MADISON, Wis. (9/5/13)--The National Credit Union Foundation Wednesday named Gary Oakland, retired president/CEO of BECU in Seattle, Wash., as the final one of three winners of the 2014 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
This is the first time in NCUF's history that three awards for Lifetime Achievement will be given. Oakland's award will be one of four total Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special dinner hosted by NCUF at the Grand Hyatt Washington on Feb. 24 during the Credit Union National Association's 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference.
"Gary is a slam dunk as a choice to bestow the Wegner Lifetime Achievement Award," said John Gregoire, Chair of NCUF Wegner Awards Selection Committee and President of The ProCon Group in Madison, Wis. "Gary's contributions to the credit union movement were so obvious as everything he touches turns to success for the average American consumer. It's evident in the growth of BECU, the state supervision system, dual credit union chartering, Biz Kid$, NCUF, and much more. It's also an honor to see Gary receiving the award rather than giving one."
NCUF is issuing four 2014 Herb Wegner Memorial Achievement Awards. The foundation previously named Tim Haegelin, retired president/CEO of Generations FCU in San Antonio, Texas, and Jim McCormack, president/CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, as recipients of the 2014 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Sarah Canepa Bang, president of CO-OP Shared Branching-FSCC LLC and chief strategy officer of CO-OP Shared Branching, will be presented the 2014 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Individual Achievement.
There will be no outstanding program or organization award in 2014.
Over the course of his career, Oakland has supported the credit union movement in many ways. Those include serving on the board of the Credit Union National Association and as board chair for the Washington Credit Union League, the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors, Filene Advisory Council and Board, and the National Credit Union Foundation.
In his time as CEO of BECU, Oakland guided the credit union to provide aid for more than a dozen low income nationwide. With his leadership, BECU was also able to play key roles in the founding of two low-income designate credit unions: TULIP CU and Express CU. Oakland also oversaw BECU's creation of Prime Alliance (now Mortgage Cadence), a credit union service organization that provides mortgage solutions to roughly 600 credit unions.
Under Oakland's leadership, BECU grew from 108,000 members when he took on the position of CEO in 1986 to over 775,000 members at the time of his retirement in 2012.
Oakland was known for accommodating the needs of Boeing employees and providing guidance in responsible financial practices. He also led the credit union to a statewide field of membership to allow more members of the community to benefit from the credit union advantage: member-focused service with better rates and fewer fees.
While this growth trajectory could have changed the organization's culture, Oakland held BECU true to its founding principles and the credit union philosophy of People Helping People. In 2006, BECU had an opportunity to return a portion of its reserves to its member base. He instated the Member Advantage account, which reversed the interest rate tiers, providing more return for smaller savings accounts and creating incentive to start saving at a time when U.S. savings rates were at or below 0.
Among Oakland's most influential accomplishments was the role he played in the launch of the PBS program, Biz Kid$, an award-winning financial education show for youth. Through leading the production initiative, committing $500,000 initially and $1 million over-all, bringing together a group of credit unions that raised $2.6 million per year, and ultimately making the project a possibility, Oakland has become the face associated with the show's success.
After five seasons, Biz Kid$ has won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for 11 more. It claims nationwide recognition and makes a daily difference in the lives of its youth audiences.
In 1995, at a member's suggestion, he led the establishment of the BECU Foundation, a chartered foundation that provides college scholarships to students who excel in academics, leadership and community service. Since its creation, the BECU Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million to 715 students.
Oakland served on the Board of Seattle's Neighborhood Children's Club, helping many children get on the right track to a productive future, and has guided BECU to support a number of non-profit organizations that provide affordable housing, including Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, Impact Capital and Plymouth Housing.