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DES MOINES, Iowa – A.W. (Al) Jordan remembers even in 1938, how many consumers relied on finance companies that charged exboritant rates for small loans and carried stiff conditions. Out of this proliferation, Jordan, 95, recalls the impetus for starting Western Union Employees Credit Union and from that successful effort, he would go on to become president of the Iowa Credit Union League, fermenting a legacy that catapulted that state to the political and technological forefront. As treasurer of Western, Jordan remembers how diligently the 125 members squirreled their life savings. So assiduous were the savers that it took some reassurance that it was okay to make withdrawals for home and car purchases. “It was certainly a time of exploration and trial and error,” Jordan recalled. “The movement was still very young, but after the war, people started to take another hard look at what credit unions could offer.” The epitome of humility, Jordan apologizes profusely for what he perceives as bragging but it is, in fact, truths that are enthusiastically verified by the dozens of people that were impacted in some way by his credit union mantra. Talk to anyone in Iowa credit union circles about Jordan and he is collectively considered an “icon.” Jordan’s legacy started in 1925, when a state law passed that allowed for the formation of credit unions and five years later, Iowa formed its league in fertile territory ripe for alternatives to finance companies and banks. Eight years later, Jordan would be among those to found Western Union Employees Credit Union. Needless to say, most of Western’s operations were primitive as many were then. Still, “credit unions were successful because the average person had to go to a finance company for a personal loan,” Jordan recalled. “Credit unions were a good medium to amass savings. Our members saved $100, which was a lot at the time. We found that some members needed the money but were afraid to make a withdrawal.” Jordan remembers the debt management services credit union employees provided for members. Meanwhile, about the same time that Western formed, CUNA and CUNA Mutual were green organizations poised to bring a more collective voice to the movement. “There just aren’t any words to explain what Al means to me” said Tom Griffiths, president/CEO of Iowa Credit Union League. Jordan hired Griffiths in 1973 as Iowa’s director of education. “He taught a number of people who are in leadership positions today how to be good business persons and good cooperators at the same time.” The Iowa native, who was “older than average” compared to his peers, Jordan said he did not serve in the armed forces during war time. After the war ended, credit unions began to spring up and Jordan took on the task of reorganizing the local chapter, becoming president of the Central Iowa Chapter of Credit Unions in 1947. Two years later, Jordan was elected to Iowa’s league board and served there for six years. He also served at the state’s central credit union where he saw firsthand the dilemma of forging ahead with emphasis on building operations versus getting the word out about the movement’s philosophy. “The chapters had a lot of questions about how to do this and that,” Jordan said. Word spread in industry circles about Jordan’s pragmatic approach to establishing a clear vision of the direction credit unions would move in and putting those plans in motion. In 1953, he came to Iowa’s league as a “special representative,” more commonly known as a “field man.” When the managing director resigned six months later, the board named Jordan managing director, a title that later changed to president. It was an “ideal time for organizational growth” when Jordan came aboard. His tiny staff of five was mostly responsible for league affairs and field work. The latter proved to be an ambitious mission convincing employers to sign up with neighboring credit unions. Most outreach attempts were successful but a larger advertising and public relations budget helped to further spread the word on how employers stood to benefit from the affiliation. Resources were scant with the league’s center housed in a “second-rate” office building in Des Moines. Headquarters were moved to a suburban area and later to a lot that allowed for a two-story building. One of Jordan’s goals was to have 100% membership with the league among the state’s credit unions. That goal was realized in part through forming a collection services operation and a shared data processing network with Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming leagues. “We really had to convince credit unions about the benefits of data processing,” Jordan said. “Some were going in to machine accounting, finding out that it probably wasn’t the right decision for accounting and depositing. So many members were glued to their passbook savings.” There were three other operations in Michigan, Delaware and Washington D.C. that became the poster children for data processing, Jordan said, and he and his staff made trips to all of them to learn as much as they could. Meetings with vendors also helped to explain the costs of implementation and the bottom line impact. Finally, the league, along with three local credit unions raised roughly $9,000 to start Iowa’s IGUL Data Services now known as Premier Systems, Inc. Five years out, the league set forth on a master track with proven results – other states now sought Iowa out for assistance with their respective ventures. Iowa would eventually sell its center and CUNA Data had a “less vulnerable role.” Incidentally, Jordan helped to organize CUNA Data and served as its president for five years. Beyond its technological trailblazing, Jordan is just as proud of the league’s 100 percent membership. “Through the spirit of cooperation and commitment to cooperatives, we developed effective chapter programs and a stabilization program that is still in effect today,” Jordan said. He recalls there being only five state-chartered credit unions during his tenure and those were governed by the Iowa’s superintendent of banking. The league was instrumental in helping the governor create a division solely for regulating credit unions. When Jordan retired in 1981, there were 425 credit unions in Iowa. Today, through mergers, only a few hundred remain. So heralded was Jordan’s membership drives that two years after he left the league’s post, he was called upon to help increase numbers by six percent – a feat he successfully carried out. “He was a very strong believer in state’s rights and state-chartered credit unions and it was much easier to deal with the legislature,” said Gary Plank, president/CEO of Arizona Credit Union League. Jordan hired Plank in 1966 as an organizer and later as a lobbyist. “Al is a mosaic of all that is good,” Plank said. “I have the greatest respect for the man. I call him on his birthday and he mistakes me for one of his grandkids,” he joked. During his tenure, ICUL Services Corp. formed, landmark legislation passed that resulted in the organization of the Iowa Corporate Central Credit Union and share drafts were legalized. At a “special salute to Al Jordan” retirement dinner in 1981, more than 400 well-wishers attended including senators, congressmen and credit union representatives from around the nation and the world. Donations were made to endow a scholarship in Jordan’s name for attendees of CUNA’s Management School, of which he was the first graduate. Post retirement, Jordan remained active, serving as president of the former National Association of Retired Credit Union People (NARCUP). Dave Douglas, senior vice president and CFO at the Oklahoma Credit Union League remembers Jordan hiring him fresh out of college in Iowa and always referring to him as `Mr. Jordan.’ “He never asked for that,” Douglas said. “I had and have that much respect for him. Even after leaving the league, I measured other league’s operations against Iowa’s because Mr. Jordan set the barometer at such a high standard. It was a measure I sought to reach.” Father of three children, Jordan boasts six grandchildren, six great grandchildren and yes, two great, great grands spread around the nation. The widower is still active, serving on a number of civic and community boards and was also inducted in the National Cooperative Hall of Fame. He’s still invited to Iowa’s annual meetings and conferences. “We’ve been so fortunate here in Iowa because some of the larger states, speaking from past experiences, have had relationship problems,” Jordan said. “I’m so proud that we’ve been able to remain close to the temperament of credit unions. The percentage of members has remained very high. That’s something to be real proud of.” Friends who want to get in touch with Mr. Jordan, can reach him at (515) 255-0203. -

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