Barret School of Banking

Here at Barret, we are dedicated to helping our banking students excel in receiving an excellent community bank educational experience to the benefit of both the student and their sponsoring community bank employer. The Paul W. Barret, Jr. School of Banking is a non-profit independent school created by and governed by a Board of Regents, whose members are executives from banks and other firms involved with the financial services industry. Our mission is to provide a world-class learning experience for the career-oriented individual in commercial banking or a related financial services industry business.

About us

A three-year program for banking professionals, Barret School of Banking offers an advanced graduate-level education. In May of each year, students are in residence and receive 45+ hours of classroom instruction from our impressive faculty members.

The Memphis School of Banking was established in 1972 as a not-for-profit institution that provides banking education for graduates and participants from more than 38 states. Our name was changed to Mid South School back then but it wasn’t until 1977 when we received our first million dollars by private donations, which opened the doors wider on behalf of students eager to learn with successful professionals who had already walked through those same doors before us. This is how Paul W Barret Jr.’s legacy lives on.

The specifics of the grant require BSB to host a lecture event each year for our banking community, and more importantly subsidize tuition which is approximately $2500 per participant. The discounted price makes it financially possible for small community banks in turn build stronger financial institutions by leveraging this opportunity with us.

The Board of Regents is a group that includes bankers from many states and serves as an advisory board to the University. They volunteer their time, without compensation except for travel-related expenses; this commitment enables them to represent employees in banking industries on behalf of advancement opportunities at Barret School’s commercial curriculum design coursework which has been reviewed annually since its inception by members appointed by The Chairman an active member approved last year following extensive planning including open forums with students who attended previous iterations about what they would like improved upon or added into future versions based off the feedback given during those discussions.

The faculty comprises outstanding business, financial, and educational leaders who are experts in their chosen fields. Each faculty member is evaluated annually, and faculty selection and review are conducted prior to each school session by a committee of Regents.

In the past few years, the School has created career-track programs in Ag Lending, Commercial Lending, Technology, HR Management, Bank Profitability, Bank Senior Management, Director Training, and Compliance.

Meet the
Barret Staff

Chris Kelley, Executive Director – Mr. Kelley is the Executive Director & President of the Barret School of Banking since 2003.  He is a graduate of the Barret Class of 2000, and served as the Alumni Association President. Chris was a Board member prior to becoming the Executive Director. He began his banking career in 1995 in a management trainee position with National Bank of Commerce in Memphis.  His final role was Senior VP in Branch Administration. Prior to starting his banking career, Chris played professional baseball for the Texas Rangers. Chris has an undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Tennessee, where he played baseball, and received his MBA from Christian Brothers University. He was born and raised in Andalusia, Alabama, and moved to Memphis in 1995. He is married with two children. Chris has served for a number of civic organizations in the Memphis area, including board member of Leadership Memphis and the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.  He has served on the PTA of his childrens’ schools for more than 10 years. He has been a volunteer youth sports coach for the past 15 years.

Ashley Gordon, Registrar and Communications Director – Ashley has been with Barret since 2017. She graduated from the University of Memphis in 2003 with a degree in Sports Management/ Marketing. Before working at the Barret School of Banking, Ashley served as the Athletic Director at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN. Ashley started out at Barret as the registrar and recently took on the role of communications director.  You will most likely find Ashley in the gym with a basketball in her hand watching a game, coaching a team, or just shooting around. She loves the outdoors, playing with her two boys, or cheering on the Memphis Tigers.

Byron Earnheart, Programming Director – Byron Earnheart is the Programming Director for the Barret School of Banking and the host of the “Main Street Banking” podcast…the #1 rated community banking podcast on Apple. He has over 20 years experience in the financial services industry; 11 of which have been in banking in various roles from teller work to branch management. He spends his time playing guitar and singing in Delta Heart (the “house band of the Mississippi Delta”), song writing, cooking, reading, and enduring the University of Tennessee Volunteers athletic seasons. He is married to his wife Kelly of 13 years and has two children, John Aubrey (11) and Mary Laura (8). To hear some of Byron’s original music, just listen to any of Barret’s webinars or check out his artist page here. Feel free to connect with Byron on any of his social media accounts or by email at

Barret Lecture Speaker Series

Daymond John

Barret’s featured Lecture Speaker 2019

Daymond John with Barret School of Banking President, Chris Kelley on May 23, 2019

