Over a cup of coffee one Tuesday morning, Marilyn Bush recites a favorite quote by author and activist Alice Walker: The most common way people give up power is thinking they don’t have any. Bush, senior VP at Bank of America, is dedicated to empowering women to form strong relationships with each other while contributing to the community.
Bush got her start with Bank of America right out of college. The Saint Louis University graduate was pursuing her bachelors degree in business and finance, but hadn’t planned on a career in banking. A practice on-campus interview with what was then Centerre Bank landed her a job offer, and she’s been with the company—now Bank of America—ever since. Bush has worked in her current position as senior VP for the last 14 years; she oversees the bank’s public-sector banking for government-based clients in seven states. In December, she’ll celebrate 30 years with the company.
Bush loves connecting people—specifically women—to foster networking and simultaneously benefit the United Way. “I’ve been involved with the United Way since I started at the bank, in terms of giving,” she says. “Back in the day, you walked in the door [of Centerre Bank] and they gave you your security pass and your pledge card.” It wasn’t until years later that Bush realized just how much the organization served the community. “Sometimes you’re invited to give and you give,” she says. “But you don’t really understand how important it is until you get involved.”
Seven years ago, Bush joined the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Society as a representative for Bank of America. The Society has 3,600 members within the greater St. Louis area, all women who annually donate at least $1,000 to the United Way. Last year, the women raised more than $7.8 million during the annual campaign. Bush has served as the group’s financial services market chair and chair of the Women’s DeTocqueville Society (comprised of women who contribute $10,000 or more annually), and is nearing the end of her two-year term as chair of the Women’s Leadership Society. The organization focuses on bringing women together to network and combine forces, with the goal of raising money for the United Way.
“We all have this desire and want to contribute our own talents and resources,” she says. “Sometimes it’s time or perhaps a skill we know. For me, that’s the thing that’s truly motivating, is to see the response at how women really come together to make friendships and connections that wouldn’t be available to them otherwise.” Because of this, she says, her time with the Society has given her even more than she has given it. Bush says she and the other women are extremely inspired by the many people whom the organization assists, and their perseverance in overcoming life’s obstacles.
Bush also works to connect women at Bank of America. She helped start the St. Louis chapter of the company’s LEAD program, which invites women in all levels of the company to come together for networking and professional development. She helped the organization launch its annual adopt-a-family project, in which employees donate time, money and gifts to provide Christmas gifts to those less fortunate.
Crediting luck and hard work for her success, Bush says she advises others to continue to create relationships and be involved with the community. “Leadership is an attitude, not a title,” she says. “I firmly believe that we can lead from whatever position we are in at a company. By following that premise, it will serve anyone—men and women—well.”
In her free time, the mom of three grown children (one son, who was adopted from Russia when he was 9 years old, and two stepdaughters) just received her pilot’s license, and hopes to one day be skilled enough to volunteer with Wings of Hope, combining her newfound passion with her philanthropic spirit—a spirit, she says, that was brought to life by her company.
“I’m really proud to work for Bank of America,” Bush says. “They have taught me philanthropy and community. They support me, and our employees, and our community. It was really there that I learned all that.”