David versus Goliath
Paducah Attorney Dave Denton Learns That Banks and Communities are Defined by the Quality of Their People
In 1972, young David Denton, not long from law school, became the deputy legal counsel to The Paducah Bank and Trust Company. Paducah Bank was another young David (bank) amidst two giant Goliaths (Citizens Bank and Peoples First). In 1976, he became general counsel for the bank, and in 1984 joined with a group of investors to buy a controlling interest in the financial institution.
Today veteran attorney David Denton is secretary/treasurer of the bank’s holding company, provides general counsel to the bank, and serves as chairman of the audit committee of the board of directors of Paducah’s only locally-owned, independent bank. “I remember back in the early days, Gene Katterjohn remarked at a board meeting that if the bank ever reached $40 million in assets, he’d throw a huge party in the bank’s lobby,” Dave says with a chuckle. I’m sure he never thought it would happen, but our bank president at that time, Frank Paxton, met the challenge. Today the bank is a million in assets, he’d throw a huge party in the bank’s lobby,” Dave says with a chuckle. “I’m sure he never thought it would happen, but our bank president at that time, Frank Paxton, met the challenge. Today the bank is a $375 million financial institution.”
When Dave threw his hat into the banking ring in the 70s, Paducah Bank held an infinitesimal market share. Today it has as much or more than any bank in the region. Then, there were probably 20 people working at the bank. Today, the bank counts more than 120 people on staff. “The growth has been continuous and remarkable,” Dave says. Why? “A bank is its people,” Dave affirms without question. “A successful bank is measured by the quality of its people and how long you keep them.” (Loyal readers will remember last edition’s profile of 26-year veteran Molly Bailey.)
And not just the people behind the teller window or across the desk. “One of the reasons for our successful longevity,” says Dave, “is that we’re in a community where the people who work for Paducah Bank are accessible. You’ll see a bank director or a loan officer at the local lunch counter or in Sunday school or at a baseball game. So you don’t have to get in line to talk to some- one from Paducah Bank. We’re on the street where our customers live and work.”
The affection for Paducah’s “people” goes beyond the walls of Paducah Bank in Dave’s informed opinion. In 1993, Pat Cvengros and Fred Paxton called Dave Denton in and posed a question which would, four years later, provide an informal education in fund-raising, political negotiation, and the power of the people of Paducah. “They asked me to chair a fund-raising campaign for a proposed 2+2 engineering program,” Dave remembers. “I said, ‘How long do you think it’ll take?’ ‘Oh, maybe six months,’ they told me.”
But there was resistance from several sides of this issue, and Dave found himself embroiled in the midst of a regional battle for the program, which was waged for nearly four years. “My partners kept asking me how exactly I was calculating this six- month timeframe. They kiddingly commented on occasion, ‘Are you using a revised calendar for this project?’ I could never have accomplished this mission at all without the extended support of my Denton & Keuler partners.”
The thing Dave learned most from this experience, among others, was the incredible can-do spirit of this community. “When the people of Paducah say they will, they do! When they understand the opportunity a project offers to really make a difference in our lives and the lives of future citizens, they will not be stopped,” he said. “It was an amazing journey.”
It was worth the trip. With Dave’s help and the contributions of hundreds of local supporters, the UK Engineering School was funded, built, and is now producing professional engineers at a steady rate. But wait. There was yet another path to be trod. “Because of our successful acquisition of the engineering school,” Dave adds, “we were in an excellent position to obtain the Challenger Learning Center. I’m not sure we would have been able to add that dimension to the community college system without the existence of the engineering school.”
Now, the community college is enrolling record numbers of students. Degreed engineers can go to school AND go to work in their hometown. Educators can work toward their masters and doctorate degrees. And with the increasing success of the Artist Relocation Program (of which Paducah Bank has been a vital part) there’s talk of an art academy. Even better news is that there’s a Denton evolution in leadership.
Dave’s son, Glenn, also an attorney with Denton & Keuler, followed his father as a president of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce among other official roles. His younger son, Matt, has just returned to Paducah to work for WWL Network Services and will soon (we’re sure) be joining the goodwill gang! All are devout, dedicated civic volunteers, as is wife and mother, Ann. (That’s another story.)
Doing their best for the community at large is a Denton family principle. Some have just been doing it longer than others!
From One Achiever to Another
Civic Citizen Extraordinaire, Ann Denton, Talks About Her Devotion to the Direction of Paducah’s Higher Education
When Ann Denton and her friends were having trouble finding reliable babysitters 25 years ago, they organized a day-care program at First Christian Church. In 1986, Ann sought funding from the Paducah City Schools for a first-ever boys’ soccer program at the high school. To support her love of learning, she’s been a devoted member and former president of the long-standing Kalosophic Club in Paducah for many years.
