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SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. – The halls of the Massachusetts Credit Union League where Dan Egan has worked for the last 22 years – the last 20 as the organization’s president and CEO – are a far cry from the district attorney’s office where he once worked and the courtrooms where he prosecuted criminal cases. That’s fine with Egan. Now, he says, he feels he been able to positively influence people’s lives. The 53-year old Worchester, Mass.-native always planned to pursue a law career. For as long as he could remember, Egan says he was fascinated by the courtroom and wanted to be a trial lawyer. So when he graduated Boston University Law School in 1975, he was thrilled to be offered a position as an assistant district attorney. But as the youngest person on the staff, “I was given the cases nobody else wanted to handle. It was a very hectic situation and the courts were overloaded,” Egan recalls. He mostly prosecuted rape and manslaughter cases. “There were no such things as rape crisis counseling or victims assistance programs at the time. You simply got the case and had to handle everything. It was an awesome responsibility for a 25 year old,” he says. “My wife likes to remind me that I lost 20 pounds during one trial,” Egan quips. After a year-and-a-half, Egan felt burnt out and decided he’d had enough of being a trial lawyer even though he was still interested in the law. “When you graduate law school, you think you can really make a difference, and to a limited degree you do. But I have no regrets about leaving the district attorney’s office,” says Egan. “I enjoyed the courtroom and advocacy parts of being a lawyer. But I didn’t enjoy the human toll it takes. Ultimately the law isn’t fair or moral. As a district attorney, you’re confronted with so many situations you can’t solve. I couldn’t take seeing the pain and hurt of clients and not having the ability to do anything about it. You have to have a high tolerance for pain and suffering, and I didn’t have it,” Egan says. The district attorney office’s loss would ultimately wind up being credit unions’ gain. A subsequent four-year stint as the general counsel for the Massachusetts Chief of Police Association gave Egan his first taste of working for a trade association and opportunity to hone his lobbying skills on the state and federal legislative levels. He also had a private practice with a specialty in labor relations representing labor unions. Egan says the work was interesting, but juggling the two was a 24/7 job. “I was never at home,” he says, and that was especially hard on his wife Callie since by now the Egans had their first child. Timing is Everything In what he describes as a “quirk of fate,” a friend of Egan’s took a job at CUNA Mutual Group and began talking with Egan about credit unions and credit union trade associations. The friend told Egan he’d heard about a general counsel opening at the Massachusetts-CUNA Credit Union Association and suggested Egan check it out. At the time, there were two credit union trade associations in Massachusetts – the CUNA-affiliated Massachusetts CUNA Credit Union Association, and the independent, non-CUNA affiliated Credit Union League of Massachusetts. Formed in 1919, the latter organization was the first credit union trade association formed in the U.S. and was eventually used by Roy Bergengren as a model to create state credit union trade associations in the U.S. On-going disputes between Bergengren and Felix Vorenburg, who headed CU League of Massachusetts when CUNA was being formed in 1934 about the number of votes CU League of Massachusetts was entitled to and the dues structure precipitated Bergengren’s founding of Massachusetts CUNA Credit Union Association. Until the two groups merged in 1997 and became the Massachusetts Credit Union League, the Massachusetts CUNA Credit Union Association was identified with the state-chartered credit unions in Massachusetts, and Credit Union League of Massachusetts focused on federal credit unions. There were about 600 credit unions in the state then. Egan describes himself as “an inquisitive person” and willing to try new things, and so in 1981, armed with experience working with trade associations and the legal profession, he took his friend’s suggestion, interviewed for the general counsel position, was offered and accepted the job. He recalls that “my wife was thrilled that I wouldn’t be working the long hours any longer,” and in 1982 the couple had their second child. “The same thing that drove me to become a trial lawyer – to make positive changes in people’s lives – is what motivated me to work at Massachusetts CUNA Credit Union Association,” says Egan. “When I see things I can do that can positively influence someone’s life, I have to pursue it.” In 1983, Egan became president of MCCUA when then-president Clarence Clarkoswki passed away. Two years later he also became president of the New Hampshire Credit Union League when it signed a management agreement with the Massachusetts association, and in 1992, MCCUA signed a management agreement with the Rhode Island Credit Union League and Egan became president of that league as well. If, as Egan said, “the atmosphere between banks and credit unions in the state were always contentious,” things got even hotter in the months leading up to the signing of H.R. 1151 in 1998. Although credit unions in the state were never sued by the Massachusetts Bankers Association, Egan said the bankers “consistently” challenged credit union on the state regulatory level by questioning decisions made by the commissioner of banks and requesting public hearings. The bankers also used the state legislature in their attempt to block credit unions’ powers. “They filed legislation