MADISON, Wis. (9/2/11)--National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has named William Eckhardt, president/CEO of Alaska USA FCU in Anchorage, Alaska, as one of two winners of the 2012 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
This is the first time in NCUF’s history that two awards for lifetime achievement will be given. Tom Dorety, president/CEO of Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla., will also receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. (Use the link.) The awards will be presented on March 19 during the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington D.C. Eckhardt joined Alaska USA in 1971 as an assistant general manager. He became the organization’s CEO in 1979. “Bill Eckhardt is and has been an extraordinary leader under extraordinary circumstances,” said David Chatfield, former president/CEO of the California Credit Union League. “Under his leadership, Alaska USA FCU has consistently achieved amazing advances in operational innovation and member services, despite what to others might seem insurmountable obstacles due to its remote location, vast geography, harsh environment, and extreme ‘boom and bust’ economic conditions. A lifetime in Alaska and exceptional management skills has enabled Bill to lead Alaska USA to not just survive, but thrive in its approach to operations and the unique ‘Alaska USA’ brand of member service.” Alaska USA FCU was the first credit union to offer 30-year mortgage loans and one of the first to offer share drafts. It was also among the first to serve its members nationally and internationally through a dedicated member service center, and was a leader in providing mortgage servicing and insurance trust services. The credit union also coordinated one of the first joint ventures to create regional ATM network Alaska Option. Under Eckhardt’s leadership, Alaska USA FCU was among the first credit unions to use an in-house political and regulatory advocacy team at the state and national level. Eckhardt has served on the board of directors of CUNA and CUNA Mutual Group, and was a founding member of the Filene Research Institute. Eckhardt has also led Alaska USA FCU’s efforts in extending services to Alaska Natives (Inuit, Aleut, Athabaskan, Tlingit and Haida). When Alaska’s Natives were granted millions of dollars and millions of acres of land by Congress in 1971 to settle their aboriginal land claims, the National Credit Union Administration asked the credit union to temporarily expand its field of membership and provide badly needed financial education to Alaska’s Natives. Alaska USA FCU responded by providing membership and opening offices in larger Native villages, and trained Alaska’s Natives to staff those offices. Eckhardt personally traveled widely in the Alaska bush to explain the credit union difference and also opened accounts for Alaska’s Natives. In 1981, Alaska USA FCU was granted authority by congressional action to permanently serve Alaska’s Natives and the regional corporations formed out of the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act. It was the only time in history that Congress has taken action to extend the field of membership of a single credit union.