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MADISON, Wis. – How many people have the satisfaction of knowing when they leave a position or company they worked with for for many years that they were responsible for helping the organization make more than $7.7 million in grants? When Pat Brownell leaves the National Credit Union Foundation executive director’s position at the end of this year, that will be just part of the legacy she’ll leave behind. She will also depart knowing that under her direction, the Community Investment Fund (CIF)-a partnership between NCUF, Association of Corporate Credit Unions and American Association of Credit Union Leagues-has grown to more than $42 million. Brownell also leaves knowing that as a result of her efforts, the Ford Foundation has given $950,000 to the NCUF for programming in support of CU savings initiatives and that with her various boards of directors, she has guided NCUF from being a CUNA foundation, with a board of five CUNA directors, to the National Credit Union Foundation with a 13-member board representing various constituent groups including credit unions, CUNA, U.S. Central, corporate credit unions, System Affiliates, and the State Credit Union Foundations Network. That’s not all: Under Brownell’s leadership, the National Credit Union Values Campaign was launched. It eventually moved over to CUNA and became the National Brand Campaign. The list of Brownell’s accomplishments goes on and on. “If you look at where the Foundation was 10 years ago and where it is now, it’s not even recognizable. This is truly a world-class charitable organization, and I believe we have Pat to thank for that,” said one of Brownell’s mentors, Pete Crear, executive vice president and chief operating officer for CUNA. “Working with Pat has been my privilege, and I mean that sincerely,” Crear continued. “Her dedication not only to credit union principles, but to credit unions themselves is unwavering. Her business instincts are right on, and her leadership has been nothing but visionary since the very beginning.” None of this surprises any of the folks who have had the pleasure of working with Brownell. They know Brownell for her keen wit and sense of humor and her assortment of `stress relievers’ including singing fish and boxing nuns. It might surprise her associates though to learn that none of this would have happened if Brownell hadn’t once shared an accountant with CUNA Mutual Group’s Larry Blanchard. At the time, Brownell was working at College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn, responsible for handling planned giving and trusts for the school. Brownell intended to stay on her job at the college for a couple of years, but when the accountant called her and said, “I have just the job for you.” Brownell agreed to give Blanchard a call. The two of them hit it off immediately, Brownell said, but she still hesitated making the job change because the foundation at the time was being run from CUNA’s office in Washington, D.C. Brownell however did agree to work with what was then the CUNA Foundation because “it was a great opportunity to rebuild the foundation and refocus its priorities from international development to domestic credit union development,” she said. By the time she began, the management of the foundation moved to Madison, Wis. At first, it was just Brownell and her executive assistant working at the foundation. Brownell got a running start out of the gate and immersed herself to learn about credit unions. She spent the first six months of her job traveling around the country, visiting with credit union leagues, meeting with service management teams, and just doing a lot of listening to discussions about issues facing credit unions. “My first impression of credit unions was that I felt tremendous relief being around them, I felt this is where I needed to be,” said Brownell. “Coming out of a community development and investment background, I had a lot of fun working with those types of companies, but I used to wonder if that was all there was. I missed being with people who were working beyond profit.” Brownell recalled when she began working with the CUNA Foundation, fundraising efforts focused on annual appeal drives promoted by mailouts to leagues. “I looked at the potential of the system and decided to take advantage of the interest credit unions have in giving back to the system.” Brownell began working with the leagues. The CUNA Foundation soon became known as the Credit Union Foundation, and eventually the National Credit Union Foundation. Brownell also saw the potential in having a network of charitable credit union foundations at the state level and was instrumental in the eventual development of the State Credit Union Foundations Network. There are currently 26 state credit union foundations. Brownell also turned some of her attention to strengthening NCUF’s relationships with credit union system organizations including CUNA Mutual Group, U.S. Central CU, the Association of Corporate Credit Unions, American Association of Credit Union Leagues, and the State Credit Union Foundations Networks. “It’s been quite a ride,” Brownell quipped. So what will life sans NCUF look like for Brownell? For one thing, it will still involve foundation work. Although she’s committed to working with NCUF until the end of the year or when the foundation hires a replacement, Brownell is already doing volunteer work for the Boulder Community Foundation (she’s been living in the city since April.) She’s also accepted a position and expects to begin working toward the end of the year at the FBI National Academy Association coordinating the association’s 2003 annual meeting, including finding a national corporate sponsor for the event. Headquartered in Quantico, Va., Brownell describes the academy as a “West Point for FBI police officers.” Brownell will be working directly with the Rocky Mountain and Colorado/Wyoming chapters of the academy. When Credit Union Times spoke with Brownell, she was awaiting the arrival of a moving van to move some furniture to her new home in Colorado she’s sharing with her soon-to-be husband, Bill Sterner, president/CEO, U of C FCU in Boulder. They plan to marry Nov. 17. She intends to continue to work for NCUF by remote through the end of the year and make time to continue traveling between Madison and CUNA’s office in Washington, D.C. “I’ve had a wonderful time working at NCUF,” said Brownell. “My board of directors has consistently been professional, fun and apolitical in what could otherwise be a very political system. They always came to work with their foundation hats on and made my job a joy.” When Brownell makes her final exit from NCUF, she’ll leave behind lasting impressions with all the people she’s worked with over the past nine years. CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica, for one, had this to say about her: “While Pat has accomplished much, I think greatest of all has been her ability to challenge all of our expectations about what the NCUF should be. It is not just a clearinghouse for grants any longer, but rather a vibrant idea generator and fundraising mechanism for economic development and member service throughout the movement.” [email protected]

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