And that just scratches the surface. She has been president of the LaPetite Fleur Garden Club three times. She’s been chairman of the Civic Beautification Board, a member of the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society Board, president of Clark Elementary, Paducah Middle and Paducah Tilghman’s PTOs, chairman of the board of First Christian Church, past president of the Paducah Council of Garden Clubs, and a member of scores of other local and regional boards and committees.
But most outstanding has been her devotion to the board of the West Kentucky Community and Technical College for more than 25 years. Ann arrived in Paducah with her attorney husband, David Denton, in 1969. She took some classes at Paducah Community College and finished her degree in Interpersonal Communications at Murray State University. And from that point forward, her enthusiasm about the opportunity to study and earn college credit at a quality institution in the heart of her community became a passion she was determined to pass on.
“I sometimes think of it as one of our best kept secrets,” Ann says. “This institution of higher learning has been such a vital part of Paducah and the surrounding region. Here students can access the same textbooks and the same curriculum as that being used at the University of Kentucky. And not only does it serve the local youth in such an exemplary way, it greatly serves the educational needs of the adult population in our area.”
For a quarter century, Ann has helped to direct the success of Paducah’s respected community college. She has witnessed the acquisition of land, the construction of facilities, the growth and development of a qualified academic staff, the provision of arts and entertainment, the outreach of extended classroom experiences, and most recently the much-needed addition of the UK School of Engineering as well as the Challenger Center. “I remember when we took a bus full of people to Chattanooga to visit a similar science center before our project here in Paducah became a reality,” Ann adds. “We were so excited about the possibilities of what we could do here that I think we could have raised enough money on the bus that day to fund the project!”
No need. Supporters came to the forefront as project cheerleaders like Ann and others made the case for this one-of-a-kind learning center on the campus of WKCTC. “And that was just another in a long line of accomplishments that the college can be very proud of. Our Medical Alliance has been a major player in the provision of trained medical personnel for this labor market.
The performance hall at the college and the FOCUS series based at the school have brought high quality entertainment to our community for years! And new programs are being developed all the time. I am continually amazed at the progress I’ve seen during my years on the board.” Ann is also grateful for capable leadership over time. “Dr. Len O’Hara had great vision for the school,” Ann believes. “And the selection of Dr. Barbara Veazey as the college’s new president was an excellent decision for the school’s next generation of students. She’s been a part of this system for a number of years and she brings to the office a history and an understanding of the community that serves us well.”
“Serving the citizens and the businesses of the region is at the heart of the school’s mission,” Ann says. “Our goal for the future is to continuously assess the needs of our population and our business and industry. We need to know what the market needs so that we can create curricula and programs to educate and train a work force in both the professional arena and the skilled trades. Now that the technical and community colleges have come together under one umbrella, there’s no limit to the great things we can achieve!”
Endowed Chair is Providing a Clean Start for Research at Paducah’s UK School of Engineering
What does engineering research have to do with crisp starched shirts and dry cleaned drapes?
Actually, quite a lot.
Gene Katterjohn, former owner of Owen Cleaners, recently funded an Endowed Chair at the University of Kentucky Engineering School of Paducah. This fund, matched by the University of Kentucky, will create an interest-bearing revenue stream for a selected engineering professor at the Paducah site for the purpose of research and development. The endowment was largely made possible by the “engineering” ingenuity of Mr. Katterjohn and his mentor, Mr. Horace Owen, whose innovative entrepreneurial partnership created a company which has spanned several generations and is now creating a means for local college students to engineer new ideas.
“I’m not an engineer,” the soft-spoken 83-year-old community leader admitted from his favorite chair, surrounded by a life- time of personal and professional mementos. “I was actually a pharmacy student when I graduated from Purdue, which is an excellent engineering school. All my fraternity brothers were engineers.”
Having great admiration for the establishment of the UK school in his hometown, Gene wanted to do something to show his appreciation. “I really wasn’t sure what I could do when I learned about the Endowed Chair opportunity,” he added. After learning that the revenue from the contribution could be used to support a selected professor’s work at the school, Gene set up the fund and requested that it be used for research. “I want both the staff and the students to be proud of the work they do here at the University of Kentucky School of Engineering in Paducah.” It is the first, but hopefully not the last, Endowed Chair to be established at the school.
The pursuit and support of education has been a life-long endeavor for Gene Katterjohn. Upon his graduation from Purdue, he learned that he would be ultimately transported to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, where he would remain until the end of WWII. There, he would become immersed in teaching flying and artillery observation tactics. At the conclusion of the war, Gene returned to Paducah and worked as a retail pharmacist for a short while.
“From the outset, I didn’t think I wanted to do retail pharmacy, but I gave it a try initially,” he remembered. After only a year he accepted a position with Abbott Laboratories and called on physicians and hospitals until his first daughter was born. At that point, in 1950, his father-in-law, Horace Owen, asked Gene to join his dry cleaning business which had been in operation since 1920. The rest, as they say, is history. And a notable history it has been.