July 2018 Scholarship Recipients

July 19, 2018
Garret Geist

Garret Geist (Fort Worth, TX) comes from a military family – his grandfather was a World War II veteran, and his father and uncles served in Vietnam. “We’re proud of their time in uniform,” he says. Out of high school, he met with a recruiter with the Air National Guard. “At 20 years of age, I mostly had the intent of gaining access to education without assuming an unbearable debt load. But, I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to learn what the military can instill in you from a work ethic standpoint and a foundation of morals,” he says. Most of Garret’s eight year career was spent in a civil engineering squadron, doing rapid runway construction and heavy equipment repair with two different Air National Guard units – one in California, one in Nebraska. “You have to learn to rely on your fellow airman,” Garret said. “You’re held to a higher standard in the military and that has continued into this career in financial services.” Now with American Airlines Credit Union, Garret enjoys working with clients with all income levels and likes the emphasis the organization puts on financial education regardless of profit. In order to better serve his clients, he’ll be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program and will sit for the CFP® exam.

Jeffrey Keister

Jeffrey Keister (Abingdon, MD) wasn’t sure what direction he wanted his life to take after high school. Tempted by the idea of working on space shuttle launches, he enlisted in the Air Force with a friend of his. After his basic training and technical training was over, he ended up working on ICBM missiles in Minot, North Dakota. “I enjoyed my time,” Jeff says. “I established good friendships and learned a lot of skills. But winding up in North Dakota at 19 was tough.” Nowadays, Jeff is a financial professional with LPL financial and says his time in the Air Force helps him in this new career. “Leadership, confidence, working through processes and complex ideas, gathering information and then taking the knowledge to someone,” were all skills he picked up while serving that still help him today. To complement those skills, Jeff will be completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program and will sit for the CFP® exam as well.

Michael Laliberte

Michael Laliberte (Dartmouth, MA) first entered the Army in 1985. After one semester in community college and “I was bored out of my skull,” Michael says. When one of his friends asked him to visit a recruiter with him, the idea of a military career appealed to him instantly. Despite the other jobs available to him, Michael elected to join the infantry. After receiving his commission, he threw himself into military life and was selected to apply for Special Forces. A car accident took him out of the running, and he chose to return to civilian life for the time being, saying “the universe pointed me in a different direction”. Thus began Michael’s career in financial services – between 1990 and 2007, he opened and sold two firms and decided to reenter the Army in 2007 and wanted back into the infantry community. “I didn’t want a job – I wanted what I was doing to matter.” The only way he would be able to return to infantry was to surrender his commission and enter as a Sergeant – and that’s what Michael did. From 2007 to 2014, he went back into the infantry. His first firefight in Afghanistan was a formative experience for him. “That’s when it got real. You’ve seen movies, you think you know how you’ll react. I froze up and almost lost my lunch. If there are any inefficiencies in your character,” Michael says, “they come out at a time like that.” In 2014, Michael received his Masters from the College for Financial Planning. Now, Michael has his sights set on completing the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) program, and then moving on to specialize his education to serve his market of special needs families, veterans, and LGBTQ families.

Preston Lee

Preston Lee (San Diego, CA) is an Active Duty Navy First Class Petty Officer who enlisted in the Navy out of College. He graduated from UC Berkley in 2010 and wanted to be part of something bigger. “I was always part of a team,” Preston says. “Whether that was sports, my fraternity, a church group. It felt natural to join another high-tier, high-performing group – I think that’s what made me want to be a part of the Navy.” He’s spent the last eight years of his career working in Explosive Ordinance Disposal within the Special Operations Community and is currently a Chemical and Biological Warfare instructor. Preston wants to expand on the leadership skills he’s developed by completing the Master of Science in Management (MSM) program.

Dr. Brandon Renfro

Dr. Brandon Renfro (Hallsville, TX) is a Captain in the National Guard with almost ten years of service. Interestingly, he enlisted in the National Guard the same year he began his financial services career. Starting out with Wells Fargo in 2009, Brandon was placed in a typical entry position – making sales calls. “I didn’t want to be a salesman,” Brandon says. Brandon was able to complete most of the CFP® curriculum during his undergraduate work, and by taking advantage of his GI Bill, later went on to receive a PhD in Finance. “I defended my dissertation on a Friday in 2016 and the following Monday started on deployment orders.” He just recently returned from that deployment and is thinking of ways to best position his new practice. With a goal of working with retirement-aged clients, Brandon will be completing the Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) program, which will equip him with the most cutting-edge knowledge on retirement income distribution. “You have to do something you’re passionate about,” he says. “You’re never going to excel at something if you don’t have a true “care” to.”