Banking on Penguins
Not only is Pat Sheaffer ’61 a Clark College penguin, but he has helped capture penguins for the Oregon Zoo. He has the battle scars on his hand from being pecked to prove it.
Decades before Sheaffer became the chairman and CEO of Riverview Bank in Vancouver, he won a trip to Antarctica through the Civil Air Patrol and the U.S. Air Force, and flew as an observer aboard a C124 aircraft. While there, he assisted in gathering Emperor and Adélies penguins.
“While they were real friendly, they didn’t like having sacks put over them,” he recalls. Flying in the C124 was a highlight for Sheaffer—a plane buff—who was also a flight medic for the Air National Guard.
While serving with the guard he had duty assignments with the Air Force that took him to Vietnam and Philippines to pick up wounded soldiers and Marines and transport them to Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, today known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash.
Being a guardsman allowed Sheaffer the flexibility to enroll at Clark College. He did so in 1960 to get started on English, math and biology courses. He credits classmate and later interim athletic director, Denny Huston, with “getting me through biology.”
Sheaffer eventually transferred to University of Oregon, but he recalls that Clark provided him with a solid base of study skills. “It was the hardest college I ever went to. Clark had good instructors.”[box type=”none” style=”rounded” border=”full”]
Facts about Pat
- He plays bag pipes
- He has a pilot’s license
- He’s from Camas
Local Camas Boy
The Crown Zellerbach Corporation was the major paper mill employer in Camas, Wash., in the 1960s and Sheaffer, a local Camas boy, intended to get a human resources job at the plant. He landed a “working scholarship” and during college breaks and summers he worked as a night watchman at the plant.
By the age of 24 with a college degree in hand, he learned that the Clark County Savings and Loan was looking for help. He got a job with the five-person bank in downtown Camas and his financial career was launched.
Community banking became his calling. Over the next several decades he found it rewarding to help others. “I like being involved in and giving back to the community,” he said.
Riverview Bank is a long-time supporter of Clark College. It sponsors the annual Alumni-Student Dinner and provides scholarship money for Clark athletes, as well as funding for team apparel, equipment and coach recruiting trips.
The Clark College community has influenced Sheaffer on a personal level. His daughter Alison is a Clark alumna who was an award-winning student athlete. “Clark made a huge difference in her life,” said Sheaffer, adding that she was shy before attending Clark. She was late to get involved in sports in high school, but at Clark she played basketball and volleyball and won a regional award in track. Today, Alison travels the country playing semi-professional volleyball while working for a mortgage subsidiary of Riverview Bank.
Education Leads to Success
Sheaffer, 72, became an executive officer at Riverview Bank in 1976 and took over the reigns as chairman/CEO in 1997. During his tenure, he’s made it a priority to “encourage employees to excel,” by providing them with educational opportunities at Clark, University of Washington Vancouver or other schools.
“Education is part of our culture. We have a very low turnover of employees. We spend a lot of money encouraging them to take classes that relate to our business such as math, science, finance, sociology or psychology—anything that involves the workplace.” Today, Riverview has 240 full-time employees.
“It’s about having better trained and knowledgeable employees,” he said, adding that education is also about keeping employees inspired and interested, which translates to more productive workers and happier customers.
What sets Riverview Bank apart from larger financial institutions is that employees are trained to do all the jobs at a branch, from opening accounts to counseling customers on options. “This type of cross-training necessitates going to school, because they need to have writing skills and people interaction skills,” he said.
As a result, Riverview Bank employees “know our customers’ names, they live here, they stay here, they are interested in the community.”
They have created a community bank with deep local roots. Bank workers spend hundreds of hours annually volunteering in the region it serves. Sheaffer says the bank intentionally restricts its locations to Southwest Washington, northern Oregon and Gresham to retain that neighborly feel.
“The advantage to a community bank is the community. We reward our employees to get involved,” he said.
Sheaffer still flies on occasion, albeit as a passenger. And the closest he’s gotten to an Emperor penguin since his Antarctica adventure is Clark College President Robert K. Knight.