John Clevenger talks about plans for the new Commerce bank building in the Waterfront development in 2005. Clevenger, an executive with Commerce Bank in Wichita, died Saturday at the age of 49. Wichita Eagle File photo
John Clevenger talks about plans for the new Commerce bank building in the Waterfront development in 2005. Clevenger, an executive with Commerce Bank in Wichita, died Saturday at the age of 49. Wichita Eagle File photo

Banking

Banker Clevenger remembered as family man, Wichita ambassador

The Wichita Eagle

July 24, 2017 06:52 PM

UPDATED July 25, 2017 12:52 PM

To his co-workers and friends, John Clevenger will be remembered as a beloved leader, avid golfer and devoted family man.

Clevenger, an executive with Commerce Bank in Wichita, died Saturday at the age of 49.

“John was a great person and we’re all deeply saddened by his untimely death,” said Marilyn Pauly, the bank’s Wichita market vice chairwoman. “His management team loved working for him. He’s really going to be missed – it’s a great loss.”

Pauly, who will assume the leadership role for the bank in Wichita, said Clevenger was known as a kind man who cared deeply about his family and his community. He leaves behind a wife, Kristen, and three children.

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A fifth-generation banker, he was just 29 when he was named president of the bank in 1997. In 1999, Clevenger was named chief executive of the bank’s Wichita operation.

Clevenger was known as an avid golfer, Pauly said, and was into cycling and hunting. A large man at 6-foot-4, Clevenger played football while in college at Princeton and was a University of Kansas Jayhawks fan.

He was also a fan of the rock band Better Than Ezra, having seen the group live many times over the years, according to his Twitter account.

“On Friday afternoon, he poked his head into a meeting we were having at about 5 o’clock,” Pauly said. “He asked if he needed to be in the meeting and I said no. He then said he was going to hit some golf balls. That’s the last time I talked to John.”

Brad Elliott, chairman and CEO of Equity Bank, was one of Clevenger’s golfing buddies. The two were close friends for 20 years, Elliott said.

“John made me start cycling at one point in my life,” Elliott said. “We played golf together. We spent a lot of time together with our kids.”

Elliott said Clevenger was an avid cyclist, even riding in the Dirty Kanza 200-mile Flint Hills endurance race a few years ago.

“He was a constant cyclist, meaning he was always riding,” Elliott said. “But he was also John the volunteer.”

He said Clevenger coached boys and girls basketball at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School — he was a parish member at St. Thomas Aquinas — and served on numerous nonprofit boards, including Newman University, United Way of the Plains, Catholic Charities and Exploration Place.

“I can’t think of someone who’s impacted the community more than John has,” Elliott said. “His desired excellence for everything he touched carried through to every aspect of his life.”

In a statement sent Monday, David Kemper, CEO of Commerce Bank and its holding company, referred to Clevenger as the “consummate professional” as a banker.

“John provided us with smart and focused leadership for over 20 years in the Wichita market and, more recently, throughout Kansas,” Kemper said. “John was a passionate supporter of the Wichita community and his passing is a great loss for all of us.”

While he was known for the many hats he liked to wear, Pauly said Clevenger was first and foremost a family man.

“His family and his children, they were the love of his life,” Pauly said. “His family and his faith were always very important to him. It’s a difficult time for Kristen and their children, but they are receiving a lot of support.”

John Clevenger’s grandfather, Charles, was president of Fourth Financial Bank in Wichita before moving to Topeka, where he ran the First National Bank. Thomas Clevenger, Charles’ son and John’s father, later took over management of First National Bank.

Though he was an English major in college, John Clevenger ended up following his father and grandfather’s footsteps into the banking industry.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

Bryan Horwath: 316-269-6708, @bryan_horwath

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark