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SMITHVILLE, Mo. – Nancy Pierce will candidly tell you that when she was planning to retire in 2001 after being involved with credit unions for more than 25 years, including a term as chairman of CUNA, she was “kind of nave” about how she envisioned her retirement life. “I thought after I got my doctorate in consumer and family economics from the University of Missouri, Columbia and got involved with doing exciting research, that I would be invited to speak all over the country,” says the 57-year old Pierce. That hasn’t happened and Pierce has no regrets. “My husband Jim kept saying when I was approaching my retirement date that I would miss interacting with people, but I really do enjoy the research and the things that I find interesting to work on,” she says Among her involvements, Pierce sits on the board of the Applied Urban Research Institute that brings groups together to facilitate community development and urban reinvestment. She’s always been interested in the factors that sustain economic development in neighborhoods and has found that it has a lot to with “human and social capital.” She also recently finished a project with her former advisor at the University of Missouri, Columbia in getting an article published based on her Ph.D. dissertation – “Precautionary Savings Behavior of Maritally Distressed Households.” Recently she began volunteering with a program called CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates – that’s works on matching trained community volunteers with children who are taken out of their homes because of neglect and put into foster care. The advocate is responsible for monitoring the child’s welfare and speaking for the children’s interest in court. “I was looking for a volunteer program where I could feel like I was contributing to something,” says Pierce, noting that having gotten her undergraduate degree in psychology and working as a social worker before entering the credit union circles, “I’ve come full circle.” As founder and owner of Tinton Research Group, Pierce has also been working closely with the Filene Research Group on an alternative financial services project for credit unions, facilitated by the Applied Research Institute of the California Credit Union League. “When I left Mazuma, I intended to remain involved with credit unions. My interest has always been in the savings and consumption habits of people. Why some people can save while others can’t,” she says. The project she’s working on with Filene entails developing a series of business models that would help jumpstart credit unions interested in providing alternative financial services to members and non-members. Pierce said the project is still in development mode. Though retirement life hasn’t turned out exactly the way Pierce imagined it would be, she’s adjusted into it. Her secret, she says, is developing a structure and routine to her day. “I’m a pretty structured person,” she admits. “It helped in making the transition that I was going to school part-time even when I was working, and then continued full-time afterwards. That required me to set up a structure to my day, and I’ve tried to maintain that.” She’s still a morning person – although she awakens an hour or two later than she did when she worked at Mazuma. She’s usually up around 6:30-7:30 a.m. and works on various projects until mid-morning before heading off for about two hours of exercise at the fitness center. She usually puts in four more hours of work when she returns home and goes for a walk with her husband Jim in the evening before settling down to a good book or needlepoint. Two years ago she bought a bike, trained for and completed the 225-mile Katy Trail in Missouri. Last summer she bought a kayak and taught herself to maneuver it on Smithville Lake near her home. “I’m really as very ordinary person,” says Pierce noting that “this summer I didn’t buy any new toys.” But those were personal interests she had little time for when she headed Mazuma and served as CUNA chairman at a critical time in the credit union movement’s history during the infamous AT&T Family FCU field-of-membership case brought on by the American Bankers Association and U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case. Pierce had the honor of announcing before the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference audience in February 1998 of the Court’s decision. “I remember how after I made the announcement about the Court’s decision how everyone stood up and applauded like I had something to do with the decision,” Pierce recalls. “I just kept telling myself not to say thank you.” As for her term as CUNA chairman, Pierce says, “So many good things happened during my chairmanship, but they were the result of other people’s actions.” For example, she says while she’s credited with Project Differentiation,”that was really Mary Cunningham’s idea,” referring to the current president/CEO, USA FCU and who in 1998 when Project Differentiation was created was president/CEO of CUNA CU and served on CUNA’s Credit Union Performance Enhancement Project Task Force. In 1999, Cunningham was named chair of the Project Differentiation Task Force. Continuing to reflect on her term as CUNA chairman, Pierce says, “What I learned most about myself during my chairmanship was that I enjoy being more of a support person that being in charge of an organization the magnitude of CUNA, I wanted to be chair of CUNA because I thought it would be an awesome responsibility to be able to contribute at that level. But when I became chairman I realized it was an awesome responsibility, and at times I was uncomfortable with that. “At times I would question if I had the leadership capabilities to perform the chairman function,” she continues. “As chairman you always have to have your game face on, you’re always thought of as being the CUNA chairman. Whenever I was at a credit union event, even a non-CUNA one, I was usually asked to say something as CUNA chairman. That was part of my decision to serve only one year, and I felt some relief when my term was over.” Regardless, Pierce adds that “I never looked back at decisions I made as chairman, even though there were times I could have done things differently. But I felt the decisions I made were the right ones at the time.” Still few in the credit union world would dispute the mark Pierce left on the industry, but she laughs when asked if she considers herself a mentor. “I’m not sure what a mentor is. I try to tell people that they should take the risks. If you have a goal, you have to be willing to take the risk to achieve it,” she says, adding that she considers herself to be “a cautious risk taker.” “When you’re in business for yourself as I am, people approach you with ideas. You have to learn to say `yes’ and then figure out how to do it,” she says. People, she offers, shouldn’t be afraid to push themselves to take risks. -

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