WEATHERFORD, Oklahoma – Some decisions are made simply because they’re the right thing to do. Such was the case with John May’s recent decision to retire as president/CEO of Texas Dow Employees Credit Union in Lake Jackson, Texas, and to join the faculty at his alma mater Southwestern Oklahoma State University. After 10 years at the helm of TDECU and 21 years in the credit union movement, May said the timing of several events and a feeling that he needed to put his “words into action” motivated him to accept a position teaching college accounting and finance. With the fall semester now underway, May is instructing two entry-level accounting classes and two advanced courses, including one in risk management. Albeit more than 20 years ago, May taught once before on the university level, while working toward his master’s degree in Business Administration. In recent years, however, May has become even more convicted of the strong need for the financial education of youth, as evidenced by his volunteer teaching of Jr. Achievement and National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) courses in Lake Jackson area public schools. “I had decided that if the credit union was truly going to be committed to the schools and to the youth in the area, I would have to get involved first before turning it over to the staff,” May said. John had 16 students in his NEFE program last spring and said the credit union is continuing the program this fall. In addition, under May’s leadership, the credit union received approval to open a student-run TDECU branch within a local high school this fall. “Training the youth of today is so important. Frankly, if credit unions don’t get involved with students, they will lose that market. With the NEFE program, the students got to know the credit union better, and we got to know their needs better. Those 16 students will be the best possible emissaries for promoting the credit union to that age group,” May said. But why did May decide now to trade in his role as credit union CEO for a role as college professor? Partly because the president of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, a long-time friend of May’s, approached May about joining the faculty. And partly because May’s wife, Joyce, inherited two family farms in Oklahoma at about the same time. Coupled with a general disappointment over trends in the accounting profession, May decided the timing was right for his actions to speak louder than words concerning the education of youth. “Sometimes business can create black eyes,” May said, citing first the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s and then the current Enron and Worldcom accounting fiascos. “In business, there are a lot of gray areas. My message to students is to stay away from the gray areas. “In my early years, I worked for Arthur Andersen and I’m not happy about their demise. But that’s a situation that’s out of my control. What I can do is help prevent these things from happening in the future by helping today’s youth understand that they can be successful in business with high morals and good, solid ethics. I live by a Harry Truman saying, `Always do right. You will gratify some of the people and astonish the rest.’ “Obviously, the pay is less in this job, but you can’t measure everything by a paycheck. I’m more concerned with quality service for people,” May said. With May at the helm, Texas Dow received a CAMEL 1 rating the past six years and had the highest ranking of Texas credit unions in its asset category in Callahan’s Return-to-Member survey. TDECU went from 3-6 branches, and is currently constructing an 8,000-sq.-ft. administrative services building. Assets grew from $280 million to $713 million, and membership grew from 35,000 to 65,000. Also during his tenure, the credit union’s field of membership was significantly expanded, as was lending and service delivery technology. May’s successor at TDECU has not been named. Prior to joining Texas Dow in 1992, May served Tinker Federal Credit Union in Oklahoma City as President/CEO, and earlier as CFO. He also served as CFO for California Credit Union League, spent time in the banking industry and also in public accounting. May said his transition to a new “career” has been easier than he expected, probably because he lived in Oklahoma before. In fact, it was while he was stationed at Ft. Sill that he met Joyce, his wife of 37 years. May admitted that the most difficult aspect of relocating was leaving his network of peers in the credit union movement and in the Lake Jackson area and the friends on his credit union team. But May has already talked to the dean of the business school about doing research that could be useful to credit unions. “Lots of studies have been done on students defaulting on credit cards and student loans, but there’s not a lot of information on what they need to be successful,” May said. “I asked my opening class how many had compared products and services at financial institutions before deciding where they would open an account. About 10 percent had. Then I asked them how many wished they had, and all of them raised their hands.” Is May’s curriculum somewhat biased toward credit unions? “If they can say, `I get the best deal at a bank,’ so be it. My objective is to help them make good decisions on financial institutions and show them they can maintain high morals and good ethics in business.” -

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