in every manner you could think of to have credit unions taxed. They’d try to do it through the budget process and even tried burying it in legislative bills,” he says. That’s why Egan says he’s not as much proud of what’s happened for credit unions legislatively, such as the passage of the credit union parity bill in 1998 and legislation in 2002 allowing credit unions to provide insurance products to members, as what hasn’t happened. For example, despite a continued contentious relationship with the bankers and the fact that there are two billion-dollar credit unions in Massachusetts, state-chartered credit unions still enjoy, in Egan’s opinion, one of the broadest field-of-membership regulations of any state. Egan attributes CUs’ success to their ability to generate grassroots support from constituents and members and the power of municipal credit unions and groups in the state. “Many state and federal legislators have former teachers who are on the boards of credit unions. Every year when we go to Washington for a Hike the Hill, we bring along some of these board members to meet their former students. The members of Congress wouldn’t do anything to block membership in their former teachers’ credit unions,” Egan says. Smell the Roses Egan admits he still has a tendency to work 24/7, but lately he’s been channeling his energy to helping raise money through a regional foundation and supporting the Credit Union Museum in Manchester. He says “it’s a terrific memorial to credit unions and what they’re about.” He also relegates more exclusive family time now. The family has owned a vacation home in Kennebunkport, Me. for 20 years, and Egan says he and his family -his four children range in age 26 to 14 – spend as much time there as possible. “Everybody tells me my worst weakness is that I’m impatient. If something’s happening or needs to get done, I don’t want to hear any excuses about why it can’t get done,” he admits. He sees the house in Maine as “a place for my family to come together and relax. The older my kids get, the more they come back. It’s the place everyone knows they can come to just to escape from things.” Egan admits “The people at the office would be surprised to see how casual I am when I’m with my family. It’s in stark contrast to how I am at work. At work, my associates think of me as being very conservative and straight-laced. I have a great sense of obligation in representing credit union, so I maintain an image of friendly professionalism and always wear a shirt and tie at work. But outside of work and especially when I’m on vacation, I don’t shave and wear shorts.” Egan also admits that his associates would also be surprised to know he’s a big fan of the late-Jimi Hendrix and owns everything the rock artist ever recorded. Still Driven But the Egan his associates are more familiar with is still someone who is extremely focused and driven. That drive was especially evident when Egan was chairman of Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) from 1998-2000 and the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) from 2000-2002. He also served on CUNA’s Renewal and Renaissance committees, and was on the CUNA Board for eight years. For example, after H.R. 1151 became law, Egan said CULAC had to find a way to increase the level of funds in the coffer. As chairman, Egan was charged with changing the structure of CULAC so it would be able to generate more money from leagues. “We had to shake everyone up and convince them we needed a strong infrastructure,” he said. Egan credits CUNA Vice President of Political Action and Grassroots Richard Gose for coming on board “with a lot of great ideas and being so instrumental with making our vision real.” He also recognizes CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica’s “tremendous influence in helping me realize what we should and could do as a movement.” Nowadays, Egan has stepped back from his committee work and is taking time to regroup. But he’s still inquisitive and outspoken about the issues facing credit unions. “The strength of credit unions has always been their ability to cooperate. There isn’t always an enemy for credit unions to rally around, and during those times, credit unions tend to drift and be lulled in to a sense of security. That’s dangerous,” says Egan. “If that behavior becomes institutionalized, people tend to break off and go their own ways. That’s my biggest fear, that credit unions will wind up branching off in to self interest groups. We all share the same last name and that ties us to the same fate,” he adds. As for state banking groups’ current attempts to have credit unions in their respective states taxed, Egan quotes one of his heroes, former Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal from Massachusetts: “All politics is local.” Egan explained that, “The political culture of each state is distinct and has to be dealt with under its particular political conditions. Credit union leagues have to be prepared to deal with those conditions, their response has to be directed locally. It’s critical for each league to have the political wherewithal to influence the political process in their state,” says Egan. “We should always be in a state of preparedness for the next crisis. We have to build and strength our infrastructure and build on our political strength,” he says. When Egan began working with the Massachusetts CUNA Credit Union Association more than two decades ago, he figured he’s stay there at most two years and use it as a rest stop. “It turned out to be so invigorating and challenging, I decided to stay,” he says. “I’ve met so many gifted people who like to work towards common goals to make things better. What more could I ask for,” says Egan. -

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