Despite receiving a Herb Wegner Lifetime Achievement Award for a career at one of the country’s largest credit unions, Gary Oakland said he most vividly remembers working with small credit unions and supporting the financial education program BizKid$.
Oakland, who in April retired as president/CEO of the $11.5 billion BECU in Seattle, will accept the award along with three other winners at the National Credit Union Foundation’s Herb Wegner Awards Dinner in Washington on Feb. 24.
“Gary’s contributions to the credit union movement were so obvious, as everything he touches turns to success for the average American consumer,” said John Gregoire, chair of NCUF Wegner Awards Selection Committee and president of The ProCon Group in Madison, Wis., in a release. “It’s evident in the growth of BECU, the state supervision system, dual credit union chartering, Biz Kid$, NCUF, and much more.”
The foundation cited Oakland’s support of the credit union movement through CUNA, the former Washington Credit Union League, NASCUS, the Filene Research Institute and the NCUF.
But Oakland said his work at BECU in which the institution helped new, small credit unions, such as the $2.7 million TULIP Cooperative Credit Union of Olympia, Wash., was especially fulfilling He also said he that while he got far too much credit for helping to launch BizKid$, the award winning financial education program, he derived a great deal of satisfaction from watching young people learn to manage their finances in way which helped them in life, rather than burdened them.
Through leading the production initiative, committing $500,000 initially and $1 million overall, bringing together a group of credit unions that raised $2.6 million per year, and ultimately making the project a possibility, Oakland became the face associated with Bizkid$ success, the NCUF noted in its award.
“Had it not been for Gary’s effort, leadership, financial and personal commitment, [Biz Kid$] would never have happened,” said Rudy Hanley, president/CEO of the $9.8 billion SchoolsFirst FCU. “The result has been overwhelming. After five seasons, 13 Emmy nominations and 2 Emmy awards, the program is being delivered to millions of students through a variety of channels and participating organizations.”
When asked what he planned to do next, Oakland said he considered himself truly retired.
“They had a lunch the other day for retired board members and when I went, I put on my watch which I haven’t worn in about a year or so,” he said. “Well, on my way I looked down and saw that it had stopped and I hadn’t even noticed. I took that as sign from God that I am really retired.”