The Horace and Sara Dunagan Chair of Excellence in Banking at The University of Tennessee at Martin was established in 1988 with a financial gift from the family of Mr. Horace Dunagan. The memorial contribution from his wife, Ms. Sara Dunagan and family after the death of Mr. Dunagan, served as the impetus to other organizations and the UT System to support and maintain the Chair of Excellence. Mr. Dunagan, who attended UT Junior College in Martin and graduated from UT Knoxville went on to have a successful banking career in Tennessee and Missouri that spanned almost 40 years.
Bankers in the West Tennessee region have been active supporters of UT Martin and with their support have helped to establish a $125,000 West Tennessee Banking Library Endowment. The Chair of Excellence in Banking provides an effective interaction between the University and the banking community. The chair holder serves as a facilitator to assist regional banks as they address industry-wide issues.
John Clark, former president and CEO of First State Bank, is the interim director of the Horace and Sara Dunagan Chair of Excellence in Banking at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Clark, originally of Jackson, graduated from UT Martin in 1975 with a master’s degree in education. He began working with the Bank of Sharon in 1976 and rose to be president and CEO of the bank and board of directors by 1981. He established a one-bank holding company – Sharon Bancshares – in 1986 and grew to include four locations: The Bank of Sharon, City State Bank, Weakley County Bank and First State Bank. Clark consolidated the four bank locations under the First State Bank name in 2003 and remained president and CEO until an official merger with Simmons Bank in 2015. During his time with First State Bank, Clark helped the company grow to oversee two billion dollars in assets and see extensive internal growth across Tennessee. He also served on the Tennessee Bankers Association board of directors and was awarded the Banking in Excellence Award by the Tennessee Bankers Association in 2008.
The Dunagan Chair of Excellence in Banking at UT Martin is currently the host for the Mid-South Agricultural Finance Conference, which is in its 16th year of existence. Additionally, the Gil Parker Chair of Excellence in Food and Fiber assists the Dunagan Chair of Excellence in co-sponsoring the Mid-South School of Advanced Agricultural Lending, which is in its 6th year of existence.