Humans of the Hilltop: William Funkhouser

William Funkhouser began teaching at Bradley in 2003. Photo via William Funkhouser
William Funkhouser began teaching at Bradley in 2003.
Photo via William Funkhouser

Ive never applied for a job in my life, William Funkhouser, a finance and quantitative methods executive in residence, said.

These are strong words from someone who has held positions people wait a lifetime for: home equity manager, vice president senior credit officer, president city executive the list continues.

Like many of the accomplishments in his life, Funkhousers career path was spontaneous.

I really didn’t plan out my career. Sometimes I think it was all by accident, Funkhouser said. My wife [Kathy] and I got married when we were 20. I had just completed my sophomore year at Millikin University. Kathy got a full-time job at a bank in Decatur, and shortly thereafter, the bank offered me a part-time job in the consumer credit department.

Unbeknownst to Funkhouser, this was an opportunity to turn the part-time job into an ideal corporate ascension that would eventually elevate him to executive positions he previously could not fathom.

He credits both the help of his wife and a few essential ideas to helping him accumulate success in his career in banking over the years.

I live by three rules in my life, Funkhouser said. The first is to always presume innocence. Make sure you know the facts, the circumstance and the motivations before you make a judgement. The second is ethics and integrity are important The third: Once you have an objective, everything else is just details. What that means is there are lots of ways to achieve your goals, [but] establishing the goals is the hard part.

By following his list of rules, Funkhouser said he was soon able to become hired full-time after graduating from Millikin University. It was because of these values he received a full-time offer, according to his boss at the time, Phil Weiss.

With strong appraisal of Funkhousers work ethic, Weiss said he knew Funkhouser would accomplish many important goals in his lifetime from early on in his career.

[I could tell] he had a strong character and was a fearless guy, Weiss said. He was very committed to what he was doing. He was goal-oriented and tackled [every task] the same way. I know he started off working part-time while he attended Millikin University doing collection work, which is usually a task for the beginners, but he worked with enthusiasm. At the time I held an executive position, and it was noticeable that [Funkhouser] was advancing quickly I knew he would [eventually] have a top position, and it was obvious he had what it took to excel in nearly anything he wanted. Now, it seems Bradley [is what motivates him].

Funkhousers enthusiasm for building strong relationships is evident to Weiss who said their work relationship has transformed into a friendship over the years.

 

Similar to his roots in the banking industry, Funkhousers start at teaching occurred by mere chance, which began during the kickoff of his banking career.

My first opportunity in teaching was part-time at a community college, teaching economics courses, Funkhouser said. I wanted to do more and put aside a little more cash toward a young family.

Funkhousers second encounter with teaching came in 2002 when he had lunch with Phil Horvath, who is currently a professor of finance at Bradley and was at the time of meeting Funkhouser, the department chair of finance and quantitative methods.

Horvath said Funkhouser having tremendous experience in the banking industry, previous teaching experience and a notoriety for exemplary character molded a strong desire for Funkhouser to be on Bradleys campus. He added that those traits remain apparent today.

[Professor Funkhouser is] truly a valuable asset to our students, the finance and quantitative methods department, the Foster College of Business and the University [as a whole], Horvath said. His wealth of banking and financial knowledge from practice and leadership at the executive level enhance his students and colleagues experience and understanding. [He] brings a great deal to the classroom and the department.

Funkhouser eventually became an official full-time faculty member as an executive resident in 2005.

I had just left the banking industry after 25 years. I wanted a new challenge, Funkhouser said. Having taught at a community college in the past, real world experience in banking and a CPA certification, the transition into full-time teaching at Bradley worked out well.

Funkhouser said being a professor at Bradley has been a gratifying experience where he is able to give back to Peorias community.

Interaction with students is the most rewarding part of teaching at Bradley, Funkhouser said. I spend more time with students outside of the classroom than inside.I’m always providing career guidance to students, prepping students for job interviews, answering questions about current events I welcome those opportunities.I have several students that have graduated, [and] I maintain contact [with them].I had a lot of great mentors throughout my career. This is time to pay it forward.

Funkhouser said he makes an effort to maintain strong interaction with his students, which is not only shown through his mentoring but also through inviting his students to attend social events, such as home-cooked dinners over the holidays.

I formerly served as the faculty advisor for FMA [Financial Management Association], and in that capacity, Kathy and I would host students at our home every December for a holiday party and every May for a cookout, Funkhouser said. You have to remember that, in addition to being a faculty member, I’m also a dad.