HARRISBURG, Pa. – Most here won't wonder what became of Michael Judge, the Pennsylvanian of "strong Wilkes-Barre Irish stock," because though it's been more than a decade since his retirement as head of the credit union league, he's still etched in the minds of those who consider him a living legend. At age 77, Judge is still a regular attendee at the League's annual conference, and up until 2002 he served on the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation and CUNA Foundation. Well after his retirement in 1992, he continued to work as a consultant to the league on a number of issues while serving as chairman of the former National Association for Retired Credit Union People (NARCUP). Most recently, Judge was immortalized with the naming of the Penn State Judge/Bradley Credit Union School. Joseph Bradley, a former professor at Penn State University, was instrumental in establishing the school. Today, he looks forward to his three-times-a-week water aerobics class, visiting with his two daughters and son who all live nearby and spending time with his wife of 52 years, Madeline. "I'm loving my free time," Judge said. "I still like being in the loop." During Judge's 37-year tenure as president of the League, membership grew from 400,000 to 2.5 million with total assets ballooning from $366,000 to nearly $9 billion. Forty-four new credit unions also formed under his tutelage. PACUL Supply Corp., which provided credit unions with promotional materials and special forms was also formed along with CUEDS, Inc., the league's data processing service provider. These subsidiaries would later come under the umbrella of PACUL Services Inc., which provided automated teller machines, auto leasing, credit cards, first mortgages and more to credit unions. Not only did Judge put his stamp on the movement locally, his impact stretched nationally as he led controversial efforts to bring equity for credit unions threatened by banking groups that lobbied for restricted growth. One such move occurred in 1971 when Judge led a successful class-action suit against NCUA. The suit charged the agency with setting "arbitrary requirements" to qualify for the then-new share insurance program. Without intervention, 180 credit unions in Pennsylvania would have been forced to transfer additional funds to regular reserves, and if unable to do so, would have been forced to liquidate. "Something had to be done for the preservation of credit unions," Judge recalled. "We got an injunction to prevent NCUA from shutting down any credit unions. It was a pretty quick process because the judge was able to see our point of view." Judge added that "Pennsylvania wasn't looked on favorably by the NCUA for some years," but the relationship has since been an amicable one. It's Judge's knack for "causing a consensus to come about" that helped push forth agendas that were critical to leagues moving forward with the times, said Bob Bianchini, president/CEO of the Oklahoma Credit Union League. Bianchini worked with Judge at the International Association of Managing Directors, now called the American Association of Credit Union Leagues. "Mike was the calm in the midst of the storm," Bianchini said, adding his "very strong and effective leadership skills" helped both his home league and national efforts. In 1991, Judge was again front and center leading a delegation of 1,200 Pennsylvanians including league staff to the mall in Washington to protest legislation that would radically change the way credit unions were regulated. The U.S. Navy World War II veteran started his credit union career in 1953 when he became a member of the Hazard Okonite Credit Union. Two years later Judge joined the league as a field representative assigned to organize new credit unions after the closing of a local plant. In 1960, he was promoted to director of special services and became immersed in the recodification of state credit union law. Six years later, Judge became the league's managing director and in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson invited him to a signing ceremony for the Credit Union Omnibus Bill. Over the next 35 years, the league steeped itself in both local and national concerns including revolutionary share draft legislation signed by President Jimmy Carter, which sought to preserve that credit union financial staple. Along the way, Judge also became the first president of U.S Central Credit Union and a charter member of Mid-Atlantic Corporate Federal Credit Union. Endless is the list of accomplishments and appointments Judge has garnered over his nearly four-decade career including being a founding member of the Filene Research Institute, serving on the CUNA/CSG Board of directors and as vice chairman of the Pennsylvania League for Consumer Protection. In 1986, Judge received the Eagle award, the highest recognition given to a league executive and that same year CUNADATA named him `executive of the year.' He's always considered an advocate for the "little guy" but lately, Judge's stance has changed to ensure the survival of credit unions. "It's a highly technical operation now and while there is still the need to keep the early core values, mergers are strengthening the movement," Judge said. "I've always been a strong advocate of the small credit union, the people helping people philosophy. Today, it's about survival and competing without forgetting that philosophy." Judge's "shining stars" abound and many agree that his strong work ethic and leadership skills helped to shape their roles in the industry today. "He's always been decisive, ready to make a decision and that helped to position the future and survival of credit unions," said Jim McCormack, president/CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union League. Judge hired McCormack more than 20 years ago as a league vice president. (See related story page 30) Indeed, Judge saw to it that the seeds for credit union survival were planted early and tilled often. He launched the "widely-popular" Credit Union Youth Ambassador contest as well as the Credit Union Youth Involvement Program and Credit Union Youth Week in Pennsylvania. According to league officials, Judge spearheaded one of the most successful and longest-running statewide advertising programs to woo potential members. Kati Shoop admits it may sound a bit clich, but she looked to Judge as a "father figure." Shoop was hired as a stenographer at the league 31 years ago and is now vice president of human resources and corporate relations. "He demanded a lot of his people, he was very strict – but that wasn't a bad thing," Shoop said. "He always gave us opportunities to grow within the organization and that made him an excellent mentor. Pennsylvania has a strong credit union reputation and he gets much of the credit." Judge will make the rounds at Pennsylvania's annual conference this year simply because he "likes to be in the know on credit union concerns." And, in spite of the progressions the industry has made, Judge emphasized the philosophy that sets credit unions apart from the competition should remain intact. "At the end of the day, credit unions should embrace the principles they were founded on," Judge said. "It shouldn't be a conflict of interest with trying to grow and compete." -

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