CUs May be in the Past for Tom Welsh, but Associates Still Value What They Learned from Him
LAVERNE, Tenn. - Harold T. "Tom" Welsh candidly admits if most of the credit union people he worked with during his years spent in the credit union industry met him now, they'd be surprised that the work he currently does has nothing whatsoever to do with credit unions. After all,...
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LAVERNE, Tenn. – Harold T. “Tom” Welsh candidly admits if most of the credit union people he worked with during his years spent in the credit union industry met him now, they’d be surprised that the work he currently does has nothing whatsoever to do with credit unions. After all, we’re talking about a man who not only was CEO of several credit unions during his CU career and was chairman of the Illinois Credit Union League, but was also CUNA Chairman from 1983-1984. He was reelected in 1986. Welsh was also one of the charter organizers of Mid-States Corporate Credit Union, the Illinois Credit Union Foundation, and the Illinois League Service Corp. These days the 71-year old Welsh works as a photo specialist at a neighborhood Walgreen’s four days a week. The Illinois native from South Chicago moved to Tennessee seven years ago with his wife Patricia to be near three of their five children who also live with their families in Laverne – his other two children live in Michigan and Georgia. Welsh’s wife of 48 years passed away in June 2003. Welsh covered many credit union miles during his lengthy career with the industry. He laughs when he recalls it all began shortly after he got out of the Army and worked as payroll supervisor for an electrical utilities company. The personnel director of the company asked if he would be treasurer of the EUC Employees CU, and Welsh agreed. “It’s strange, I was treasurer for a good six months before I realized the credit union was a not-for-profit institution,” he remembers. Welsh also had to join the credit union before he could be treasurer. “I had to give them $5 to join so I could have a job,” he remembers. Welsh stayed with EUC Employees CU until the utility company closed, then he worked at Federal Paper Board Employees CU, Morris, Ill. from 1964-1968. From there he worked as president/CEO of Commonwealth CU in Kankakee, Ill. for 21 years. It was during that time that Welsh was also chairman of the Illinois Credit Union League. After he left Commonwealth CU in 1989, Welsh was recruited by Share Guaranty Corp. of California to be the interim president of Sierra Central CU in Yuba City, Calif. which had run in to solvency problems. He remained there for nine months until the credit union got back on its feet. Having built a reputation for being able to turn credit unions around, Welsh was sent by NCUA in 1990 to Florida FPE CU which the agency had placed in conservatorship. Welsh stayed there until August 1991, managed to help the credit union get rid of a $500,000 deficit and prepare for its eventual merger with GTE FCU. After the merger, he went to work at GTE FCU, first as director of special project, then vice president of consumer lending, then VP of lending, and then in 1996, he was named president. Welsh retired in 1997, but not before serving as CUNA chairman twice and on the U.S. Central Board. Welsh was also a trustee of Credit Union Benefits Services (CUBS). Welsh has many vivid recollections of his term on the CUNA Board. Among them was the recapitalization of CUNA Services Group which Welsh said was accomplished by issuing stock offering to the leagues. “I learned so much working with CUNA as chairman and when I testified to Congress on bankruptcy reform,” says Welsh. “For one thing, I learned how organizations work. I would recommend all credit unions belong to their league and CUNA and forget the political garbage.” That’s the sort of zealousness about credit unions that Dick Ensweiler, president/CEO of the Texas Credit Union League and current CUNA chairman recalls about his years working with Welsh at the Illinois League. Ensweiler was president/CEO of the Illinois League from 1974-1984 when Welsh was chairman. He left in 1984 to work as executive vice president of CUNA Mutual. “What I remember most about Tom was his focus. He always had time for league work, always thought things through, did his homework and was prepared. He was able to translate what he read in to what was practical. Tom was a true leader,” says Ensweiler. “Welsh had the ability to capture what was important at the time,” the CUNA Chairman adds. When Welsh was Illinois league chairman, for example and attended chapter meetings, Ensweiler said he “had the precise message for the meetings.” For example, when the state was recodifying the state credit union act, the two of them went to the state legislature “barnstorming legislators,” Ensweiler said. It was his years working with Welsh that Ensweiler said taught him some of his most valuable lessons – anything can come up at any given time, so you can’t wait until it’s time to go to a meeting to first confront a situation. You have to be prepared. “Welsh demonstrated that you’re able to get a job done well if people respect you’re on top of thing and you’ve done your homework,” says Ensweiler. Friends of Harold T. “Tom” Welsh who’d like to contact him can reach him at (615) 793-7494. -
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