During his commencement address on Thursday afternoon, Polk State alumnus and local bank president Greg Littleton encouraged the College’s newest graduates to pursue their life’s passions and to never stop dreaming.
Littleton, a 1987 Polk State graduate and president and CEO of Citizens Bank & Trust, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award during the College’s 107th Commencement ceremony at the Health Center on the campus of Polk State Winter Haven.
During his speech to assembled candidates for graduation and their friends and family, Littleton expressed his gratitude to Polk State.
“There is no way to measure the impact it has had on me and certainly no way to measure the good it has done for our community. The graduates who have passed through this institution have educated us, protected and served us, and helped to heal us,” he said.
Littleton also thanked his parents for providing him with the opportunity to receive higher education.
“While we weren’t rich, I always had everything I needed and a lot of what I wanted, and I was able to leave school without debt. I will forever be grateful for their sacrifice and I know that I was indeed fortunate,” he said.
After earning his Associate of Arts degree from Polk State, Littleton earned degrees from Freed-Hardeman University and the Banking School at Louisiana State University.
Littleton recalled his beginnings in the banking business, working as a collector for Barnett Bank making $13,500 annually. He landed the job with the help of longtime family friend and banker Raymond Epperson, and it was Littleton’s first step in following the example of his older brother, also a banker.
Littleton stayed with Barnett for eight years, moving on to positions as a loan officer and branch manager, before joining Citizens Bank in 1997 to open a new branch in Lake Wales. Two years later he was named executive vice president, and in 2001, at age 34, he became its president. Under his leadership, Citizens Bank acquired American Bank & Trust in 2004 and has grown to encompass $450 million in assets.
Littleton is a member of Polk State’s District Board of Trustees. He is also chairman of the Central Florida Development Council, a board member of the United Way of Central Florida, treasurer of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and treasurer of the Polk Museum of Art Board. He is immediate past chair of Polk Vision, a past chair of the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce and EPC 100, and a past board member of the Lake Wales Arts Council. He also recently concluded his term on the Florida Bankers Association Board.
He is married to his wife, Julie, and has two daughters, Currie Ann and Anna Beth; Currie Ann is a student at Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School.
In concluding his remarks, Littleton offered his advice to Polk State’s newest graduating class.
“It’s an old saying, but it’s true: find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Life is short, time is precious, and you’ll spend much more of your waking hours at your life’s work than you do at home. Be sure you’re doing something you enjoy, something that gives you satisfaction in life,” he said.
“You may look at me and say, ‘you’re a banker, what kind of difference can you make?’” Littleton added. “When I think about the power that our bank has, the number of college educations, adoptions, first homes and, yes, even new cars and vacations it has made possible, it makes me proud.”
He ended by encouraging graduates to never stop dreaming: “You can have anything you want out of life, and the sky is the limit.”
Approximately 1,063 students qualified to march during Thursday’s ceremony, including recipients of Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Applied Science and Bachelor of Applied Science, as well as the first completers of the College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.