People from all over the credit union community gathered last dressed to the nines for the National Credit Union Foundation’s Herb Wegner Awards and Dinner at CUNA GAC. The Wegner Awards are the highest honor given to people in the credit union movement.
An award is given each year to three individuals and one outstanding program. This years honorees were:
The CU 4 Reality Program, by the America’s Credit Union Museum. Financial literacy among America’s youth has been in dire straits for decades. The JumpStart Coalition’s most recent survey of high-school students found that only 48.3% of respondents were financially literate. In 2004, recognizing the potentially disastrous consequences of financial illiteracy, America’s Credit Union Museum undertook an initiative to improve financial education in America’s schools. The result, CU 4 Reality, offers middle and high school students a comprehensive yet accessible look at personal finance.
CU 4 Reality is distinguished by its unique approach to instruction. The program—offered through collaboration between credit unions and schools—combines traditional lessons with engaging activities based on real-world scenarios to communicate the importance of financial responsibility. The semester-long curriculum covers a range of issues including budgeting, tax management, credit and career exploration.
The event culminates in the CU 4 Reality Financial Literacy Fair. In this exciting event, students put their newfound financial knowledge to the test in a simulation of real-life personal finance. At the Fair, students get a job, calculate take-home pay, and visit booths staffed by volunteers to determine their monthly expenses. They do this all the while attempting to manage their finances despite unexpected hardships and temptation. At the end of the simulation, students visit a booth manned by credit union volunteers to review their performance and learn strategies to increase revenue or reduce expenses.
Since launching the program—which has been offered to more than 87,000 students across nine states—communities have seen increases in financially stable citizens and decreased reliance on bankruptcy, public benefits and credit card debt. Currently co-sponsored by over 60 credit unions and leagues, CU 4 Reality promotes a positive image of credit unions as reputable, secure financial institutions, helping to grow trust and interest in the movement.
Daniel F. Egan, Jr., former president of the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island Credit Union Leagues. Egan’s three decades as League President have been distinguished by incredible accomplishments and triumph over adversity. In 1985, Egan facilitated the first ever multi-state League management agreement, which saw the combination of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Credit Union Leagues—the agreement expanded to include the Credit Union Association of Rhode Island in 1992. In combining the resources of the three states under one management structure, credit unions in all three states gained the support of a stronger organization with more resources and staff. This agreement has since been emulated by credit union leagues across the country.
Egan also led the merger of the two competing state trade associations in Massachusetts in 1997. When CUNA was founded in 1934, there was a split in the credit union community in Massachusetts over affiliating with the national organization. The leadership of the Credit Union League of Massachusetts, the first league in the country founded in 1911, disputed the voting rights and dues structure of CUNA and refused to join. Roy Bergengren turned to another group of Massachusetts credit unions that wanted to join and that organization joined CUNA representing Massachusetts. This split resulted in two credit union trade associations in Massachusetts until 1997 when Egan led the successful merger of the two organizations into the Massachusetts Credit Union League.
Throughout his tenure, Egan pushed credit unions to pursue policies and services that enhanced and improved the member experience. As League President, he oversaw the development and expansion of a $100 million Home Loan Payment Relief (HLPR) initiative to help mid and low-income residents with mortgage payments. He also encouraged his credit unions to adapt to changing times and trends, including home equity lending in the eighties, online banking in the nineties and business lending in the two-thousands.
C. Alan Peppers, former President and CEO of Westerra Credit Union. In a career spanning more than four decades in the credit union industry, Peppers has served in a number of key leadership roles, including 22 years as president and CEO of Westerra Credit Union. Peppers led Westerra through a period of incredible growth, quadrupling their membership and growing assets from $165 million to over $1.3 billion. Today, Westerra is one of the highest-performing credit unions in the state of Colorado and the United States as a whole.
Peppers’ success has been attributed to his members-first mentality, consistently striving to provide service that puts the convenience, peace of mind and satisfaction of members before all else. Under his leadership, Westerra was transformed into a full-service credit union and continually improved their offering to members by introducing innovative new features, such as cash services and electronic mobile banking. Peppers also ensured that Westerra was able to meet the needs of Denver’s diverse community, expanding their loan program and adding HARP mortgages for first-time home buyers.
Beyond these member-focused initiatives, Peppers has also worked to extend credit union services to as many people as possible, leading Westerra’s comprehensive membership expansion campaign. Peppers extended the membership eligibility of Westerra to all residents in the Denver-Metro area, and encouraged growth by implementing a program that rewards current members for referring new members. By facilitating key mergers with four other credit unions between 2005 and 2009, Peppers further expanded Westerra’s reach and greatly improved the quality of products, services and convenience they were able to offer.
William J. Bynum, Chief Executive Officer of Hope Credit Union. As President/CEO, Bynum has led Hope Credit Union (HOPE) on an incredible trajectory. In 1995, Bynum founded the organization as Hope Community Credit Union based out of Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, Miss. Bynum wanted to provide a better option for members of his community – many of whom were dependent on predatory payday lenders and pawn shops for financial services. Over a 26 year period (from 1988 to 2014), HOPE was the only credit union chartered in the state of Mississippi.
After initially relying on church volunteers to maintain operations, over time, more churches joined HOPE, tripling the credit union membership to over 2,700. In 2001, Bynum made the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD)—a business loan fund he had organized to create jobs in the Mississippi Delta—the primary sponsor of Hope Credit Union. With the infusion of new capital and stronger infrastructure, HOPE’s membership grew exponentially; today, it is a federally chartered CDFI with over 30,000 members from across the Southern U.S.
The majority of Hope Credit Union’s members come from disadvantaged communities. The Mississippi territory where HOPE was founded contains one quarter of America’s most persistently impoverished counties, where the poverty rate has exceeded 20% for three decades in a row. Eighty-one percent (81%) percent of HOPE’s membership are minorities and 52% come from households earning less than $35,000 per year. Additionally, over 1/3 of HOPE’s members were unbanked when they joined Hope Credit Union. With HOPE, Bynum has given thousands of Americans necessary financial services for the first time in their lives.
Throughout his career, Bynum has used financial services to create opportunities in communities that desperately need them. In 1989, Bynum joined the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, where he managed investments in various community development operations. Through Hope Credit Union, Bynum helped the Winston County Self Help Cooperative—a group of small black farmers—purchase land in bulk for future projects.