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Hunt helped navigate ECCU to expand beyond educational community while still maintaining strong ties. KALAMAZOO, Mich. – A little over a week after Bob Hunt retired as president/CEO of Educational Community Credit Union after 30 years of service, he helped welcome his twelfth grandchild into the world. Hunt, who will turn 61 on Feb. 23, was on standby for “the call” as he winded down the final transitions as head of the $228 million credit union. His last day at ECCU was Feb. 1, ending a tenure that propelled a small, school employee credit union into one of Michigan’s most successful financial institutions today. “I have to say it’s bitter sweet,” Hunt admitted. “I love what I do. I love the people and the business. I could do this until they drag me out by my boots. But there are seasons and there’s a time for everyone to move on.” Hunt said his decision to retire was mainly prompted by health concerns. He recently had surgery and is slated for another one soon. Still, he says he’s in good health and his spirits are high. “I’m ready to get (the next surgery) over with, so we can hit the road,” Hunt said, referring to the RV road trip he and his wife Jan will soon embark on. Looking back, Hunt came to ECCU in 1975 when it was known as School Employees Credit Union. Back then, there were nine employees, 6,700 members and $7 million in assets. The credit union was initially chartered in 1935 by school employees in Kalamazoo and its first office was located in a classroom in the old Kalamazoo Central High School here. Over three decades, Hunt helped to navigate ECCU through two mergers and four charter expansions. Just recently, the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Services approved the expansion of ECCU’s charter to include service to the educational community in 16 additional surrounding counties, bringing the total to 21 counties in southwest Michigan. “We never tried to grow for the sake of growth,” Hunt said. “Credit unions have always been about serving people and helping the members. That was always our focus.” Hunt is among those who actually started his career in the credit union industry and stayed there for the rest of his professional life. After studying to become a certified public accountant, the Detroit native became the bookkeeper’s assistant manager at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish Credit Union. Hunt didn’t care that the tiny credit union only had 500 members and $500,000 in assets. “I didn’t know what a credit union was,” Hunt recalled. “I just wanted to keep a set of books.” Hunt, became the manager in 1954 at a time when finance companies were all the rage with “outrageous” charges. He stayed there for more than two years and then moved on to Roseville Sacred Heart Credit Union. “Me, a non-Catholic,” he quipped. By the 1960s, Hunt returned to school while working long hours. He also joined the Reserves, got married and “very quickly,” his first child was on the way. He wrote a former boss to query about jobs and soon landed an assistant manager position at Warren Schools Credit Union. “At the time, I wanted to get into more technology and payroll deduction,” Hunt said. “Warren was a very progressive credit union.” After serving there for five years, a friend told him about an opening at ECCU. At the age of 30, Hunt became the credit union’s CEO. “I really thought I was only to going to be there for three to five years,” he recalled. “But it had great potential. Kalamazoo was a great place to raise a family.” ECCU’s Transformation In the 1980s, ECCU underwent several, significant changes including expanding its field of membership to include several teaching hospitals, a merger with Van Buren Governmental Employees Credit Union and the addition of home equity loans and ATMs. Another merger with Allegan County School Employees Credit Union occurred in 1986 and new branches were added over the next three years. Eleven Credit Union Family Service Centers offices were in place by 1989. By the 1990s, ECCU changed to its current name, celebrated reaching $100 million in assets in 1995 and welcomed Seed Company as its select employee group that same year. Hunt was also there when the credit union opened its full-service location in Three Rivers here and added new offerings such as the Roth IRA, first mortgage program, MasterMoney debit card and Platinum Visa and MasterCard. In 1998, ECCU topped the $100 million in savings deposits mark and introduced and expanded its mortgage loan program that same year. One more county was also added to the credit union’s FOM in 1998. Throughout his career, Hunt served on the Kalamazoo Chapter of Credit Unions, Michigan Credit Union League, Service Centers Corporation and the Education Credit Union Counsel of Michigan, among other state and national boards. In 1993, Bob was inducted into the prestigious Credit Union Executives Society’s Hall of Fame. As he reflects on his career, Hunt said the trend of education-based credit unions expanding to serve communities is all about offering a choice. “We think education is very special,” Hunt said. “Part of the credit union’s plan was to expand to the community. We want to be able to offer a choice but we didn’t want to encroach” on others’ territories. The father of three children – one in Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento – is really looking forward to “no cell towers” when he takes his boat out to fish with his 13-year old grandson. He and his wife are also looking forward to seeing his 11 other grandchildren, all still in elementary and preschool, in plays and at football and soccer games. Hunt shines the spotlight on ECCU’s board members and staff. “It’s really all about the people,” he said. ” My philosophy was to hire good people and let them do their job. Find out what they do best and let them do it. It’s like a puzzle that you’re constantly changing. You grow and add more.” He likens his tenure at ECCU to his all-time favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. “ It’s hard to end a career, but I can say that it really has been a wonderful life.” [email protected]

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