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Basketball, Core Values Still Inspire

KarenDeesFifth Third Bank President Karen Dee

For Karen Dee, president of Fifth Third Bank’s Florida and Mid-South regions, teamwork has always been the key to a winning game plan. As a Hatters basketball team captain and an academic All-American, the Stetson alumna (Class of ’83) learned the importance of investing in relationships and putting the university’s core values into practice.

“As a scholarship athlete at Stetson, my success depended on discipline, accountability and my ability to work with my teammates on and off the court,” says Dee, 53. “I learned that to be an effective leader, you have to inspire people in the good times and rally them through challenges. I still use those skills every day.”

With more than 30 years of experience in banking and finance, Dee provides strategic oversight for all major lines of Fifth Third Bank’s business, including commercial, private bank, retail, residential mortgage and small business banking. After joining the bank in 2006 to provide strategic support on special retail initiatives, she quickly became head of retail banking for more than 1,200 financial centers in 12 states. Dee was later named president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank Central and North Florida, a role that was ultimately expanded to include the bank’s MidSouth region.

Reflecting on her college days, Dee credits the university’s stellar accounting, strategies and business writing curriculum with preparing her for success. But for her, it was Stetson’s emphasis on personal relationships and core values that truly separated it from other institutions of higher learning.

“At Stetson, you know your professors and they know you. Without fail, faculty members are accessible and invested in their students,” she says. “Strong moral values are woven into every aspect of the education experience. Each person graduates with the drive to make a positive impact on their community.”

These values made a lasting impression on Dee, who spearheaded the development of a summer program for Orlando’s homeless children – Fifth Third Bank’s Summer of Dreams. Since 2011, the 10-week summer camp has served more than 4,000 local kids. In partnership with nonprofit and civic groups, Fifth Third provides participants with two meals a day, engaging activities, weekend food packs, school supplies and financial counseling for their parents.

“I’m proud of the fact that Fifth Third Bank’s Summer of Dreams is a public/private collaboration,” Dee says. “It shows that individuals and businesses can come together to serve the community’s needs and make a difference in people’s lives.”

Over the years, Dee found a variety of ways to put Stetson’s values into practice. After benefiting from mentoring early in her career, she tries to “pay it forward” by being a mentor to young professionals. And by following her father’s example, she maintains a balance between her roles as a business and community leader and a caring wife, mother and grandmother.

“Despite his busy schedule, my father was always there for my basketball games,” Dee says. “He always told me that you can achieve what you can dream. I believed that in my Stetson days, and I believe it today.”

by Doreen Overstreet ’02