By L. Lamor Williams | Photography by Dero Sanford | Mural by Rex Deloney

   Six words changed Marcus Guinn’s life in high school: Too much association brings about assimilation. The words were spoken by Dr. Clint T. Holly, Marcus Guinn’s high school biology teacher and eventual mentor. He could see the high schooler edging ever closer to the wrong path, one where he’d follow friends toward inevitable trouble.

   Today, Marcus is executive vice president of Arvest Bank and a man who believes strongly in the value of mentorship and giving back to his community. For more than a decade, he’s been a board member for P.A.R.K., an acronym for Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids.

   “When you achieve some degree of what society calls success and looking back, you see that someone helped you along the way,” he says. “My teacher totally blew my mind with those words. I had to look up assimilation because I wasn’t sure of the definition. The next day I came back to class and told him I understood that he was saying when you hang out with people long enough sooner or later you will begin to act like them. For me that was the pivotal point that changed the direction of my life. If I can share those words with someone and help them, then that’s what motivates me to do the volunteer work that I do.”

   P.A.R.K. is a comprehensive year-round weekly educational after-school and summer enrichment program for at-risk youth, according to its mission statement. Although he was an above average student, Marcus says he wouldn’t have been eligible for P.A.R.K. even though he would’ve benefited from the structure of such a program. 

   “The kids in the P.A.R.K. program are rising from having a very low grade point averages to graduating from college with master’s degrees. There’s one graduate with a juris doctorate and one with a PH.D. I love this program. I’ve witnessed the success time and time again.” 

   Marcus expected his education journey to lead to a career in medicine with one of his best friends, the son of the biology teacher who shocked him into being a more serious student. However, he joined the Army and was stationed for three years at Fort Hood in Texas, then the Arkansas National Guard. By this time, his best friend was too far along the medical school path for Marcus to catch up to him. 

   “I feel like banking chose me. When I left active duty, I was hired at Twin City bank in North Little Rock as a supply clerk.  They say start at the ground level and work your way up. Well, I was literally in the basement – below ground level,” he says. 

   “I chose the job because it gave me flexibility to go to school,” Marcus says. “I found that finance was a natural fit for me. When I graduated from UA Little Rock, my bosses recognized potential in me and I started to move up. I was there 26 years before moving to Arvest. I’ve been here 10 years; I am a career banker.”

   He knows he’ll never practice medicine but says “in a way I’m a banking physician. The doctor helps maintain physical health. I help businesses maintain their financial health.”

   P.A.R.K. isn’t the only organization for which Marcus volunteers. Noting that he couldn’t be as active with these organizations without the support of his wife Valencia, he says he also serves on the UA Little Rock School of Business Advisory Council and is a board member for Tendaji Community Development Corporation, founded by Saint Mark Baptist Church, where he’s a member. In addition to being a TCDC board member for several years, he also teaches the “Money Matters” financial literacy course which is held semi-annually in the spring and fall.

   According to its mission statement, Tendaji, Swahili for “Making Things Happen,” works to “educate students through dynamic after-school and summer programs; revive teens’ self-worth through a first-of-its-kind alternative to suspension program and empower adults and families through training, legal counseling, and medical services.” 

   Marcus also serves on the Baptist Hospital Foundation board of directors. “This one doesn’t involve young kids, but support from the Arvest Foundation has provided scholarships to support their nursing program,” he says. “It seems that I’m drawn to organizations that help educate, but anytime you can give back to help others is time well spent or money well spent.”

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