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Leo W. Seal Grants: Helping Teachers Make Dreams Real

August 31, 2022
Paul Maxwell
Paul Maxwell

Our founders envisioned a bank meant to serve, a business built to last. They saw a purpose of creating opportunities, of making life better and making a difference. They set forth a mission to help people achieve their dreams.

474403_LeoSealsGrant_Logo_2 1-CROPFrom our first day open in 1899, we’ve championed quality education as a course to achieving dreams. To us, the Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants program seems a natural extension of our mission. To us, educational opportunity is a first step to helping make dreams real through knowledge, insights, and understanding important to individual and community success.

In many ways, educators earning the Leo Seal grants each year are dream-makers. Through what they do every day to enhance students’ classroom experiences, they’re helping dreams come true for countless young people who take what educators teach to mind and heart.

Recently, we announced the 2022 Leo Seal grant recipients. These remarkable men and women—like the grant winners before them—stir a love of learning among their students. They spark imagination, ignite creativity, fuel critical thinking, and enlighten possibilities. They help turn dreams into realities.

Educating in the Age of COVID

For more than two years, we watched our world change in ways we could not have conceived before COVID was commonplace in our vocabulary.

Somehow, though, we all persevered. We learned to do things differently—sometimes better. We moved forward. That resilience, so deeply rooted in our regional character, is part of who we are, what we’re made of, and what we do to stay strong and care for people who mean the most to us.

Educators faced unique difficulties as they struggled to keep learning alive during a barrage of disruptions and distractions. True to the ingenuity and initiative that seem innate among so many teachers, they found new ways to engage and educate students, whether from behind a mask or in front of a camera.

Because of those teachers’ dedication and determination, young people continued to learn and grow, readying themselves for bright futures beyond the pandemic.

Creating Opportunities to Learn

Hancock Whitney established the Leo Seal Innovative Teacher Grants in 1994. Each year, in partnership with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, we’ve presented grants to recognize outstanding teachers and fund original classroom teaching projects that enhance students’ learning experiences and support state curriculum in the eight Mississippi counties Hancock Whitney serves.

The Seal grants also commemorate the legacies of the late Leo W. Seal, Sr., and his son, the late Leo W. Seal, Jr., who during their combined tenures led our company for more than 75 years. Both men were tireless advocates for educational growth and economic opportunity across the greater Gulf Coast.

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Paying Tribute to Teachers

Seventy-three years ago, then bank president Leo Seal, Sr., addressed the company’s associates—at that time, about 60 people—at the bank’s 50th anniversary celebration. His remarks in 1949 still resonate among today’s 3,500 associates as words to live by—a philosophy for doing the right thing that reflects the responsibility, accountability, and citizenship that teachers work so hard to instill in students:

“In the course of world events,
new and greater responsibilities
have created broader fields.

To you who will carry the responsibilities
when we older ones have passed on,
let me ask and implore you
never to let your interest come ahead
of your principle.
Never do something
for expediency’s sake alone.

Never forget that the underlying
principles of character
are love of truth; devotion to duty;
respect for law;
and the unselfish consideration
of the rights of others.”

Pandemic concerns forced us to forgo formal awards ceremonies for two years, but 20 outstanding teachers still received Leo Seal grants in 2020 and 2021.

This year, we not only applaud and thank the nine outstanding Mississippi teachers receiving 2022 Leo Seal grants and previous grant winners, we also pay tribute to all teachers, school leaders, and the loved ones who support them.