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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Tom Welch, president/CEO of the $252 million Piedmont Aviation Credit Union for 33 years and the key figure in guiding the credit union through turbulent times of its parent sponsor, has retired. Succeeding Welch is Judy Tharp, vice president of strategy and solution development for CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, Wis., and who once at age 22 organized and headed up a small Wilmington credit union. “I am elated to take the reins of a credit union with such a strong history of serving their members’ financial needs with commitment and passion,” said Tharp, a 27-year CU veteran who in 1979 chartered Cape Fear Employees’ Credit Union. She later served in senior management at Founders Federal Credit Union and South Carolina Federal Credit Union and has been a director of First Carolina Corporate Credit Union and the North Carolina Credit Union League. Welch began his career in 1959 at North Carolina National Bank (now Bank of America), joining the CU movement in 1967 when he took a job at Hennis Credit Union. At Piedmont, Welch recalls in his first full year as CEO in 1974, the CU posted earnings of $38, held $5 million in assets, had four employees for 2,000 members and operated out of a hangar at a local airport. He has also witnessed difficult times for the parent, a Winston-Salem firm purchased in 1987 by US Airways Group, which later went into bankruptcy. At its peak Piedmont Aviation had 5,600 employees that, following the merger, dropped the local workforce to as low as 468 a year ago. US Airways later moved most of its operations to Tempe, Ariz., following its merger with America West, and has since added more employees here at a new reservation center, whose employees are members of the CU. Plans are for the CU to retain the Piedmont name, but drop “aviation,” said a news release. The Winston-Salem CU today has 80,000 members and 120 employees with an FOM covering three North Carolina counties with 70 SEGs. During his tenure, Welch received a number of honors being named as the Credit Union Person of the Year by the Northwest Chapter of the state league and also was recognized as the Ronald J. Hutchins Credit Union Person of the Year in 1996. A year later the league presented him the Mark of Excellence Award, which at the time was the highest honor bestowed by the organization. –[email protected]

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