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First Bank’s Dudrey Gifts Over $12 Million to Rice County Organizations

May 25, 2018

Local organizations will benefit from significant gifts totaling more than $12 million as directed by First Bank board chairman Carl Dudrey. Dudrey passed away March 17, 2018. Sterling College will receive in excess of $7 million and the Rice County Community Foundation will receive over $5 million.

Dudrey was born in rural Rice County and had been a resident of Stafford, Kansas after marrying his wife, Bonnie, in 1981. She preceded him in death on March 20, 2014. He was a U.S. Army veteran, a farmer and rancher, and he owned Dudrey Cattle Company of St. John, Kansas. He was actively involved in many business and civic interests, serving on boards of corporations and philanthropic organizations. Dudrey was a member of the board for Kansas Ethanol and served as chairman of the board for First Bank from 1993-2018. During those 25 years, he helped see First Bank through a number of changes and advancements, including the addition of the Chase and Lyons locations and the Hutchinson loan production office.

“Carl often shared the attitude ‘Make Life Better’ and never wanted to be just average,” said First Bank President Jeff Laudermilk. “He described his success with the business philosophy of having your antennae up all the time, similar to answering when opportunity knocks. It was an active approach rather than passive and he taught his team to be in search of anything that could possibly lead to an opportunity to help somebody and do business together.”

Long-time businessman Rick Ball of Great Bend, Kansas is working to distribute the funds after Dudrey’s shares in First Bank are sold. “As the trustee appointed to handle the distributions of Mr. Dudrey’s assets, I have the key duty to work with Sterling College and the Rice County Community Foundation to establish game-changing funding for them to accomplish their mission. I will work with the leadership of First Bank to transition ownership of Carl’s shares to local people per his wishes to keep the bank in the hands of community members.”

More than $6 million of the gift is to be allocated to Sterling College’s endowment to benefit student scholarships and $1 million is to be used for construction projects within the SterlingNOW Capital Campaign. “This gift is transformational and we are so honored and grateful for the generosity of Carl and his wife Bonnie,” said Sterling College President Scott Rich. “Carl was a true servant leader who believed in the work of Sterling College and would often hand-deliver his gifts to the College. The quiet manner in which he gave this gift shows his generous nature and is another reason for my admiration of the type of man he was.”

Mike Townsend, Director of Development for the Rice County Community Foundation, said “A gift of this magnitude has the potential to make life in Rice County better for generations to come. “

“Carl’s impact on the bank was tremendous,” said Laudermilk. “The people he attracted, the level of service he strived for, the growth he created – these are lasting ways he helped ‘Make Life Better’ in the communities we serve. My story with Carl began in 1993, and little did I know the surprise ending to that story would make such a huge impact on our local communities. It is an honor to be a part of this story.”

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