CU Times Senior Staff Reporter
FORT WORTH, Texas -- After some 17 years as American Airlines Federal Credit Union President/CEO John Tippets said the timing couldn't be better for his retirement.
"I'm 67 years old, and it is my time to get out of the way," said Tippets. "Beyond our growth, which is what we need to do to be a healthy organization, what I'm most proud of is how we've impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people for the better. It's what I think we're here to do and we've accomplished that mission."
Throughout his service to the credit union, which began in 1982 as a board member, doing what's in members' best interests has always come first for Tippets and when the president/CEO position opened in 1991, it seemed a natural fit.
"I've always been a credit union person and had my first car loan with a credit union 45 years ago. So when the former president retired, I thought this is something I would love to do, and I was encouraged to apply for the position by the board."
Under his leadership, AACU has experienced substantial growth, expanding the credit union's branch footprint and increasing assets from $1 billion to $4.8 billion. He credits any success to the dedicated team of credit union employees that have surrounded him over the years.
"I genuinely believe there is a place for love in the workplace, not passion, but a kind of brotherly love and understanding that plays a big role in the workplace," said Tippets. "And if there is any legacy I left behind, I hope it's that I truly cared about our employees, our members and this organization."
Though stepping down, don't expect him to head toward a traditional retirement. He's opted instead to launch a new career as author-presenter and "book salesman" of the story about his father, in his newly released book entitled, Hearts of Courage.
The story is a true Alaskan adventure of Tippets' father's experience in a January 1943 airplane crash when he survived for 29 days.
"It's a story of survival, courage, determination, aviation, faith, prayers answered, my parents' love story and I guess my own love for my parents comes through the pages," said Tippets.
It took him a little over three years to get the story he'd been working on in his spare time over the weekends and evenings just right for publishing. He likened it to an archeological dig where "the more you turn things over the more that is revealed."
"With every draft it would improve, and I'd include things that added more to the experience," said Tippets. "For example, about three months ago I told my wife we covered the story of each person on the plane except a young lady who died named Susan. It took time, but she found a living relative who helped us learn a lot about Susan and she gave us a letter my father had written to Susan's parents describing the circumstances of the flight and how she passed away as a way to help explain to her parents, and we were able to work that into the book."
Prior to his June 30 retirement, over 1,450 members and their family came out to honor Tippets at the C.R. Smith Museum during a "Fun Takes Flight" event.
The celebration included the unveiling of the Hearts of Courage exhibit, which displayed his newly published book. The exhibit was developed with donations from several supporters, including the CUNA Mutual Group.
"John has served American Airlines, American Airlines Federal Credit Union and the entire credit union movement with distinction," said CUNA Mutual Group President/CEO Jeff Post. "He has been a leader who delivered exceptional results with integrity and class. It was a privilege to participate in this wonderful event to celebrate all of John's accomplishments."
Over the coming months, Tippets will be traveling extensively attending book signing events and sharing the Hearts of Courage story at various events throughout the summer.
"I also hope to stay involved in the credit union community," said Tippets. "Those big banks keep getting bigger and credit unions' biggest challenge going forward is how to effectively deal with the nature of the competition from those giant financial institutions."
Hearts of Courage may be purchased at www.JohnTippets.com.