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By Seth Shapiro

From left to right: Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International executive vice president; Nancy Hellman Bechtle, chair of the Presidio Trust Board and member of the dinner’s tribute committee; Michael Shepherd, chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of the West and Bancwest Corporation; and Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International president.

Picture Michael Shepherd

B’nai B’rith International, celebrating its 170th anniversary year, honored Michael Shepherd, the chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of the West and Bancwest Corporation, with its Distinguished Achievement Award at a dinner on May 22 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. In accepting the award, Shepherd likened Bank of the West to B’nai B’rith, noting that the good works of both entities stem from their similar origins which date back to the 19th century.

“Our Bank has a very distinguished record of achievement dating from its founding as Farmer’s National Gold Bank of San Jose in 1874,” Shephard said. “Like B’nai B’rith—and all of us in our firms and families—we draw inspiration from the examples of our forbearers, and we celebrate those who set us on the right path of supporting the growth and prosperity of our communities.”

For the past four decades, B’nai B’rith has honored corporate and community leaders dedicated to bettering their communities. Shepherd and Bank of the West—through their commitment to philanthropy, community service and leadership in promoting tolerance and diversity—were recognized by B’nai B’rith for their work.

“When looking at potential recipients for this award, it’s important that we find someone who embodies the values of B’nai B’rith—and Michael Shepherd does just that,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, who presented the award to Shepherd. “Michael sets the bar high and actively drives Bank of the West’s commitment to meeting the needs of its customers and the communities in which it does business. Under Michael’s leadership, Bank of the West galvanizes its community development loans and investments, charitable contributions and team member volunteer hours to improve the social and economic health of the neighborhoods it serves, especially those that are under-resourced.”

Shepherd believes that Bank of the West and B’nai B’rith “share that commitment to community.” Along with being regular contributors toward disaster-relief efforts, Bank of the West is also committed to improving financial literacy in “underserved and under-banked” communities, Shepherd said.

“We believe that we prosper with our communities and with our customers,” Shepherd says in an interview with B’nai B’rith Magazine. “We believe we can do good and make a good profit at the same time. We’re hardly a charitable organization, but we’re committed to making our communities prosper because we know that’s good for us, too.”

Among his proudest achievements, Shepherd cites the ability of Bank of the West to continue to be successful following the onset of the financial crisis in 2008 and the bank’s ability to help its customers through that difficult time.

“Especially at a time where bank reputations in communities in [America] and around the world have been eroded, it’s great to have a bank identified for having made contributions to its communities to help finance the dreams of small businesses or individuals,” Shepherd says, explaining the significance of receiving the Distinguished Achievement Award. “That association with an organization as prestigious and deserving of high regard as B’nai B’rith is a wonderful thing for the banking industry as well as Bank of the West.”

Being honored with the award is validating, Shepherd says. It reaffirms the values Bank of the West has been committed to and inspires the bank and its colleagues to continue down a path dedicated to community improvement.

“Michael Shepherd is an inspiring chief executive who leads by example in the worlds of business and civic responsibility,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who gave the closing remarks at the dinner. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to pay tribute to him and to Bank of the West at the 2013 Distinguished Achievement Award Dinner.”