Mary Beth Kurasek
Pillar Club, Busey Bank
Established in 1868 in Champaign, Illinois, Busey Bank now has 39 banking centers in central Illinois, Indianapolis and southwest Florida. In 2014, the bank had more than 1,000 Pillar Club members participate in one or more of the club’s educational seminars, trips and activities.
Born: Kankakee, Illinois
Education: Master of Arts in art
education from the University of Illinois
Employment: Kurasek began employment as a high school art teacher in the Chicago suburbs. She worked for the American Heart Association before accepting the position as the Pillar Club director in 2003.
Family: Mary Beth and her husband, Doug, have four children.
Hobbies: Kurasek loves gardening, cooking, photography and personal travel with family members.
Keeping four kids happy while exploring the Arizona desert might sound closer to a nightmare than a vacation. But the intense planning and on-site entertainment failed to unnerve Mary Beth Kurasek, director of the Busey Bank’s Pillar Club. She embraced her family vacations and, in doing so, eventually realized she had found her calling.
“I realized I loved planning all of our family’s trips,” said Kurasek. “I think that kind of sparked it. I always liked to learn new things and go to places I’ve never been.”
Now that she manages five driving-distance trips and three flying-distance tours a year for a travel club whose membership exceeds 1,000, and those family trips hardly compare to the current level of travel logistics expertise.
Though never professionally trained in travel, Kurasek’s life experiences and love of travel gave her the knowledge she needed for managing an ever-changing and dynamic travel club.
Learning From Life
With a degree in art education from the University of Illinois, Kurasek did not foresee her eventual career as a group travel planner. But when she moved to Champaign, Illinois, the lack of art education positions prompted her to look elsewhere for employment.
“I worked for the American Heart Association [AHA] where I organized events,” said Kurasek. “I liked organizing different events, like the Heart Walk.”
Her organizational skills came to her aid when she was asked to take the job as director of the Busey Bank’s Pillar Club. She drew from her experiences planning her family’s vacations, the attention to detail she used for AHA events and her own love of travel that started in her youth.
Her curiosity about the world grew on trips to see relatives in upstate New York as a child. The family traveled through Canada into the Niagara Falls area for sweeping vistas that stayed with her into adulthood.
Kurasek said her business sense also helps when she is orchestrating the Pillar Club’s trips and other various events, such as seminars and entertaining activities.