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Thomas K. Kerstetter ’72

Thomas K. Kerstetter '72

Thomas “T.K.” Kerstetter grew up in Allentown, Pa., and attended William Allen High School, where he played basketball. His athleticism drew interest from colleges such as American University in Washington, D.C., but T.K. was put off by their desire to redshirt him—the practice of having him sit out the first season and then play four, thus requiring five years as an undergraduate.

So T.K. and his parents did a tour of Pennsylvania schools and bumped into coach Herm Sledzik while visiting the gym at IUP. It was a good visit: There was no talk of redshirting, and since a few other high school friends were attending, T.K. decided IUP was the place for him.

 “I don’t think anybody could’ve had a better college experience than I had,” T.K. said. “Whether it was the people that I met, the activities, the basketball accomplishments—we went to a national tournament, I scored over a 1,000 points—I don’t know how I would improve on the college experience that I had. It was just great.”

And although playing basketball took up much of his time—from practicing and game travel to fitting in his studies on the fly—T.K. also joined the Theta Xi fraternity and served as president of the Chinese Club, a popular social gathering at that time.

He credits his athletic pursuits and his social activities during college as major contributors to his success in the business world afterward. He learned much about time management, personal responsibility, and how to work with other people, resulting in the personal growth and skills he would need in his professional career.

Upon graduating in 1972 with a degree in Psychology, T.K. was drafted by the Allentown Jets, the farm team for the New York Knicks. Although he didn’t make the team, publicity from the tryouts led to numerous job offers, and he chose to go into finance with First National Bank of Allentown.

He proved to be an adept manager and quickly shot through the ranks at the bank, until he left to work for the Wilmington Savings Fund Society in Delaware. By age 38, he had become president—the youngest bank president ever in the state.

While advancing his career in banking, T.K. also made time to give back through community service. “If they were to make a movie of my life, I think it would be called The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get,” he explained. “But I also realize that there are those who, through no fault of their own, are not as fortunate as I’ve been.”

So given his skill set from sports, T.K. chose to take leadership positions on the board of YMCAs in the various cities where he’s lived. He has also served on the board of the United Way. And when he wasn’t at the bank or working in one of his community roles, he was working hard to improve his own skills as a manager by taking courses in accounting and completing the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management program.

But all his hard work didn’t prevent a hostile takeover attempt for leadership of the Wilmington Savings Fund Society in 1990—a proxy battle that he and his board lost and that resulted in his ouster as president. It did, however, allow him to learn from the experience and leverage it into a new career.

He responded by writing and publishing a monograph, Ten Commandments for Bank Directors: the “Official” Guide Regulators Won’t Publish, to share the hard lessons he’d learned. Coming as it did at the tail end of the S&L crisis, his insights found a ready audience, and T.K. found ample work consulting and educating the boards of other institutions.

During this time, he met Bill Seidman, a former head of the FDIC who had started Board Member Inc., a publishing and educational firm focused on helping the directors of public companies to perform more effectively. Bill became a mentor to T.K., and T.K. eventually joined him as a partner in 1996.

In 2010, Board Member Inc. was purchased by NYSE Euronext and is now its wholly owned subsidiary. T.K. currently serves as president of that company and maintains a very busy travel schedule, heading to New York City fifty weeks of the year to host a webcast, This Week in the Boardroom, out of the New York Stock Exchange. It can be seen on demand on the Board Member website.

Due to both his success in the banking industry and his consulting work in helping boards to be more effective, T.K. was honored with IUP’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998. In 2005, he received a second honor from IUP when he was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame.

“When you had the great college experience that I did, then that was almost icing on the cake,” he said. “It wasn’t necessary, because my experience had been satisfying, but the fact that I could enjoy those other two honors just solidified everything positive that could’ve happened at the university. Needless to say, I have a fond place in my heart for IUP.”

T.K. maintains his connection to IUP through the many friendships that he developed—particularly with his teammates, fraternity brothers, and former coach and athletic director Herm Sledzik.

T.K. currently resides in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife, Sherri, and their two daughters, Kerie and Kyla. Kerie, twenty-one, is a junior at the University of Alabama. Seventeen-year-old Kyla, a senior at Brentwood High School, just accepted a basketball scholarship to attend William and Mary in Fall 2011.

Profile published on 2/15/11 

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