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WESTERLY, R.I. – John Hutchinson turned 80 in January and retired as president/CEO from Hamilton Sundstrand Federal Credit Union in Windsor Locks, Conn. more than 10 years ago, but this former NAFCU pioneer and credit union icon is still called on by industry notables for congressional testimony and expertise. At a time when the NCUA was just an advisory board in Washington during the early 1970s, Hutchinson, as one of the original organizers of NAFCU, helped the movement “come of age” through the association’s powerful influence. “John had a very keen interest in legislative issues that would impact credit unions at a time when the community was in a pitched battle with the American Bankers Association,” said Bill Donovan, NAFCU senior vice president and general counsel. “The ABA had gone to court to challenge whether credit unions could offer share drafts to members and John played a pivotal role in persuading Congress to include language allowing them to do so.” In 1980, Pres. Jimmy Carter would sign into law the “Depository Institutions Deregulation & Monetary Control Act” which included the new provision. Indeed, when Hutchinson retired in 1989 at the age of 69, he left behind a career marked with influential muscle and innovation in the industry and at Hamilton Sundstrand, which was known as Hamilton Standard Federal Credit Union up until three years ago. Today, he’s an active member of the American Association of Retired Persons, serving as the chairman of Rhode Island’s division. He also serves on Westerly’s Democratic committee and Sen. Jack Reed’s (D-R.I.) seniors advisory committee. From time to time, NAFCU has even called on him to testify “in an oversight nature” before Congress. “NAFCU has never been afraid to take a position,” Hutchinson said, “it stood and still stands for something, and I think that’s why the association is well respected in Washington.” Retired may be the right description of Hutchinson’s life now, but he loves to stay aware of what’s going in the credit union industry, staying in touch with former colleagues such as Donovan who is a close friend, reading Credit Union Times each week (his words, really!) and surfing the Internet daily. But he and his wife Bobbie of 36 years, also enjoy the warm summers of Westerly at their home on the gulf. It was skyrocketing construction costs in the 1980s that spurred the Hutchinsons to move to Rhode Island. “We were very happy in Connecticut, but we moved because we always came to Rhode Island for summer vacations, we wanted to have a home here too,” Hutchinson said. Not finding any decent property in the state, they decided to build their own house in 1984. Two years later the cost of construction materials went “sky high” and the couple decided to continue building the new house and sell their Connecticut home. Their two grandchildren and one great granddaughter spend an enormous amount of time with the couple. Hutchinson’s career started in 1946, when he returned from the U.S. Army after serving in World War II. He was offered a job as loan interviewer and collections manager at East Hartford Aircraft Credit Union in Connecticut, which is now known as American Eagle Credit Union. The credit union had a number of FOMs including employees of Hamilton Standard Propeller Company. When the company built a new plant 15 miles away from its original plant, people in the area were now a part of American Eagle FCU’s field of membership. Hamilton Standard filed an application to start a new credit union with the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions in 1952. Hutchinson came aboard as manager of the Hamilton Standard Credit Union with 3,100 members and $1 million in assets and stayed there until his retirement. Today, the credit union has 19,000 members and $116 million in assets. During his tenure, Hutchinson is most proud of the innovations that members got to be a part of including the interest refund – a concept he came up with in the 1940s and is still practiced at credit unions today. To his recollection, the credit union was among the first to use a computer, debit card and the first to consider the use of automated teller machines, deciding not to purchase the machines because they were too expensive. “I was known as the `idea man’ because we wanted to be innovators and bring the latest technology and convenience to our members,” he explained. Being the president/CEO of one of the largest credit unions in the state was just one of Hutchinson’s roles. He simultaneously served as: * board member for 10 years for the Connecticut Credit Union League; * chairman of the Connecticut Credit Union League for two years; * one of CUNA’s national board members for eight years; * one of the organizers and charter members of the Credit Union Executives Society in the late 1960s and was inducted in the CUES Hall of Fame in 1988; (at one time, he even had a license plate that read “CUES” said Mike Welch, Credit Union Times publisher, who also served as president of the society for 17-and-a-half years); * chairman for two years with the National Credit Union Management Association, a group that represented credit unions with at least $1 million in assets. But it was in 1967 that Hutchinson along with several others organized NAFCU to become a political force in Washington. “NAFCU came of age to be recognized as a full-fledged participant in the legislative process,” recalled Donovan, who has known Hutchinson for more than 20 years. Indeed, Pres. Richard Nixon appointed Hutchinson to the NCUA Board, which at the time was an advisory board. From there, he would leave several posts at the state league and CUNA levels and become a NAFCU Board member for 16 years and then chairman for 8 years. Asked what credit union issues are most pressing and without hesitation, Hutchinson sighs, “everything old is new again.” “The two things that have not changed over the last 50 years are people asserting that credit unions should be taxed and questioning whether they are properly insured,” he said, adding, “credit unions have the strongest insurance fund there is.” Hutchinson believes the survival of credit unions will always hinge on one of the movement’s founding tenets: “the need for credit unions came about because other financial providers were not meeting certain needs. As long as those unmet needs are still there credit unions will be continue to be around.” -

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