When Virginia Tech finance professor George Morgan suggested some years ago that two of his former students get to know one another, little did he know that the CEOs would later lead a merger to reconstruct something from their past: “a great Virginia-based regional bank,” like the ones they once worked for.  

In January, Union Bankshares Corporation, led by John Asbury, completed its acquisition of Access National Corporation, led by Mike Clarke. 

Clarke, who founded Access, has relinquished his CEO role and joined Union’s board of directors. He will be on campus Wednesday, April 10, to talk about being a banker and entrepreneur as the Pamplin College of Business Wells Fargo Distinguished Speaker at 5:30 p.m. in Pamplin 1045.

The two Hokies didn’t cross paths as finance undergraduates at Virginia Tech — Clarke graduated in 1983, Asbury in 1987 — and first met only a couple of years ago, at a bank CEOs meeting in Richmond.

Their career arcs diverged, but the executives, both Virginia natives, have a lot in common. 

“As Hokies with finance backgrounds and connections to our department, it seemed like a natural alliance,” Morgan said of his former students. “They had similar views about the importance of doing solid credit analysis and running a high-quality bank.” 

Both men also share a passion for Virginia Tech and a deep desire to pass on their professional knowledge and experience to students and encourage them to pursue banking as a career.

“George knew that if we worked together enough, we would find a way to reinvigorate student interest in our profession. After all, a great many of the CEOs and leaders of Virginia’s banks are Pamplin alumni,” said Clarke.

Asbury, a member of the finance department’s advisory board, is grateful to Morgan for sparking his interest in banking and sees an opportunity to give back.

“I enjoy speaking with students and sharing my own experiences, some of which involved painfully learned lessons," Asbury said. "Mike and I both feel passionately that banking remains a noble and rewarding career, and we would like to try to create more interest in our industry. When we were students, the bank training programs we entered were among the most competitive and highly sought-after jobs coming out of Pamplin.”

A member of the Pamplin Advisory Council and chair of the finance department’s advisory board, Clarke began getting more involved at Virginia Tech 14 years ago while looking for talent for his growing business. 

He has been helping Morgan and the finance department revive interest in banking study and careers by speaking to students and guiding course development to make it more relevant to industry needs and to boost new graduates’ career opportunities. 

“I have a great deal of gratitude to Virginia Tech for the foundational skills of my career. It enabled my economic mobility,” said Clarke, who was a first-generation college student. 

“I find it energizing to lend my skills and experience to help shape the programs that prepare our students to chart their own path for success. We have to invest in our collective future.”

Read more about Asbury and Clarke in the cover story of the spring issue of Virginia Tech Business, the magazine of the Pamplin College of Business.

Attend Clarke’s talk on Wednesday, April 10 at 5:30 p.m. in Pamplin 1045. The talk is free and open to the public.

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