WASHINGTON -- More than 1,100 people paid $200 apiece to attend National Credit Union Foundation's Wegner Awards Dinner this year, gathering for the first time in a ballroom of Washington's Grand Hyatt hotel to roar their approval of three credit union heroes.
This year's award winners -- Harriet May, CEO of GECU of El Paso, Texas; Robert Hoel, fellow in Residence at the Filene Institute; and representatives of the State Employees' Credit Union Foundation, headquartered in North Carolina, - at times seemed overwhelmed at the flow of attention and support but also made sure to share some perspectives on the service which has flavored their careers.
May drew attention to the line of inspirational credit union leadership in her life, noting that she had been hired by the credit union pioneer RC Morgan, then CEO of Government Employees Credit Union who had seen something in her that she at the time could not see in herself since, when she started at GECU, she had imagined it would only be for five years.
"After 34 years I still believe in the credit union mission of people helping people," May said. "We are credit unions. We help people help themselves so they, in turn, can help others."
Hoel reflected a bit on what he has learned over his research career in credit unions so far and in particular pointed to the current mortgage and credit situation as providing a unique opportunity for credit unions.
"Your competitors have really screwed up," Hoel told the credit union executives and board members in the crowd. "Now go beat 'em up and bring those people who need help into your credit unions."
David King, chairman of SECU's board of directors, accepted the award on the part of the Foundation and reflected on the message the foundation has discovered in leveraging the contributions of thousands of individual credit union members into sustainable impacts around his state.
"We have only just begun," King said. "Already we are talking to other counties about how we can help them cut expenses and plow more of that savings into education."