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The National Credit Union Foundation’s 2010 Wegner Awards will recognize credit union leaders known for their pioneering and innovative work in insurance and organization.The awards honor Dick Heins, retired CEO of CUNA Mutual Group, with its award for lifetime achievement and Dick Ensweiler, president of the Texas Credit Union League with its award for individual achievement.“Throughout his life, when teaching his students and challenging the credit union community, Dick Heins has pushed us all to see beyond what is there and explore new possibilities,” said Bob Schumacher, NCUF awards and recognition committee chairman. “Dick is one of those unassuming gentleman who believes in ideas, then pushes himself and those around him to make the world a better place.”Of Ensweiler, Schumacher said he embodies timeless qualities of the U.S. credit union movement founder Ed Filene, who always urged credit union advocates to “keep purpose constant.”“Dick Ensweiler is a rare individual who has kept his purpose constant while advancing his career all the way from a teller at a small credit union to the chairman of our largest trade association,” Schumacher reflected. “Every organization Dick has touched has grown to become more successful. His secret to success is simple: Live the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people,’ practice all seven cooperative principles and always act in the best interests of your members.”“Dick Heins made many contributions to the credit union movement during his long tenure at CUNA Mutual, and he continues to do so today,” said Jeff Post, current CEO of CUNA Mutual Group upon learning of Heins’ award. “He exemplifies the visionary spirit associated with the Herb Wegner Awards and is extremely deserving of lifetime achievement recognition. Dick was very helpful to me when I became CEO of CUNA Mutual in 2005, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”Heins began his work with credit unions in 1956 as a consultant with CUNA Mutual, but he described how his first contact with credit unions dated back even further, to when he was just starting a career in higher education in California.Heins, newly married, had no real contact with or knowledge about credit unions when he began teaching at UCLA in the early 1950′s. He taught business management and risk management at the business school and said he might not have had even that experience had his wife not fallen ill and needed medical care.“The university staff directed us to a doctor in Beverly Hills, and we found him very helpful. She recovered and everything was fine-until we got the bill,” Heins recounted. “It was for $250 and at the time I might have made about $9,000 for the whole year, so $250 was a lot of money for us. I went to the university for suggestions of what to do, and they recommended the credit union, something I had never heard of.”Heins took their advice and found the UCLA Credit Union (now University Credit Union) very supportive and willing to help, providing the young family with a loan it could use to pay the bill.But Heins related that when he went to pay the bill and told the doctor about the trip to the credit union for the help to do it, the doctor canceled the entire amount. “Anyone who needs and knows about a credit union to pay my bill, doesn’t need the bill,” Heins recalled the doctor saying. “Put that money in a savings account at the credit union.”“From then on,” Heins said, “I wanted to know a lot more about credit unions.”Even though he accomplished an enormous amount in both a professional and volunteer capacity during his more than 50 years before he retired, Heins said his time as leader of CUNA Mutual Group had been the place where he imagined he had the most lasting impact.Heins said that innovations in the kinds and types of insurance credit unions could offer was the source for much of the impact. Before Heins, for example, people seeking to buy a house had to put down 20% of the purchase price in order to obtain a mortgage. But Heins led CUNA Mutual in the development of what came to be known as private mortgage insurance, insurance that allowed credit unions to offer mortgages for 5% or 6% down.His other great achievement, Heins said, was taking advantage of his time with CUNA Mutual to help forge unity among the different leagues and branches of credit unions in the country. “There was a time when a lot of credit unions from different parts of the country weren’t communicating well and were often at each other’s throats,” Heins recalled. “I and CUNA Mutual were in a position where we could do a lot of good to build unity.”Heins added that the one other thing he wanted to convey was his gratitude to the credit union movement. “I want to make sure everyone knows how humbling and enjoyable it has been to work with credit unions all these years.”Ensweiler also has had a long career organizing and strengthening credit unions and reported feeling privileged to have been able to have been part of making so much change.Ensweiler’s time with credit unions dates to the early 1960s, and of all the work he has done managing credit unions and leagues he said he gets the most satisfaction from his earlier years when he helped a couple of credit unions and leagues change their direction.Ensweiler spoke with fondness about his first job managing a credit union in 1965, at age 24, at the Harley Davidson Employees Credit Union in Milwaukee, Wis. (now merged into the Wauwatosa Credit Union). At the time the credit union was $750,000 in assets, big at the time for a credit union, Ensweiler said, with 1,200 members. When Ensweiler started there the credit union’s CEO had passed away three months earlier, and all the accounts had to be updated by hand with passbooks.“Aside from the people I worked with, what I remember most is where the credit union was located,” Ensweiler said, “way down in the back, in an old security guard’s shack, right by where they tested all the motorcycle engines. The first way I suggested saving money was by getting rid of the phones since we couldn’t use them anyway with all that racket.”Ensweiler ran the credit until 1968 before moving on to run the Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois credit union leagues, the National Credit Union Foundation, Southwest Corporate Federal Credit Union League and the World Council of Credit Unions, among others, before arriving at the Texas Credit Union League. At each place, Ensweiler proved instrumental in helping the organizations make needed adjustments and changes to begin moving forward again.“I have seen Dick’s Midas touch at work many a time,” observed Harriet May, CEO of Greater El Paso’s Credit Union. Most recently, May revealed, “Dick came to the Texas Credit Union League at the lowest point in its history. Not only did Dick restore trust and belief in the organization, he took it to new levels of respect and admiration within the credit union movement. His strategy: Continue to share and live the vision of the credit union movement, exhibit strong, tireless, and inspiring leadership and get people involved at all levels.”Heins, Ensweiler and the other recipients will receive their awards at a dinner the foundation hosts in Washington during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

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