My career in Community Development Lending began in 1992 when I accompanied my mentor, Wainwright Bank Chairman Bob Glassman, to a meeting with the late Kip Tiernan, Founder of Rosie’s Place. Unbeknownst to me, this meeting would change my life. We talked about the many challenges homeless women face, the lack of housing opportunities or shelters for homeless women, and Kip’s mission to help these women who were being overlooked by society. That meeting was also my introduction to the nonprofit world. Kip’s extensive knowledge about the community and housing needs and her passion for supporting homeless women mesmerized me. Kip was my inspiration for taking this social agenda to another level by using my professional skills and knowledge.
Working with my personal heroes, including Suzanne Kenny, Executive Director of Project Place, and Lyndia Downie, President and Executive Director of Pine Street Inn, fuels my passion for Community Development Lending. I don’t think of this line of work as solely banking—it’s more of a mission. That’s what keeps me motivated—collaborating with others to provide safe, stable, and affordable homes.
The banking world is still predominantly male, but this has also created a sense of camaraderie for many women in banking. Having worked in this industry for nearly 35 years, I was somewhat of a pioneer in Community Development Lending when I started. It wasn’t as robust then as it is now. Because of this, I have confidants and peers rather than mentors – all women in the industry who I respect and admire. Esther Schlorholtz, Senior Vice President, Director of Community Investment at Boston Private, and Michelle Volpe, President of the BlueHub Loan Fund at BlueHub Capital, have also built their careers within this industry. I feel fortunate that I can reach out to them to bounce ideas off them or ask questions.
Among other peers in the field who I love working with are Kate Racer, Associate Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, Chrystal Kornegay, Executive Director of MassHousing, and Sheila Dillon, the City of Boston’s Chief of Housing and Director of Neighborhood Development.
It’s fun to work with other women across various disciplines – lenders, attorneys, executive directors, and local leaders. There is friendship and a mutual respect that enable us to speak freely and ask questions, and there is no judgement. Although we’re all at different institutions, we collaborate often. This work keeps us connected, and I see us as a team.
Now that I lead the Community Development Lending team at Eastern Bank, serving as a mentor to lenders who are passionate about supporting the community brings me a lot of joy. This includes mentoring colleagues of all genders, not just women.
My favorite book is The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. It’s an autobiography about the author’s experience with balancing the responsibilities and pressures of being a parent and a caretaker of elder parents, while also having breast cancer. As a cancer survivor, her story resonated with my experience. I loved that she had a humorous outlook on her situation.
When I reflect on my career, I feel proud about having built a vibrant team of nearly a dozen deeply committed lenders. I started in Community Development Lending as a team of one and now I am fortunate to lead a dynamic group who love doing community lending work.
For me, the social justice lens is just as important as the academic or financial lens. They’re not just lenders, but also community advocates. Various colleagues on my team serve on boards of various nonprofits and truly understand the intricacies of community development and lending. I don’t think just any lender can excel in this field – you need a passion for this type of work. You need to be on a mission.
I also find that working in Community Development Lending is easy when there’s a similar commitment and passion that comes from our most senior leaders. The leadership at Eastern Bank is always on board with what that my team and I do in the community. That is something to be proud of.
Subscribe to our newsletter to stay abreast of the leading banking professionals and institutions.