” says Yulich, who’s been Emprise’s only female community president since January 2008. “I’d always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and knew if I was to sacrifice that part of my life, it would have to be for a career where I felt I could make a difference, contribute to the community and be successful.”

Her move to work with Emprise in Lawrence in 1991 enabled her to achieve that.

“Emprise is a family-owned bank with strong family values and ethics,” she says. “They gave me flexibility so I could spend lunch times at home with my boys, and they’ve always encouraged and supported my involvement in the wider community.”

When her two sons first attended Quail Run School, she volunteered with the public schools’ building program, then moved to serve on the Lawrence Business Partnership board in 1996. Running for election on the Lawrence School Board in 2003 was a natural evolution for her. She served on the board for four years.

“The unpaid position required a lot of time and energy, and I was already a busy wife, mother and professional, but my employers and family were very understanding and supportive of my commitment,” she explains.

“By serving on the school board, I felt I was able to contribute to my boys’ education as well as serving the community. In return, I learned more about leadership, process, collaboration and teamwork from Superintendent Randy Weseman than I could ever repay. In that respect, Emprise gained from my board tenure, too.”

Yulich acknowledges the challenges presented by the present economic downturn.

“Many younger bankers have only ever experienced prosperity,” she says. “We older ones have struggled to make ends meet before and know we’ll survive again. I believe today’s economic conditions are corrective and provide us with opportunities to focus on what’s really important in our lives.”

For Yulich, that’s spending time with family.

“We’ve become adventurous ‘Google chefs’ to save money. We take leftover ingredients from the fridge, enter the list into Google and get a whole list of recipes,” she explains. “Cooking the recipes together is fun and full of surprises.”

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