No Fear: Adventurous Diane Pasley brings worldly perspective to WBD

“I never thought I’d be somewhere for so long,” laughs Diane Pasley, vice president at Wisconsin Business Development (WBD). She’s not kidding. Her adventurous spirit is simply hard to pin down.

Her personal mission statement, written years ago as a college student, was prophetic: Affect others in a positive way and experience all I can in life. 

“I figured if I did one new thing a year I would have done it all by the time I died and I wouldn’t be on my deathbed with any regrets,” she explained. 

Years later, she’s still on task.

Pasley, 48, a licensed pilot, has both scuba-dived and free-dived (without tanks) for abalone, hiked the Sierra Nevada, bungee-jumped out of a hot-air balloon, and skydived no less than 43 times. She’s traveled extensively, belongs to the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and in her quieter moments – whenever those are – reads about quantum physics, string theory, and multiverse theory.

With two growing sons in the Oregon schools, Pasley is busier than ever. At WBD, she helps administer the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 504 Loan Program, which helps small businesses gain access to long-term, fixed-rate financing with lower down payments. The 504 Loan Program is only available through CDCs (certified development companies), and last year, WBD was the nation’s third-largest CDC in terms of new 504 Loan approvals. 

“Our niche is financing owner-occupied, commercial real estate projects,” she said. “We’ve also had increased demand for financing new equipment purchases.”

Recently, Pasley returned from a 17-day trip to northern India, her most exciting and life-changing trip to date. It is, she reflected, a country of extremes – “life and death, mega-rich and destitute, beauty and filth, and traffic. My big takeaway was: happiness vs. pleasure. Some of the people have so little, but they are happy because they have their basic needs met and have such a strong family support system.”

One stop included the Ganges River in Varanasi, where Hindus bathe, wash, and even come to die and be cremated along the riverbank so their ashes can be strewn into what they consider sacred water. “It’s a different world, yet it was hard to come back,” Pasley admitted. “They warn you to take time off and process it.

“The U.S., it seems, is so materially motivated and always chasing the next pleasure, but not [necessarily] happy.”

Inspired and seeking balance, she’s now training to be a hospice volunteer. “We lend money to people during the day, and they work so hard for stuff. At the end of life, it’s all gone. With hospice, I’ll see the other side. You can’t take anything with you.”


Pasley spent most of her early life in Ohio, earning an associate degree in computer programming, and then a finance degree from Bowling Green State University.

One day, in Toledo, while studying for her MBA and working for National City Bank, she encountered an unexpected roadblock. Intending to meet with a client at a local golf club, she learned the private club’s rulebook barred women during certain business hours.

“That was the motivation for me to leave Ohio,” she said.

Résumé in hand, she headed off to California for two weeks, landing a job with Western Sierra National Bank. “I turned 26, graduated with an MBA, and moved to California all in the same week,” she laughed. She met her future husband, Brian – a Fitchburg native – at a Stockton, Calif. coffee shop. “I thought he was a nice guy, but too bad he was so young.” He was 27. She was 30.

True to form, when the adventurers eventually decided to move to Wisconsin, they took the long route back – through New Zealand. 

By the time they got to Madison in 1997, funds were short, and a job offer from WBD came at a most opportune time. “I think we were down to $50 in our checking account when I got my first paycheck,” Pasley recalled.

Her bucket list is still brimming with adventurous goals – like hiking through the Smoky Mountains, experiencing the northern lights in Alaska, and visiting Machu Picchu in Peru.

“I really don’t have a fear of anything anymore,” she smiled. But then, Diane Pasley is always smiling.

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