Martha Guy is known throughout North Carolina and beyond as an icon and pioneer for women in the banking industry. A native of Newland, Guy served and led Avery County Bank for more than 60 years in every capacity from assistant cashier to president. She was inducted into the North Carolina Banking Hall of Fame in 2010 and has been honored by the North Carolina Bankers Association with its Legends in Banking Award.
Guy holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill and an associate degree from Lees-McRae College. After firmly establishing her banking career, Guy emerged as a community leader and benefactor. She has served on the board of the Crossnore School since 1956 and received a governor's appointment to the Avery County Board of Education during the turbulent period of school integration.
Guy's leadership of and service to higher education has reached throughout the North Carolina Mountains. She served as a founding trustee of Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine. She also served on boards of directors and visitors at Appalachian State University, Lees-McRae College, Mars Hill College, Montreat College and Warren Wilson College. She has received honorary degrees from Appalachian and Montreat.
In addition to her time and wisdom, Guy also has given generously of her resources to higher education.
She is the founder of the Martha Guy Summer Institute for Future Business Leaders at Appalachian. Since 2004, the Martha Guy Summer Institute has brought some of North Carolina's top high school juniors to Appalachian for an unparalleled three-week opportunity to learn about business and develop leadership skills. She also has supported the university's Appalachian Summer Festival, Walker College of Business Dean's Club, Harlan E. Boyles Memorial Fund, North Carolina Bankers Association Professorship, Chair of Banking Endowment and others.
"The size of Martha Guy's collective gifts is indicative of her generosity," said Deanne Smith, director of the Martha Guy Summer Institute. "That is measureable; immeasurable is the way her institute has inspired students and future business leaders through learning experiences and travel. Regardless of their background, all of the Martha Guy Summer Institute participants, more than 160 of them, have said it was an opportunity of a lifetime, and Martha gave them that opportunity."
Some of her other notable contributions include the establishment of the Martha Guy Labs in the UNC Chapel Hill Physical Science Complex and several scholarship funds to support Avery County students pursuing higher education.
Martha Guy: I grew up in Avery County from the time I was born until now. I started in the banking business when I was about 9 years old. I used the add machine—I added checks and deposits—but I made $3 a week and that was a happy time.
Deanne Smith; MGSI Director: Martha is very special. I would say that our friendship has developed over the years. At first, I was a little shy myself and somewhat intimidated by this woman who became a banking icon—was a pioneer, essentially, in an industry where there were no women.
MG: There weren't many. When I'd go to the banking conference in Chapel Hill there wouldn't be more than six women there, and maybe 150 men. So if they did have women in banking, they were behind the scenes.
DS: While Ken Peacock was Dean of the College of Business, he long hoped to create an outreach and recruiting program for high school students from across North Carolina. Miss Guy was a long-time friend of the college through the Harlan Boyles Lecture Series, and she was willing to endorse this effort. The Martha Guy Summer Institute is a three-week business exploration program targeted to 24 North Carolina high school juniors from all over the state. We host them on campus for two weeks to introduce them to all the basic business principles and entrepreneurship.
DS: We also try to provide numerous leadership, personal and professional development opportunities. Their time on campus is followed by travel to New York and to D.C. to think about all the business concepts they've learned on a really large, real-world scale. Not only do the letters MGSI stand for Martha Guy Summer Institute, but throughout the course of the program they also stand for Mentor, Guide, Support and Inspire—all of those themes are key throughout the institute. But it's that last word, inspire, that I think all of the participants value the most—is that they leave with such great inspiration.
DS: Some arrive very shy, quiet and very unsure of themselves, and really what we try to do is help them understand what really makes them a strong leader, what gives them the greatest potential to be a future business leader. And they leave empowered and inspired and ready to conquer the world. They're ready to attack that last year of high school, they're ready to start college and they're ready to think about those career opportunities.
MG: Seeing the students—that's what I enjoy most about the institute. I think it's been excellent foe them and it's been worth-while for me, too, because I can see the changes in them.
Michael Allen '11; MGSI Participant and Leader: One of the biggest lessons I learned at the institute was just to be open to new experiences. And coming here and being on a college campus and being with people from all over the state who I'd never met before was a great opportunity to kind of push the boundaries of what I was comfortable with. And the idea of pushing myself to experience new things always has helped me to grow into the person that I feel like I am today, and has helped me to open myself up to new things that I otherwise wouldn't have.
Terra Davis; MGSI Participant: From my Martha Guy experience, I've learned that, you know, business is important to your major and what you're going to do for the rest of your life. But not only regardless of the career you choose, you're going to be working with different people with different personalities and backgrounds. We all got along and it became a big family, and the lesson that I really learned is that everyone has the capabilities of being a leader.
MA: My experience here at the Martha Guy Summer Institute absolutely influenced my decision to come to Appalachian. It's an amazing opportunity to really immerse yourself in Appalachian State. So, when I came and spent the two weeks here on campus and the three weeks with directors and leadership here at the university, I knew that this was going to be home for me.
DS: Martha is so deserving of the Honorary Alumni Award, because she feels like a part of the Appalachian family already.
MA: We joke a little bit that we're like her kids, because she really has a huge interest in our success and you can feel that when you meet her the first time.
TD: Mostly I'd just like to thank her, because without her help I wouldn't be able to be where I am now and to on the track that I am. A simple thank you isn't enough, and I really can't describe to her the opportunities that she's given to me. She's opened doors for me, not only in the college, but as far as the entire business world.
MA: As a graduate from Appalachian, it is a great honor for me to join the ranks of alumni with Martha Guy and to know that not only do we have the shared experiences within the institute, but also now we share the common experience of being an Appalachian Mountaineer.
DS: And so it is absolutely remarkable that, as a person who wasn't enrolled as a student, but has believed in us and supported the university in so many ways over so many years, that she's actually done that for us. And so we are grateful for that and I think it is only appropriate that we give her this recognition—this formal, official recognition—as Honorary Alumni.
MA: I feel like the things that I learned at the institute have stuck with me and will always stay with me. And the memories I have and the things that I have accomplished—a lot of that I attribute to the Martha Guy Summer Institute. I remember writing a thank you note after the institute was over to Miss Guy, and just saying "You changed my life."