Weeks ago, Paul Siebenmorgen did something he never in his wildest dreams thought he would do.
At 9:30 a.m. July 26, Siebenmorgen stood on the Times Square podium to ring the bell that signals trading at the Nasdaq (New York) Stock Exchange. Siebenmorgen described himself as “more excited than nervous,” to be the official bell ringer because organizers of the famed ceremony have the procedure “down to a science.”
“It is really well orchestrated,” he said. “They give me all of 90 to 120 seconds to say something, then I press the button that rings the bell.”
Now a popular televised event, the ringing of the bell is important to ensure the orderly functioning of the marketplace. The opening bell at 9:30 a.m. and the closing bell at 4 p.m. assure that no trades take place before the opening or after the closing.
The Indiana State grad joins a long list of people from all walks of life who have performed the honor. As president/CEO at Farmers & Merchants State Bank since 2004, Siebenmorgen was chosen to celebrate the bank being publicly traded on the national exchange.
“Being known on a national market will provide to our shareholders an opportunity for greater liquidity in their stock,” he said. “Although our bank has done well financially for a number of years, not many investors outside northwest Ohio had heard of us. This will change that.”
Siebenmorgen, his wife, Marilyn, and other bank employees traveled to New York to attend the event. The ceremony also was televised at the Archbold, Ohio, bank and replayed throughout the day for bank employees and customers.
The event also may be a first for an Indiana State grad, Siebenmorgen said. “I haven’t heard of any other ISU alumni, let alone a recreation major, doing this.”
Born in Terre Haute, Siebenmorgen said his choice for a college education was obvious. “Most of my family went to ISU,” he said. “My grandmother, father, mother, aunts, two sisters, cousins, niece, nephew and my wife all went there.”
However, as a basketball star at Garfield High School, Siebenmorgen planned to go wherever a scholarship led him. “That was ISU,” he said. “I got a good scholarship and was able to live at home when I went to college so I didn’t graduate with a big debt.”
Choosing to major in the new field of recreation was not his first choice, Siebenmorgen said. “My dad was a family doctor, so I did pre-med for one semester, then I decided it wasn’t for me and switched over to recreation.”
His father, Paul Siebenmorgen, was a baritone horn player at Indiana State, but both father and son decided early music wasn’t the young boy’s forte. “I tried it in junior high school and my father suggested I stopped trying,” he said.
“My father was good at it, though. He was in the first band at ISU that played the ISU fight song. My father was very involved in ISU, in the foundation, the alumni, the board of trustees and student body president. He was a distinguished alumnus before his death nine years ago.”
Siebenmorgen’s mother, Jane, was a teacher before she got married and started a family. “My mother still lives in Terre Haute, so we get back to visit several times a year,” Siebenmorgen said. “We’ll be in Terre Haute on Sept. 9 for my 50th high school class reunion.”
When he decided to change his major at Indiana State, Siebenmorgen said he was thankful that the university had an excellent counseling center. “My assistant basketball coach Fred Fleetwood said to go to the counseling center where I took a whole battery of tests to help me choose. It did give my career a focus. I didn’t want a desk job so I settled on a major in recreation.”
Among his happiest Indiana State memories, Siebenmorgen said, was being a founding member of Indiana Sigma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon as well as an officer of the Inter-Fraternity Council. The fraternity is still going strong today.
“At the time, I didn’t think much of it but looking back on it, that fraternity is 49 years old,” he said. “There were six of us who started it. Most of the time we met in a dorm room at Cromwell Hall because four of us lived there. I was the only townie. I lived at home.”
If his basketball goals didn’t work out on campus, Siebenmorgen said the fraternity helped fill his free time. “Think about it: I was one of 10 freshmen on scholarship who wanted to start on the basketball team. You do the math. Only five players can start on the varsity. I thought the fraternity would be Plan B if my basketball career on campus didn’t work out. They both did.”
In fact, during his time on the team, the Sycamores became the first Indiana State University team to beat Purdue. The team also won a major holiday tournament in Las Vegas and had winning seasons the first two years the Sycamores competed at the NCAA Division I level.
“To make it even better, when we beat Purdue, and we did it at their home, Mackey Arena. That was Dec. 1, 1970, and I remember when our bus got back to the campus about midnight there was an amazing crowd to meet us. It was really a big deal.”
While a graduate assistant in the Recreation Department, Siebenmorgen helped place fieldwork students with recreation departments. “I placed six or eight students with 4-H programs so I got to know those higher ups. They told me that if I ever wanted a job when I graduated to contact them so that’s what I did.”
For eight years, Siebenmorgen was an extension agent at the Cooperative Extension Service at Purdue. “I loved it,” he said. “I’m not a desk-type person, so I was very happy working there. I love working with people and being able to get out and about a lot.”
When his first child was born, however, Siebenmorgen decided he wanted to stay closer to home. “I worked a lot of nights and weekends and, with a family, I didn’t want to keep doing that,” he said.
His first banking job was for Lake City Bank leaving there as executive vice president from 1980 to 2000, followed by four years as senior vice president/chief lending officer at Lincoln Bank. In 2004, he went to Farmers & Merchants State Bank.
“Most people think that banking is a desk job, but it’s not,” he said. “We have 24 offices and I visit those, plus I go out to our commercial customers. I get to go to farms and businesses and call on customers. That is what is fun to me. I hate it when I get stuck in the office for more than two days in a row.”
Siebenmorgen and his wife — a retired elementary school teacher — have two children, Katrina (Scott) Wagner of Noblesville, Ind., and Steve (Caitlyn) Siebenmorgen of Natick, Mass., plus four grandchildren.
Looking back on his time at State and his upcoming class reunion in Terre Haute, Siebenmorgen said the path he chose has given him a wonderful life and some experiences he didn’t expect.
“Who would have thought I would ever be ringing the bell in New York City,” he said. “You just never know what life has coming up for you.”