Past Barret Lecture Speakers

Board of Regents

Adrian Breen
The Bank of Missouri
Perryville, MO

Shane Clayton
First Choice Bank
Pontotoc, MS

Larry Coggin
N. MS President
Renasant Bank
Tupelo, MS

Tim Compton
Traditions Bank
Cullman, AL

Boris Dover
First Community Bank
Batesville, AR

Byron Earnheart
Programming Director
Barret School of Banking
Memphis, TN

Katya Farmer
2018 Class Representative
Project Manager/Product Devel.
Arvest Bank
Lowell, AR

Dave Finnerty
2021 Class Representative
Guilford Savings Bank
Guilford, CT

Lisa Foley
Executive Vice President
Pinnacle Financial Partners
Memphis, TN

Jeffrey C. Gerrish
Attorney and Consultant
Gerrish Smith Tuck, PC
Memphis, TN
Ashley Gordon
Registrar/Communications Director
Barret School of Banking
Memphis, TN

Jim S. Gowen, Jr.
Merchants & Planters Bank
Newport, AR

Eric Hallman
NE Independent Community Bankers
Lincoln, NE

Steve Handke
First Option Bank
Horton, KS

Barry Haugen
Independent Community Bankers
of North Dakota
Bismark, ND

David E. Hayes
Security Bank
Dyersburg, TN

Gene Henson
President – Memphis/
North Mississippi Region
Trustmark National Bank
Memphis, TN

Robert Herrera
Market President
First Western Bank
Booneville, AR

Michael B. Hobbs
Community Bank President
FM Bank
Dexter, MO

Christopher M. Kelley
Executive Director
Barret School of Banking
Memphis, TN
Danny Kelly
The HomeTown Bank of Alabama
Oneonta, AL

Lindsay LaNore
Group Executive Vice President
Community Banker University
Sauk Centre, MN

Sam P. McClatchy, Jr.
Unity Bank
Holly Springs, MS

John McNair
Community Bankers of GA
Atlanta, GA

Shawn Mitchell
Community Bankers Assn. of Kansas
Topeka, KS

Jennifer Nunley
Executive Vice President/COO
Security Bank
Dyersburg, TN

Chris Padgett
Executive Director
Arkansas Community Bankers
Little Rock, AR

Robert L. Palmer
Community Bankers Assn. of Ohio
Columbus, OH

James L. Reber
ICBA Securities
Memphis, TN

Jeanie Rittenberry
First Bank
Nashville, TN

Matthew Ruge
Executive Director
Missouri Independent Bankers Assn.
Liberty, MO

Douglas Scarboro
SVP/Regional Executive
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Memphis Branch
Memphis, TN

Ray Skinner
Town & Country Bank
Rolla, MO

Milton B. Smith
First National Bank
Walnut Ridge, AR

Jim Strickland
2017 Class Representative
SVP/Market Leader
Greensboro, GA

Justin St. Pierre
Peoples Bank & Trust Co.
Troy, MO

Michael Tierney
Community Bankers of MI
Auburn Hills, MI

Donna Tanner
Executive Director
Community Bankers of West Virginia
Beckley, WV

Brian Walhood
President/Community Banking
Memphis, TN

Whitney Watson
2019 Class Representative
Sales Manager
Arvest Bank
Little Rock, AR

John Witkowski
Independent Bankers Association of New York State
Albany, New York

Steve Yeakel
Virginia Association of
Community Banks
Richmond, VA

Regents Emeriti:

M. E. Bond
Germantown, TN

Claudia L. Bratcher
Fort Smith, AR

David Crader
The Bank of Missouri
Perryville, MO

Aubrey Earnheart
Cordova, TN

Reg Germany
Germantown, TN

Carolyn E. (Betsy) Flynn
Benton, KY

Jim S. Gowen, Sr.
Merchants & Planters Bank
Newport, AR

John T. Hampton
First Western Bank
Booneville, AR

Forrest N. Jenkins
Marion, AR

William H. Lovell III
Cordova, TN

Tom Martin
Olive Branch, MS

Joe Miles
Mountain Home, AR

Buddy R. Montgomery
First Choice Bank
Pontotoc, MS

Frank W. Oldham, Jr.
Boerne, TX

Kenneth W. Plunk
Germantown, TN

Ray Smith
Tupelo, MS

Claude H. Springfield III
Tupelo, MS

David W. Thompson
Troy, MO

Rebecca Thomas
Memphis, TN

Richard G. Trammell
Hot Springs, AR

Tom A. Wright
Destin, FL

Barret School of Banking is endorsed by:


Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA)

The Independent Community Bankers of America®, the nation’s voice for more than 6,000 community banks of all sizes and charter types, is dedicated exclusively to representing the interests of the community banking industry and its membership through effective advocacy, best-in-class education and high-quality products and services. Visit website

Community Banker University

Community Banker University® (powered by ICBA) is a modernized educational platform that provides community bankers with premier and industry-specific professional development and educational opportunities for all stages of their careers. Visit website

Arkansas Community Bankers

The Arkansas Community Bankers Association is committed to preserving and promoting community banks, their franchise values and the communities they serve. Visit website

Arkansas Bankers Association

The Arkansas Bankers Association will promote the banking industry, function as the government relations liaison, offer educational opportunities and promote services to its membership. Visit website

Community Bankers Association of Georgia

The mission of the CBA is to promote the preservation and continued development of locally, independently-owned community banks in Georgia and the philosophy of hometown banking through unified efforts of its membership and staff. Visit website

Indiana Bankers Association

Our mission is to advocate for and sustain an environment in which banks can succeed. Visit website

Community Bankers Association of Kansas

Collectively creating value for Kansas community banks through advocacy, education, and services for the benefit of their customers and the communities they serve. Visit website

Missouri Independent Bankers Association

The Missouri Independent Bankers Association is an organization of small and medium-sized banks, locally owned, operated and dedicated to meeting the financial needs of their communities. Visit website

Community Bankers Association of Ohio

Community Bankers Association of Ohio is organized to establish and maintain an informed network of independent community banks in the state of Ohio that will have the influence and commitment to effectively serve, protect and promote the interests of its members. Visit website

Community Bankers Association of West Virginia

Our mission is to represent the interests of banks in West Virginia. Visit website

ICBA Securities

We provide community bankers with quality investment products, services and education at competitive prices.
Visit website

Affiliated Organizations: 

Christian Brothers University (CBU)
The Barret School of Banking offices are located on campus. CBU offers baccalaureate programs and specialized graduate programs. Barret School of Banking graduates are eligible for six hours of graduate credit upon admission to the MBA program at CBU.

Vining Sparks
Vining Sparks is nationally recognized as a leading broker/dealer in serving the investment needs of institutional investors.

Sawyers & Jacobs LLC
.Leaders in innovation, risk management, cybersecurity, and technology, with a mission of “Making Banks Better”.

Gerrish McCreary Smith
Gerrish McCreary Smith Consultants LLC and Gerrish McCreary Smith, PC, Attorneys offer business consulting, financial advisory and legal services to community banks and thrifts nationwide.

Reynolds Bone & Griesbeck
Reynolds, Bone & Griesbeck specializes in accounting, tax and advisory services for financial institutions.

National Registry of CPE Sponsors
Barret School of Banking is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), as a sponsor of continuing professional education on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors.

DD & F Consulting Group
DD&F Consulting Group provides comprehensive bank consulting services to the financial services industry nationwide.

F & H Solutions Group
We work with clients to strategize, analyze, execute and implement effective, customized solutions based on your organization’s specific needs.

Holtmeyer & Monson
We cover every stage involved in SBA Lending— from loan packaging and closing, to securitization and sale, through portfolio servicing.

In-Synk Consulting
We bring business leaders the clear perspective and proven tools they need to successfully align strategies, actions and goals.

Risk Management Association (RMA) – Memphis Chapter
RMA is a not-for-profit, member-driven professional association, whose sole purpose is to advance the use of sound risk principles in the financial services industry.

Achieving Unlimited
We show you how to differentiate your business and how to turn this differentiation into exceptional performance and bottom-line profits.

Arkansas State University – MBA Program
Barret School of Banking graduates are eligible for six hours of graduate credit upon admission to the MBA program at Arkansas State.

Retail Management Resources, Inc.
RMR, Inc. is a sales, marketing and management resource company that focuses on providing your company with management, consulting and training resources that will help you build a high performance team.

Faircloth Performance Partners
We help financial institutions create success by improving the interactions between leaders and employees and between companies and the markets they serve.

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