WASHINGTON—Robert Schumacher, longtime National Credit Union Foundation leader and volunteer, was a surprise recipient of an Anchor Award at the annual dinner honoring people and institutions that have exhibited particular leadership and innovation. Past Anchor Award winners have included former NCUA Board Chairman Dennis Dollar and the leaders of the three credit union leagues most affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Winners of the awards for 2011 were honored at a March 19 dinner and awards ceremony held in Washington in conjunction with CUNA's Government Affairs Conference.
Schumacher, who serves as awards recognition committee chairman for the NCUF and is retiring after this year, was noticeably surprised and emotional about the award, which event organizers had carefully hidden from him. Schumacher has served as master of ceremonies for the awards presentation for 15 years and has become the public face of the ceremony and one of the biggest NCUF supporters and advocates.
Schumacher has also been an active supporter and advocate for Biz Kid$ since the idea was first presented and worked closely with other credit union leaders, show producer Jamie Hammond, the Washington Credit Union Foundation, NCUF and many others to get credit unions across the country to consider underwriting the program. Schumacher also dedicated his time and talents to the DE program by volunteering countless hours as a facilitator, mentor and sometimes key speaker at several DE Trainings, according to the NCUF.
Schumacher pleaded with the crowd for patience as he struggled to get his presentation back on script for the awards ceremony, saying at one point, “Thank you Gary Oakland – that's really written here,” pointing at the script.
Invest in America, a national loyalty program for CU members, won the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Program. Launched in the depth of the latest downturn in 2008, by a subsidiary of the Michigan Credit Union League, the program served as a way credit unions in Michigan could help support their members at a time when the state was losing thousands of jobs.
Through the program, IIA credit unions could band together to promote and support not only their own products and services, but also those offered by collaborative American-based companies, such as General Motors or Sprint. Credit union members were given discounts to the companies, which in turn drove membership growth and loyalty.
“It was our way of both supporting our members and highlighting the work of great American companies,” said Michigan Credit Union League CEO David Adams, who was joined in accepting the award by executives from Sprint and General Motors.
And in another rarity, the NCUF recognized two CU leaders with Herb Wegner Lifetime Achievement Awards. Tom Dorety, CEO of the 520,000-member, $4.9 billion asset Suncoast School Federal Credit Union and Bill Eckhardt, CEO of the 439,000-member, $4.8 billion asset Alaska USA credit union each received an award. The NCUF recognized Dorety for his leadership of both Suncoast Schools both before and through the recent economic downturn and the CUNA Board of Directors.
The foundation recognized Eckhardt for his innovative spirit that Eckhardt attributed in part to the reality that a credit union headquartered in Alaska had to get used to doing things for itself to serve members.
Eckhardt started his comments by noting the temperature in the dining hall which was unseasonably warm. “Clearly, the foundation wanted to make me feel at home,” Eckhardt joked. “Here under these lights I feel like I am home next to my fireplace.”
Eckhardt explained that Alaska USA had never accepted the idea that something could not be done just because others had not yet done it and that this attitude had resulted in a number of innovations that eventually became industry standards.
Those innovations included Alaska USA being the first credit union to offer 30-year mortgage loans and one of the first to offer share drafts. It was the first to serve members nationally and internationally through a dedicated member service center, and was one of the first credit unions to initiate a commercial lending division.