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TROY, Mich. – Colleagues and friends of Ken Bixby who were accustomed to see him always wearing a suit and tie would be surprised to learn that the former president/CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League not only doesn’t wear that attire anymore, he deliberately got rid of them when he retired in May 1996. He also doesn’t get on a plane and fly anywhere anymore. “I flew to so many meetings for 38 years and decided once I retired I wouldn’t fly anymore,” says the 67-year old Bixby. As for the casual attire, Bixby says “I go to no function that requires I wear a tie, which also has the benefit of not being invited to places I don’t want to go.” By his own admission, Bixby is leading “as quiet a life as possible,” and that’s just fine with him. He says he tries not to do anything he doesn’t want to do, “but when you’re married with four children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, that doesn’t always apply,” he quips. So what are the days like now for the man who made it a point to try to attend as many credit union-related meetings as possible? Bixby says he “really does nothing much,” and “I don’t start doing nothing until after 11 in the morning,” he says. “My best friend tells me I’m a completely different person than I used to be before I retired. I’m more relaxed and easy going, and less absorbed in myself than in others. I’m not in as much of a hurry,” says Bixby. Of course that wasn’t always the way Bixby would have described his life. To start with, the Iowa native has “over time” lived in 13 states. First, when he was younger his parents moved, then Bixby relocated several times to different parts of the country because of professional changes. After graduating from the University of South Dakota with a B.A. in accounting, Bixby lived for awhile in Saginaw, Michigan working for the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions – as NCUA was called then – as an examiner. Bixby admits working with NCUA “was a job, not a calling to work with credit unions.” In fact, not only didn’t he know much about credit unions before he worked at NCUA, it wasn’t until after he took the job with the agency that he learned his mother had financed his first semester at college with a loan from Sioux City Journal CU. He left Michigan in 1960 to work with BFCU in Chicago as a review examiner. From there Bixby did a short stint in Washington working with the agency in examination and supervision. He subsequently moved back to Chicago in 1964 to work as an assistant regional director and became an RD in 1970 when the regional office was moved to Toledo. Bixby left the NCUA in 1973 to move to California and work at the California Credit Union League, first as vice president of league services, and then as vice president of planning and development. He stayed with the CCUL six years, and then with his wife and one of his four children moved to the east coast in 1980 to work with the New York State Credit Union League as vice president of league services (his three oldest children remained in California). Bixby stayed there for two years before moving back to Michigan in 1982 to work at the Michigan Credit Union League as president/CEO, succeeding George LaChappel. With years of experience working with three credit union leagues under his belt, Bixby says there are common threads among leagues – “to serve credit unions to better serve their members” – and especially between the California, New York, and Michigan Leagues. “One of the common things that still exists between these three states that made it difficult for the leagues to allocate resources is their differentiation between small and large credit unions, and their geographic division,” Bixby explains. “In Michigan it’s the upper and lower peninsula, California has the northern and southern parts of the state, and New York has the city and outside the city,” he continues adding, “credit unions have always been fraught with divisions.” Bixby unabashingly admits, “The Michigan League presidency spot was a job I always coveted, even when I worked at NCUA. I liked the state and the people. I’m a Midwesterner by birth, and as an examiner I had the opportunity to see how the league operated and I liked it. I probably would have come close to paying them to give me the job rather than take a salary, but of course my wife wouldn’t have liked that,” he says. Bixby and his wife Marjorie (“Marge”) have been married almost 48 years. Bixby has a lot of memories of the 14 years he worked with the Michigan League. He recalls for example, that when he began working there the Michigan League had a high profile and good reputation, but it was near bankruptcy “because it got into things that didn’t work out that drained its resources,” he said. Among those were owning an insurance company which the Michigan League eventually sold to CUNA Mutual for $27 million. “That helped establish our financial base for the future and made the league more stable,” he says. Bixby also recalls things like the political, share draft, and field-of-membership battles and the creation of the corporate network. “Not a lot has changed,” he remarks. As involved as Bixby was for so many years with credit unions, he says he had no regrets about retiring when he did. I’d always known I wasn’t going to work past 62. When the League moved into a new facility, I told the staff I wouldn’t be making the transition with them. I found I wasn’t that interested in attending meetings anymore, things that used to interest me. I was more interested in spending time with my grandchildren,” he says, adding that he hasn’t looked back since. Bixby spends his time these days involved with various activities that are far removed from the credit union scene he was once so immersed in. For example, he is active in his church and works with a group that makes baby quilts which are distributed to shelters, women abuse centers, and other charities. He was on the board of Michigan Citizens for Gun Control and has also been involved with the Million Mom March, a gun control organization that held a march and other events in Washington, D.C. May 8-10. Bixby also likes to read – his favorite genres are mysteries/legal thrillers and non-fiction – and attend concerts – his tastes run the gamut from country western to pop vocalists. Bixby’s youngest son still lives in Michigan and his oldest son moved to the state from California. They both live about 30 minutes from where Bixby and his wife live. His two daughters live in southern California with their families, and Bixby and his wife spend weekends with them when the two of them spend the months between Christmas and Easter at their home in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. “Anyone who says they retired with everything they wanted to accomplish is lying,” says Bixby, but he has no regrets about his decision to start this new chapter in his life. Friends of Bixby who’d like to contact him can reach him at (248) 362-3508. -

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