"I spent 28 years with Kraft Foods. I was lucky to sign on with such a wonderful company," says Greg Banks, who was VP of customer business operations for the U.S. Kraft paid for him to get an MBA at George Washington University. Nevertheless, in his peak earning years, Banks decided he needed a change. "Some of my friends thought I was a little crazy to walk away from so much money," Banks says. A collegiate wrestler, he always wanted to teach and coach.
Quitting a Great Job, Inventing a Great Life
Banks left Kraft and he and his wife moved full-time to an old dairy farm in northeastern Pennsylvania that they had used it as a getaway. He put his retirement money from Kraft into a trust that would pay for future generations of his family to go to college. "No one will ever have to worry about paying for school. I grew up on a chicken farm and my family was poor. I got into law school, but I couldn't go because we didn't have the money."
The couple lives on other savings while Banks pursues a doctorate in business at Walden University, an online school, teaches at Lackawanna University and coaches wrestling at the University of Scranton. He gives back his salary, funding a program for entrepreneurs at Lackawanna. "I have the greatest job in the world, a wonderful family and I'm able to give back to support programs I believe in," Banks says.
At 50, Back To College
"The doctoral program at Walden University has made me a better teacher," Banks says. He updated his 1980s-era degree with five core courses then launched into his graduate work. He's writing his dissertation now, interviewing local business people about decisions they're making in the wake of an economic boom kicked off by the discovery of the Marcellus Shale Formation.
His advice to anyone else going back to school at midlife: "You can't do it on a whim. It requires tremendous commitment. It's tough when you're getting four hours sleep and you have a paper due," Banks says. He laughs and says, "You have to take criticism from professors who are a lot younger than you are."
Between teaching and learning, Banks says, "I'm having the time of my life. You know that quote that if you love what you're doing you'll never have to work a day in your life. That's me. In high school and college, a couple of teachers opened my eyes to the world and made a huge difference in my life. Now I'm in a role where I can do that too. It's wonderful."