He makes impact behind the scenes

January 01, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

How do you coax someone to help raise well over $1 million for charity?

This is how Art Callaham remembers the call from James G. Pierné, the chairman of a previous United Way campaign, asking Callaham to be the next chairman:

"He said, 'I think you ought to take this job,'" Callaham remembered.

That was it.

"One of the things about Jim Pierné," Callaham continued, "is he's extremely direct."

Callaham accepted the fund-raising chairmanship. Others might have, too - because of who made the request.

"If he calls you, you don't doubt," said Thomas Newcomer, president and co-owner of R. Bruce Carson Jewelers in Hagerstown's Public Square. "You completely trust his motive. He has your attention."


Friends and colleagues describe Pierné, The Herald-Mail's 2003 Person of the Year, in a number of ways:

Direct, business-like, driven.

Warm, devoted, humble.

Patron of the arts, man of the community.

"He's a strong advocate for our city and county," said Charles Sekula, who owns the Schmankerl Stube restaurant in Hagerstown.

"He is a high-energy person, very organized and focused," said J. Emmet Burke, a psychologist at Brook Lane Health Services in Hagerstown. "He gets things done."

"You can rest assured that if you ask him to do it, he'll do it the way you'd do it yourself," said William J. Reuter, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Susquehanna Bancshares Inc.

Susquehanna Bancshares is the parent company of Farmers & Merchants Bank and Trust in Hagerstown.

Reuter previously was F&M's chairman, president and chief executive officer.

He said he recruited Pierné - who he met when they got into banking together in Baltimore - "specifically to replace me as president."

Pierné joined F&M in 1993 as senior vice president for retail banking. He helped the company grow by acquiring other bank branches and by starting new branches.

Six years later, when Reuter left, Pierné became president and chief executive officer. He became chairman, too, a year later.

Pierné has a wonderful leadership style: humble and quiet, but forceful, Reuter said. "He believes actions speak louder than words. ... He's totally comfortable with who he is."

Community service

Pierné's list of professional and community involvements is long. He has served on the boards of directors of the Maryland Bankers Association, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the Maryland Banking School.

Locally, he's been on the boards of directors of San Mar Children's Home, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the Hagerstown YMCA, the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, United Way of Washington County and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

"I nominated him for this because he has probably more than any single person in the last several years been involved as a volunteer in this city," Newcomer said.

Pierné was co-chair of a committee that raised $5.4 million to build a new YMCA branch.

Newcomer said it's challenging to simultaneously supervise and get involved in a civic project and make the public feel connected to it, but Pierné has done that.

The YMCA building project and the Chamber of Commerce's Arts and Entertainment committee, which Pierné chaired, were two examples, Newcomer said. The chamber committee looked at transforming part of downtown Hagerstown into an Arts and Entertainment District.

Pierné said two of his dearest causes are Breast Cancer Awareness of the Cumberland Valley and the annual March of Dimes walk.

When Pierné was the United Way fund drive chairman in 1999, the campaign raised $1,665,000.

"Getting involved in the community is something we all have a responsibility to do," Pierné, 52, said.

Behind the scenes

Pierné said he's in a perfect place, professionally, to do that. F&M, as a community bank, encourages him to help however and whenever he can, he said.

"I try to pick those events or causes (through which) I can have the biggest impact on the community," he said.

If that work can be done without attracting attention, all the better.

"If you look in the dictionary under 'behind the scenes,' his picture will be in there," said Callaham, the executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee, a group of business leaders who work on community issues. Piern is a member of the Greater Hagerstown Committee.

"He doesn't need the big splash," Burke said.

True to his nature, when Pierné was told that being named Person of the Year meant a front-page feature story about him, he jokingly tried to beg off.

"Most things that are accomplished are accomplished by a lot of people," he said. "It takes groups of people, lots of people. That's characteristic of this community."

Four people nominated Pierné for Herald-Mail Person of the Year: Newcomer; Sekula; John R. Hershey Jr., a director emeritus for Ferris Baker Watts Inc., in Hagerstown; and Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library.

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