James D. Likens retiring as Western CUNA Management School President after 44 years January 12, 2015

(January 12, 2015) — Western CUNA Management School (WCMS) officials have announced that Dr. James D. Likens will be retiring from his post as president and CEO of the school at the end of 2015. Likens will continue to direct the school through the end of the year.

“It’s time to acknowledge Jim’s numerous contributions to WCMS and to remember all he has done to advance the credit union movement,” said WCMS Board chairman and Rogue Credit Union president and CEO Gene Pelham (WCMS alumnus ’95). “We are amazed by the thousands of lives he has touched.”

Since Likens joined the school in 1972, WCMS annual enrollment more than quadrupled—from less than 100 to over 400. The school was certified for college credit in 1979 by the American Council on Education—a distinction that continues today—enabling graduates to apply for credit toward their degree from colleges and universities. In addition, Likens implemented testing and comprehensive mid-term projects. Today WCMS pairs academic rigor with service learning activities that develop both the “head and heart,” thereby offering students a broad strategic perspective for credit union leadership.

Many prominent credit union leaders have served as trustees of WCMS and worked closely with Likens over the years. SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union president/CEO and previous CUNA & Affiliates president/CEO Bill Cheney highlighted Likens’ contribution to credit unions. “Jim’s vision and leadership have been essential to the development of Western CUNA Management School as one of the premier educational opportunities available in the credit union movement. Jim’s knowledge and passion have literally filled the hearts and minds of thousands of credit union leaders, making us all better off and the movement even stronger.”

San Mateo Credit Union president/CEO and former CUNA and World Council of Credit Unions board chairman Barry Jolette also praised Likens for the numerous lives he has touched. “In our daily work, we speak of changing the lives of our members. But Jim takes it a step further. By changing the lives of the management folks we send to him, he subsequently impacts the lives of more credit union members than any other person in our credit union world!”

Under Likens’ direction WCMS was incorporated as a 501c3 organization in 1995 and features “best in class” faculty from both academia and the financial services industry. Many of the more-than-3,700 graduates of the school now play significant leadership roles within the credit union industry.

Likens’ dedication to “head and heart” education is particularly influential with his students. Rick Craig (WCMS alumnus ’81), previous president/CEO of America First Federal Credit Union, said “Jim Likens was the right person at the right time, the right place, with the head and heart skills to have made a monumental difference to credit union management education. He will be retiring but never forgotten.”

Richard Myles Johnson (WCMS alumnus ’74), former president/CEO of Western Corporate Federal Credit Union spoke of Likens’ ability to empower and motivate his students. “We have all heard of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants to reach new heights.’ Dr. Jim Likens has provided sturdy shoulders upon which thousands of us have stood – unsteadily at first! Now we too have strong shoulders and can support others.”

Filene Research Institute president/CEO Mark Meyer (WCMS alumnus ’99) noted “Jim Likens’ achievements are certain to be lasting. His head and heart passion has inspired thousands of his former students who continue to become credit union managers, executives and system leaders. His mark is seen throughout the modern day credit union movement in the many WCMS graduates leading credit unions forward.”

Diana Dykstra (WCMS alumna ’92) president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues has long worked with Likens as an instructor at WCMS. “I have had the honor to know, work and learn from Jim for nearly 25 years. The impact he has had on the credit union system is immeasurable. His legacy will endure for years through the thousands of students that have graduated from WCMS.”

“As I look back I feel warm satisfaction about our school, especially our students” Likens said. “It is they who have made WCMS such a special place. On my watch a generation of women and men have graduated and grown into enhanced leadership roles at their credit unions. Many alumni have also served in positions of responsibility throughout our industry. How blessed I am to have been permitted a part of all that. I leave in the full confidence that WCMS is in good hands and that this school will continue to help strengthen our entire credit union system.”

Dr. Likens—the Morris B. and Gladys E. Pendleton Professor of Economics at Pomona College—has served on the board of directors of First City Credit Union for 40 years. He is a sought-out speaker, consultant, expert witness, and credit union researcher. He has also helped improve the national credit union legal environment through political action in Washington, DC.

He received the California Credit Union League’s Outstanding Volunteer Award in 1998 as well as its highest honor, the Leo H. Shapiro Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2002. He was awarded the Herb Wegner Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Credit Union Foundation in 2005. The Credit Union Executives Society has honored him twice—with National Director of the Year in 2002 and inducting him into its Director Hall of Fame in 2009.

He was recognized with the Pomona College Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching and is the former chairman of the Pomona College Department of Economics. He directed the centennial celebration of Pomona College in 1987 and has served on its most important committees and task forces.

In 1991, the WCMS Alumni Association created the annual James D. Likens Alumni Award, given to a WCMS graduate who has gone on to distinguished service in the credit union movement.

He holds a BA in economics and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Minnesota.

The WCMS board of trustees is planning recognition events to honor Likens later this year.

About Western CUNA Management School
WCMS serves credit unions in the 13 western states and is sponsored by the leagues and associations for those credit unions, including the Alaska Credit Union League, California Credit Union League, Credit Union Association of New Mexico, Hawaii Credit Union League, Idaho Credit Union League, Montana Credit Union Network, Mountain West Credit Union Association, Nevada Credit Union League, Northwest Credit Union Association, and Utah Credit Union Association, in cooperation with Pomona College in Claremont, CA. Graduates who have developed their skills and knowledge at the school occupy positions of leadership and responsibility at some of the nation’s leading credit unions.

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