“I decided I should serve as a role model for my son and complete my education.  Otherwise, how could I ask him to do something that I had never done myself?  It was an opportunity for me to rewrite my family legacy and become the first person in my family to graduate from college.”

“I’m proud to say that I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart since a young age.  We married in September of 2001 and welcomed our son, Annin; who is now fourteen, in to the world a few years later.  I now have the privilege to do volunteer work, as giving back to the community is something I’m very passionate about due to the challenges I overcame as a child.  Sharing the wisdom I garnered from those challenging days and converting the negative memories in to a positive experience for the benefit of others brings a great deal of fulfillment to my life.

Most recently, for a school assignment Annin was tasked with writing an essay on leadership and service. To prepare him for this assignment, our family volunteered at the Downtown Rescue Mission serving meals to the homeless women and children in our community.  He told me that he was nervous, as he had never seen or spoken to a homeless person.  I reassured him:  ‘all you do is smile, and show them love and kindness, because not everyone does that–a simple smile can break down barriers.’ I came from severe poverty and life was always a challenge.  As a parent who provides a life very different from my upbringing, I strive to give Annin a glimpse of life that is reality to many, one that he wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.

From a very young age, I always knew that I wanted to go to college.  However, we did not have many resources and we were always being supported by assistance of some kind.  I believed college was for everyone else; not a reality for me.  There were times I thought I would never get there; that I would never be able to afford it, let alone rise above my circumstances.  But when I received a job offer at SouthTrust Bank, my life took a remarkable turn for the better.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was attending a job fair, advocating and encouraging Daiven to find his career path.  While waiting, I was there directing traffic and encouraging people to check out the resume-builder workshop or visit certain booths.  Surprisingly, the Human Resources Director of SouthTrust Bank approached me and asked if I had ever considered a career in banking.  The next week, I had an interview, followed by a job offer for a teller position.  While it was not an industry I had given much consideration, it proved to be a pivotal direction for me professionally.

It did not take long for me to learn that working in the banking industry was a great fit, and would ultimately become my career path.  At my core, I love helping people because of my humble beginnings.  My responsibilities to my clients and community partners, even today, is to ensure I am educating and helping people secure their financial future.  After joining SouthTrust, I learned that they had a tuition assistance program.  Shortly after finishing high school I enrolled at Calhoun Community College.  It was a dream come true—one I never imagined would have been possible.

After a few years, I advanced my career landing my first Branch Manager position with AmSouth Bank at the age of twenty-two. The previous Branch Manager had taken her team to start a new bank, so my primary responsibility was to retain the existing client base.  I am pleased to share we were extremely successful! With this success, professional opportunities became plentiful.  My career had catapulted so quickly that my college studies were beginning to hinder my opportunity to continue to advance.  It was at this moment I had a decision to make:  go all in with my career and ultimately benefit my family, or continue with my degree.  I decided to go all-in and focus on climbing the corporate ladder.

It wasn’t too long before the U.S. Operation of Royal Bank of Canada acquired the branch that I was managing.  I announced the news to my team on Friday, and on Monday we opened as RBC Centura Bank.  After thirty days following the acquisition, the leadership team asked me to assume the management responsibilities of the private banking franchise.  After spending many years with RBC, I left in January of 2011 to become the first hire in the market for IBERIABANK.

Before obtaining my degree, I was fortunate that few inquired where I attended college or where I earned my degree.  As Annin grew, I began to feel convicted about my lack of college education, telling him that college is a non-negotiable.  It was then that I decided I should serve as a role model for my son and complete my education.  Otherwise, how could I ask him to do something that I had never done myself?  It was an opportunity for me to rewrite my family legacy and become the first person in my family to graduate from college.

Ginger Harper Athens State University IBERIABANK Senior Vice President

I decided to take the plunge.  I transferred to Athens State University.  Even while managing a 55-hour work week and being a wife and mom, I knew that this was what I needed to do.  It afforded me a unique opportunity to use what I was learning on the job.

I graduated Athens State in December of 2012 and earned my degree in business management.  To be a role model for my family has been truly gratifying.  I’ve always been a very driven individual and possess a great amount of perseverance, but I also rely heavily on my faith.  I think God has a wonderful sense of humor; after growing up in poverty, he has placed me in a role of advocating and fundraising for the most underserved in our community. I truly believe to whom much is given – much is required.

My career is extremely rewarding and IBERIABANK has been incredible to me; yielding opportunities for continued growth and professional development.  With respect to my future, I’m going to continue to solidify our brand in the marketplace and enhance the solid business foundation our team has achieved thus far.  We will continue to focus on what has made us successful—which is giving back to our community.”

—Ginger Harper, Athens State University Alum and Senior Vice President at IBERIABANK