Cove banker honored with lifetime achievement award
MARTINSBURG — The “go to person in the Cove for mortgage, construction and loan questions” almost used her finance skills to become a teacher.
Bonnie Risser said she had planned to be a math teacher, but that didn’t work out.
“I student-taught seventh and eighth grade math at Tyrone,” Risser said. It was there that she “found out I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher.”
Risser instead ended up in the banking industry and on July 19
was honored with a lifetime Achievement Award from the Pennsylvania Community Banking Association.
She was nominated for the award by Troy Campbell, president/CEO of Altoona First Savings Bank, where Risser spent
45 years of her career.
Risser joined what was then Altoona Federal Savings and Loan Association on March 1, 1976, and was part of a new branch expansion in Martinsburg. Her career with Altoona First Savings Bank began with the role of teller. She was promoted to assistant branch manager in 1983 and became branch manager on June 1, 1989.
“For the past 32 years, Bonnie created a culture of teamwork and unparalleled service to clients that continues in our Martinsburg office,” Campbell said.
“Bonnie became the ‘go to person’ in the Cove for mortgage, construction and loan questions. I am thankful for Bonnie and that she is part of Altoona First and I am proud that she is being recognized by the PACB with this well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award,” he said.
Risser said she was surprised and honored to receive the award.
“It was totally unexpected, to be honored by your employer, that they thought that much of me to honor me,” she said.
After graduating from Juniata College in 1975 with a degree in mathematics, Risser began her banking career at Peoples National Bank in Hancock, Md., as her husband, Stanley, was a teacher at nearby Southern Fulton High School.
After four months at the bank, the couple moved to Blair County and shortly thereafter Risser joined what became Altoona First.
Risser credits the people at Altoona First for her successful career.
“A lot of credit goes to Altoona First for the working atmosphere that we have. They allow their branch managers to serve the community in the way that is best. We were not micromanaged; we could fit our management style to the community we were in,” she said. “I always said it was the greatest place to work and raise a family. We were like a big family, I knew that I would have the opportunity to move into a management position.”
Risser, who enjoyed working with numbers and with people, found that banking was a good fit for her skills.
“It interested me,” she said “It had to do with numbers. I enjoyed working with the public, I liked interacting with people one-on-one, I enjoyed people coming in and working with them to solve their problems. You got to know them. I had seen three generations of the same family by the time I left,” Risser said, adding that she hopes to be remembered for helping people.
“People said I helped them,” Risser said. “It was nothing great in the world’s eyes, but to them it was pretty important. I don’t think I did anything special.”
Risser officially retired in March and said the transition was easier than she thought it would be.
“I wanted to get 45 years in and didn’t want to retire in the winter. I wanted to retire when the weather was nice,” she said.
As the assistant manager had retired at the end of January, Risser stayed on to help out Sarah Estright, her successor as manager, as Estright became acclimated to the position.
“I thought it was going to be tough, but as the time drew near, it was natural and easy. We opened a new building in 1994, that was always my office,” Risser said. “It was hard to imagine someone else taking over but it didn’t seem odd at all.”
Risser hopes people remember her as someone they could feel comfortable with.
“I don’t think I intimidated anyone. I hope that they felt comfortable coming to me with anything,” she said.
Now that she is retired, Risser said she is “laying back. I always thought I would like to volunteer with Meals on Wheels or at the food pantry.”
In addition, she hopes to take some day trips, but admits that she and Stanley are “not world travelers. I want to be available for my family and grandkids when they need help.”
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.