Susan Paley: Bank vice president, advocate, local icon, reflects on work and legacy

Susan Paley, the retiring vice president of community relations at Village Bank and a lifelong Newton resident, has left a lasting impression on the nonprofits she’s served and the community she calls home.

“I feel like I’ve made a real tangible difference in the city that I love,” Paley said.

As the face of the Village Bank in the nonprofit sector, Paley combined a friendly disposition and a strong commitment to upholding the bank’s interests, according to Greg Reibman, the president and CEO of the Charles River Regional Chamber.

“When you would talk to her, it was always with a smile, but she was tough too,” Reibman said. “She carefully made sure that the bank was being well-represented or that their philanthropy was going to the right place.”

Though Paley’s talent is special, her passion for service connects with the values of community engagement that had already existed at the Village Bank, according to Adrienne Hartzell Knudsen, the managing director of the Newton Cultural Alliance.

“It’s part of their DNA as a bank,” Knudsen said. “She’s not swimming upstream against some national corporate, Bank of America kind of place.”

Still, Reibman said, Paley’s fervor for service went beyond her job description.

“Her passion and commitment are so genuine,” Reibman said. “She really doesn’t just help people because it’s her job, she helps people because she genuinely cares about them.”

Born and raised in Newton, Paley attended Simmons College in Boston. After graduation, Paley began a 44-year-long career in banking. She started with larger, regional banks, focusing in mortgage and commercial lending.

Susan Paley, shown here with her husband, Martin, attend a fundraiser in Susan’s honor at the Allen Center. Photo by Genevieve Morrison

In 2007, Paley moved to a position as a mortgage lender at the Village Bank in Newton, a small, community bank.

Soon after, a unique position opened up: vice president of community relations. The bank was looking for a leader who would direct its philanthropy and outreach.

Paley, a self-proclaimed “serial volunteer,” saw it as the perfect job.

“It’s been a great opportunity to kind of merge my hobby, if you will, which is you know, volunteerism, and my career as a banker,” Paley said.

Paley’s previous experience serving with various nonprofits in the city teed her up to succeed in the community relations role.

“I already had a record of serving on several mayoral appointed positions in this city,” Paley said. “I loved the aspect of serving on the boards of nonprofits. It just is what kind of interests me and excites me is to be part of the nonprofit community.”

At first, the job description wasn’t clear-cut, so Paley defined it for herself. At the end of her career, Paley sat on five nonprofit boards in Newton.

“When this job opened up, it was sort of a blank slate,” Paley said. “It was a brand new position. It was an opportunity to make a difference, and it was offered to me.”

As the leader of community relations, Paley said she fostered a culture of volunteering among the Village Bank employees.

“We don’t feel donating money is enough,” Paley said. “We always want our people to be volunteering, and our people are very generous with their time and their talent.”

Paley’s time spent living in Newton, as well as her work at the Village Bank, have made her deeply familiar with the city and its needs, according to Knudsen.

“It’s always how I knew her, with the bank, is that she knows every nook and cranny of this city,
and its 13 villages, which is complex at best,” Knudsen said.

Paley said that Newton’s annual holiday gift drive was an especially bright spot in her work. The
Village Bank has sponsored the drive for the past 16 winters.

In collaboration with Newton’s Department of Health and Human Services, Paley transformed a
then-small government fundraiser into an impactful, community-wide drive that provides gifts for
many young children in the city every year.

“We just built it into an enormous, enormous source of joy and source of pride,” Paley said.
Paley embodied the philosophy of the Village Bank, according to Joe DeVito, the company’s
president and CEO.

“She’s been the lead for us, for all these years to really raise the profile of what it means to be
The Village Bank, here in our community,” DeVito said.

Her career at The Village Bank was long and eventful, but Paley summed it up simply.

“We really are here for the community,” Paley said. “It’s a pretty special way to do business.”