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Alumnus Steve Carter, president of Knight Hawk Coal
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Alumna Luanne Cundiff, president and CEO of First State Bank
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WIU Recognizes Accounting and Finance Alumni at Outstanding Alumni Luncheon

April 24, 2019

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MACOMB, IL - - The Western Illinois University Department of Accounting and Finance will recognize two alumni, Steve Carter and Luanne Cundiff, at the Outstanding Alumni Luncheon Thursday, April 25.

Carter, president at Knight Hawk Coal in St. Louis, MO, and Cundiff, president and CEO at First State Bank in St. Charles, MO, will speak to students at 11 a.m. in Stipes Hall 121. The presentation is open free to the public. Carter and Cundriff will be recognized at a luncheon at 12:30 p.m., which is by invite only.

When Carter announced that he was creating a coal mining company in southern Illinois, the reaction was a mix of hope and skepticism. At the time, Illinois' mining industry had all but been gutted with employment dropping 64 percent in the 1990s. When he created Knight Hawk Coal, Carter played an important role in the revitalization of the Illinois coal industry.

Through his leadership, he has built Knight Hawk Coal from a fledgling operation with one mine and 17 employees to a successful company with six mines and nearly 400 employees.

Carter said that he believes a collaborative culture will promote innovative thinking, which will be the key to the company's future success. He invites his employees to share their views on various aspects of the business. He said the company logo is "Capture the Energy."

Because of the company's family roots, Knight Hawk's employees have a strong sense of responsibility to the community. The Carters, like the majority of their employees, live in towns and neighborhoods where they mine. Carter also prides himself on hiring extended family members of employees, which, along with the entrepreneurial spirit, provides a family atmosphere throughout the workplace and the community and empowers everyone involved with Knight Hawk to contribute to the surrounding communities.

Under Cundiff's leadership, First State Bank has more than doubled net income over the last eight years, growing from $1.6 million in 2010 to $4.1 million in 2017. In addition, loan balances have increased by 99.2 percent. The bank has expanded to five banking centers and six mortgage locations in three states.

At Western, Cundiff was majoring in math and accounting when she took a banking class. It was offered as part of a new curriculum WIU had initiated under the guidance of a former Boatmen's Bank executive.

"I clicked with the professor and the curriculum," Cundiff said. "I changed my emphasis to banking."

After graduation, Cundiff worked for the Federal Reserve as a regulator, where she had the opportunity to see a lot of different banks. She grew up in Princeville, IL, a small agriculture community and had plans of working for a community bank eventually. Cundiff was impressed with the 150-year-old First State Bank.

Cundiff started as regulatory liaison with First State Bank in 1996. She was named president in 2013 and took on the added role of CEO in 2016.

Cundiff is also very active in the community. For the bank's 150th anniversary celebration last year, she and her board made the decision to commit 150 hours of service to the community, allowing employees to take time off when necessary. First State Bank exceeded the goal with 2,481 volunteer hours—more than 310 days—with 42 local nonprofits.

Cundiff has been recognized for her service to the community and has been named "Best of St. Charles" volunteer for the last two years. She is the immediate past chair and current board member of the St. Charles County Workforce Development Board, as well as the Economic Development Center of St. Charles County. Cundiff also is vice chair of the five-year steering committee for St. Charles County, serves on the boards of the Missouri Bankers Association and Five Acres Animal Shelter, and has been active on other boards and committees, including the Community and Children's Resource Board of St. Charles County and the Barnes-Jewish St. Peters & Progress West Foundation Board.

Posted By: Alisha Looney (
Office of University Communications & Marketing