SUNRISE, Fla. - When it comes to education, BrightStar Credit Union Board Chairperson Dr. Dorothy Jackson Orr is a big believer in "doing what you can and as much as you can to help others."
"I grew up in the segregated South and we were very poor. The teachers in our community were always so encouraging and I thought what a noble profession. Here they are teaching us day in, day out and for next to nothing," said Orr. "You could say I was trained all my life to be an orator and groomed to be a teacher and I'm so happy that I was because it is truly the mother of all professions. Now that I'm retired I take the time to teach as many as I can about credit unions."
Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed. The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc. recently presented Orr with the 2006 Sojourner Truth Award.
Each year, the Sojourner Truth award, the organization's highest honor, is given to a woman who has exemplified outstanding community service and whose life parallels the life and qualities of Sojourner Truth, the organization's matriarch and a leading advocate for women's rights, abolition and prison reform.
"I am honored to receive this award," said Orr. "I believe that education is the parent of all vocations and I strive daily to show respect for all people and appreciation for their dignity and worth."
Orr has been an educator for four decades and retired from the School Board of Broward County in 2001. As an active community leader, Orr is affiliated with a number of religious, community, social, civic, professional and Greek-letter organizations, boards, associations and task forces and serving as board chair of four.
She holds a Master of Arts from the University of Michigan and a Doctorate of Education from Nova Southeastern University.
Orr says her mother has been her inspiration for all that she's accomplished.
"Her being a maid, walking to work 10 miles each way-growing up we learned so much from her," said Orr. "She taught us to never hate based on the color of one's skin and always told us that we were as good as anyone on this earth. I've been very blessed so in my retirement I make it a point to help as many people as possible while I'm still here." A credit union member since the late `50s Orr says she owes her graduate degree from the University of Michigan to the credit union. "I was talking to one of my teachers about wanting to go to an integrated university for graduate school but not having the money," said Orr. "He told me I had to follow through on it and that I could just borrow the money from the credit union. I had no idea and asked him what did he mean. There were no student loans at that time-my mother worked hard as a maid to put me through school. Going to the credit union that day was the best decision I ever made." Orr would spend summers attending the University of Michigan then working during the winters to pay back the credit union.
"That's how I got my graduate degree and learned how awesome this credit union is," said Orr. "I also liked that the money went back to the members in service I just couldn't believe it. So when I was asked to become a board member I knew this was my way to give back."
And she's never stopped "paying it forward." Orr has traveled everywhere from Washington to overseas to ensure the credit union movement continues to grow.
"I represent BrightStar at the World Council of Credit Unions' meetings and it still fascinates me how throughout the world credit unions still abide by the concept that we were born of a social rising movement to help those who can't help themselves," said Orr.
She also makes quite an impact close to home and on any given day she walks into various BrightStar CU branches to talk to members one-on-one. "I stand in line with everyone else, talk to them and thank them for being a member," said Orr. "That's how I interact, it has nothing to do with micromanagement because we have the finest CEO and senior executive staff. For me it is a wonderful way to connect with members and let them know their board is accessible and here for them. They all know they can call me at home anytime and many do." Orr says that constant communication and cooperation in putting the member first has helped the credit union grow in spite of any adversity. She says this was particularly true when the credit union faced its greatest challenge-the unexpected tragic death of its former president/CEO.
"The morning I was told of his death there was a long line at the main branch waiting for service-he usually opened the branch," said Orr. "Before they could even ask me questions I explained to them that we just found out we lost our leader but there was a succession plan in place and we just needed a few minutes to get the message to other branches and to bear with us. Do you know they were so understanding and patient waiting the 25 minutes to get up and running asking what they could do-that says a lot about the trust in our relationship. Whether it is the board or the management team our members know whenever they come to us we all make it a point to get a resolution as fast as we absolutely can." -email@example.com