Michael E. Schrage, president and CEO of Centier Bank, celebrated his 40th corporate anniversary on September 11, 2012. In honor of his 40 years of service, Centier associates gathered for a welcoming reception on Tuesday morning to celebrate the years of dedication that Schrage has devoted to Indiana’s largest privately-owned bank. Schrage is the fourth generation of his family to own and manage Centier Bank, independently operated since 1895.
During his four decades of service, Schrage has committed his life to public service as a visionary business leader, selfless humanitarian, and community servant. A strong advocate for community preservation and enrichment, he has inspired a legacy of service as the premier bank of choice in Northern Indiana.
Schrage is the 4th generation of his family to serve as president, CEO, and chairman of the board. His great-grandfather, Henry Schrage, founded the Bank of Whiting in 1895 and was instrumental in building the city by the lake. In addition to opening the city’s first general store and bank, Henry Schrage served as Whiting’s first postmaster and township trustee. His son, Walter Schrage Sr., went on to follow his father’s footsteps to serve as bank president as well as Mayor of Whiting for four consecutive terms (1914-1930). Walter Schrage Jr., more affectionately known as “Wally”, was the third generation of family ownership. Under his leadership, the bank was renamed “First Bank of Whiting,” and opened its first five remote locations in Highland, Dyer, Schererville, Merrillville, and Griffith.
Mike Schrage’s banking career began in 1972, when he graduated college and joined his family’s bank as a loan and investment officer. A competitive athlete throughout high school and college, Schrage incorporated his coaching skills with his professional leadership.
“When I first started my career, I wanted to become a professional athletic coach,” stated Schrage. “As a young boy, I dreamed about leading a winning team to victory. I may not have become a professional coach, but I certainly have made a career of leading a winning team.”
A firm believer in self-development, innovation, and volunteerism, Schrage encourages those around him to attain a healthy work/life balance. His value-based work ethic includes a promise to area communities to maintain service built on friendship, loyalty, caring, respect, and integrity. This work ethic has fostered an award-winning work environment: Centier Bank has been named among the state of Indiana’s Best Places to Work for the past six years.
After working in commercial lending and later as an assistant branch manager, Schrage became bank president and set forth plans to expand into new markets. In 1982, the same year that he was named chairman of the board, Schrage purchased First National Bank of Crown Point. This purchase was instrumental in the expansion of his family bank and by the end of the decade, Schrage expanded services into Porter County.
“We have experienced steady growth since the mid-80’s. Along the way, we’ve added a number of trusted business leaders to our board of directors and have developed long-lasting relationships with communities across the state of Indiana,” stated Schrage.
Today, Centier Bank includes 45 retail locations in Lake, Porter, La Porte, Marshall, and Tippecanoe Counties, with loan production offices in Fort Wayne, Mishawaka, and Carmel, Indiana. As a business owner, Mike Schrage has invested in the regional economy by establishing banking centers in more than 26 Indiana communities, and in 2008 opened a corporate headquarters in Merrillville, Indiana.
Schrage has set a precedent for other regional leaders and family-owned establishments to stimulate financial education and outreach. In 2005, he formally introduced Centier’s Financial Literacy program. Since then, his programs have evolved to include both student and adult financial literacy education. As a financial literacy advocate, Schrage has championed many educational efforts, addressing the need for NWI residents to understand personal finances and financial management. He was the first bank president in Indiana to join the Federal Deposit Insurance Company’s Alliance for Economic Inclusion in NWI and, as a result, has developed low-cost checking and savings accounts to address the needs of unbanked communities in the local area.
Schrage also honors his family legacy with a personal commitment to local youth through the Centier Bank Schrage Family Scholarship Foundation. Established in 1995, this scholarship affirms Schrage’s encouragement of local students pursuing higher education. To date, the scholarship has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to area students.
As a steward for community leadership, Schrage was instrumental in the leadership of the Northwest Indiana Symphony, St. Jude House, American Red Cross, YMCA, and the Calumet Council Boy Scouts. He was corporate sponsorship chair and co-chair of the American Heart Association Heart of Gold Ball in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He belongs to the Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board, is a respected contributor to the Samaritan Counseling Center, and is a loyal contributor to the United Way.
As the fourth-generation of family commitment to business and civic leadership, Schrage inherited and continues his great-grandfather’s vision for building strong communities in Northern Indiana.
“I continue to work because I love the job, I love the people,” Schrage stated as he addressed associates Tuesday morning. “When you have a passion for your work, you don’t want to leave it or move away from family. Here’s to 10 more years!”