A group of North Carolina bank directors could soon be heading back to college.

State Banking Commissioner Hal D. Lingerfelt, along with the North Carolina Bankers Association, is putting the finishing touches on a plan to establish a state school for bank directors.

Tentatively named North Carolina Directors College, the school could be operating as early as next month on the campuses of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and Appalachian State University in Boone. Its mission, said Mr. Lingerfelt, is to keep directors current on key banking issues and to help them understand their responsibilities to their banks and communities.

"In North Carolina, we have a lot of start-up banks, and many directors are first-time directors," said Mr. Lingerfelt. "We want to help them do a good job."

The college is being modeled after the Oregon Directors College, the only other school of its kind in the country.

Founded in 1993, the college is administered by the Oregon Division of Finance, the Oregon Bankers Association, and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University in Salem. Enrollment is limited to 30 bank directors per six-month session. Classes are taught by bankers, attorneys, fellow directors, examiners, and even college professors.

"We're not teaching directors how to run a bank," said Ann Wright, manager of the college for the Oregon Bankers Association. "We're teaching them what their responsibilities are so they can ask intelligent questions."

Director education is nothing new. Both national and state banking associations offer director training and regularly stage directors-only conferences.

North Carolina's directors college would go beyond that, however. Its classes are to run for a full day every month for six months, and students are to be assigned homework.

"It's difficult to cover more than a couple of things at a conference because people can only absorb so much at a sitting," said Mr. Lingerfelt. He added that a university setting should be more conducive to learning than a conference.

Mr. Lingerfelt is sending letters to hundreds of state bank directors, alerting them to the state's plan to begin classes in January. He is also working closely with the state bankers association and the Atlanta office of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in drawing up a curriculum.

Oregon's program, held on Willamette's campus one Friday a month from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., is aimed chiefly at outside directors. The next session begins Jan. 30 and will include courses such as: the role of outside director, the dual banking system, executive compensation, technology in banking, ethics, and asset-liability management.

Russell F. Tromley, a director at Portland's Bank of the Northwest and a 1997 Oregon Directors College graduate, called his state's program "an absolute must for directors, particularly those involved with community banks."

The president of Tromley Industrial Holdings in Tualatin, Ore., Mr. Tromley had never been a bank director before Bank of the Northwest was opened in October.

"I learned how important the role of the director is to the shareholders and to the community," he said. "It kind of put everything in perspective."

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