Long before Clyde McFarland became the chief financial officer of an $8 billion-dollar bank, he knew a thing or two about economics.
Today’s chief financial officer and senior executive vice president of TowneBank realized Tidewater Community College was the most affordable route to a college education. McFarland graduated from TCC with an Associate of Science in Business Administration that allowed him to transfer to Old Dominion University for his bachelor’s in accounting. He would then go on to earn a master’s in business administration from the College of William & Mary.
“I got an excellent educational foundation in my first two years from the professors at TCC and made a lot of friends along the way,” said McFarland, who attended the former Portsmouth Campus in Suffolk.
“It became apparent to me early on that the best investment you can make in yourself is education,” he said.
McFarland found willing mentors at TCC, including accounting professor Jack Godwin, history professor Terry Jones and English professor Elizabeth Morgan. He enjoyed Godwin’s practical approach to the material, and Jones taught him the value of taking good notes. Morgan, he said, took an interest in her students, not just wanting them to do well but instilling in them that they could do well.
“Your general education classes at ODU are going to have 300 people and the professors aren’t going to know you,” he said. “I like the smaller classes and personal attention at TCC.”
McFarland considered becoming a corporate attorney but realized how well numbers suited him. He passed the CPA exam; that would lead to his career in banking. He worked at the CPA firm that eventually became Price Waterhouse Coopers.
In April 1999, McFarland, as chief financial officer and executive vice president, was part of a team that started TowneBank, one of the fastest growing new banks ever chartered in Virginia. In 2005, McFarland became the bank’s senior executive vice president. Today the bank, which evolved from a two-car garage in Portsmouth to 37 offices from the Outer Banks to Richmond, boasts $7.83 billion in assets.
TCC graduate Griffin Leach, who will transfer to the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce this fall, is among the interns at TowneBank this summer. The opportunity developed thanks to McFarland’s friendship with TCC business professor Peter Shaw.
“He called me and said he had a standout student who would be a good fit for us,” McFarland said. “I interviewed Griffin and was impressed.”
McFarland has also given back to TCC as an instructor. For nine years he taught accounting and business classes in the evening.
“I thoroughly enjoyed that,” he said. “They were serious students, in class on their personal time because they want to better their life.”
These days McFarland works at TowneBank, which has become the largest bank headquartered in Virginia. A resident of Hampton, he relishes his free time, which includes traveling to his second home in the Outer Banks, playing and building guitars and enjoying his yellow Labradors, Benny and Lily.
Grateful for the foundation he received at TCC, McFarland is an advocate of a community college education. His advice to potential students is simple. “Work hard and try to learn something new every day,” he said. “Set goals and work toward them. Find out what you are naturally good at, and most importantly, have fun each day.”