A Trailblazer for Women in the Financial Planning Industry
Madison Central High School class of 1966 alumna Betty Harris Custer is proud to come from a long line of Madison public school alumni. Both her mother and father attended Madison High, as did their siblings. Her father, Bob “Boomer” Harris taught and coached in MMSD for over four decades and is something of a local legend. “Even to this day,” Betty comments, “when I provide people with my last name I often get asked if I’m of THE Harris family – the one related to Boomer.”
Together with her siblings, Betty attended grades K-12 in Madison’s public schools and credits Central High for making her who she is today.
“Central High was a wonderful melting pot. The racial diversity was unique at the time I was in school 55 years ago and that experience has been integral to my life outlook,” says Betty.
Their public school education also set them up very well for future success. Betty’s sister, Ruth, went on to have a rewarding career first as an MMSD teacher and later and a variety of colleges around the country, and her brother, Bob, went on to become one of the first five employees at SEGA, and later ran his own business.
As for Betty, she went on to enjoy a fast and successful start in the financial planning industry. As a student at UW-Madison, she began working her way through college as an office clerk for an insurance services office. Eventually, she became the office manager and training director and then at age 24, started a financial planning firm with one of the older agents. Today she boasts nearly 50 years of financial planning experience and since 1981 has been the founding managing partner of Custer Financial Services, a widely respected financial advisory and planning firm based in Madison, WI.
Notably, Betty was the first Wisconsin woman to qualify for the Million Dollar Round Table, the financial industry’s standard of excellence, and has consistently performed in the top 1% of all financial planners in the nation. Additionally, her many contributions to an industry that was male dominated when she took the plunge has earned her a Legacy Award in InBusiness’s second annual Women of Industry awards program.
“For the whole of my career, I’ve appreciated the fact that I’ve been a trailblazer for women and it’s important that the recognition is not just about me, but about women who have made a commitment to go into fields that have been predominantly male-driven and oriented and take a chance on doing something that’s maybe out of the norm.”
The thing Betty is most proud of though is maintaining a holistic approach about life that includes career, family, and community, as well as “looking to the people who will come behind us.” She and her husband, Corkey, have two children who attended Madison’s public schools as well. Her daughter, Genevieve Harris Custer Weeks, was a professional ballerina for many years with the Oakland Ballet and guest artist across the country and now is the Founder and CEO of Tutu School, a boutique dance studio with more than 46 franchises around the country. And her son, Jamie Custer, is a gifted playwright and improv actor.
Betty also believes that a key part of success is giving back to the community. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools Board, the Overture Center Foundation Board, and the Lussier Community Education Center. She also serves a financial advisor to Operation Fresh Start, the Literacy Network, and Madison Ballet.
Betty is surely an asset to this community and we are proud to count her as an alum!