Highlights 2018

Western CUNA Managment Schools Honors Its 2018 Graduating Class

The 109 students of Western CUNA Management School's (WCMS) Pi class of 2018 received their diplomas at a graduation ceremony held at Pomona College in Claremont, CA on July 19. The event marked the conclusion of the 59th annual session of WCMS.

The graduates had classes from credit union leaders including Diana Dykstra, president and CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and 1992 WCMS graduate; Bill Hampel, former CUNA chief economist and chief policy officer; Rudy Hanley, former president and CEO of SchoolsFirst FCU; Mark Meyer, president and CEO of the Filene Research Institute and a 1999 WCMS graduate; and Scott Simpson, president and CEO of Utah's Credit Unions; as well as award-winning faculty from college and MBA institutions across southern California, including Claremont Graduate University, Pomona College, and UCLA.  More information on their faculty and curriculum can be found on the website, www.wcmspomona.org.

During this year’s session, former WCMS president Dr. James Likens offered his reflections on credit union philosophy at the Richard Myles Johnson Colloquium in Credit Union Philosophy on July 11.

Teri Robinson—WCMS 2008 graduate and CEO of Portland, OR-based Pacific NW Ironworkers Federal Credit Union—received this year’s James D. Likens Alumni Recognition Award for significant service in the credit union field since graduating from the school. In presenting the award to Robinson, WCMS Alumni Association’s Robert York spoke of her involvement with small credit unions, including conducting planning sessions, serving on the GAC Small Credit Union Roundtable, and being the vice chairman of CUNA’s Small Credit Unions Committee. He praised her work in turning around her credit union from one with $7.9 million in assets and under 5 percent Net Worth Ratio in 2010 when she arrived to one today with $39 million in assets and more than 10 percent Net Worth Ratio.

Robinson expressed her appreciation for her WCMS education and the award. She said she took the passion about the credit union movement she had learned while at WCMS and took it back to “real life” at her credit union. She spoke of being bold—harking back to what class speaker Randall Icelow of California had encouraged of his fellow graduates—as well as using her WCMS project to help turn her credit union around. She spoke about the value of credit unions, including smaller ones.

“We (credit unions) are needed now more than ever,” she said.

Commencement speaker Lauren MacVay, immediate past president of the Alaska Credit Union League and president and CEO at True North Federal Credit Union in Juneau, Alaska, offered words of wisdom for the graduating class, especially in what she called “a great time to be alive”—a time marked by an increasing amount of innovation and change. She asked the group to harness the power of collaboration to help credit unions thrive, using the old African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” She said that adage has proven true with the success of the Alaska Credit Union League, a group of credit unions which has collaborated for something greater than themselves.

MacVay added that advocacy does matter for credit unions. “There is a need for our voice, our numbers, our data, and our stories,” she said. She encouraged the graduates to be nimble and finally to take care of themselves—to work harder but healthier. 

This year, six students who earned distinction graduated with “High Honors,” while an additional nine students earned distinction and graduated with “Honors.” These distinctions were earned based on each student’s performance on the examinations taken by all students at the end of each school year and for their analysis in each of their two major research projects— based on their credit union—completed between sessions.

Students graduating with “High Honors” were: A Scott Haeg, of Washington; Steven Mickelson of California; Scott Rabe of Washington; Jeffry D. Roberson of Oregon; Christine Ruzzi of Oregon; and David Sant of Utah.

Students graduating with “Honors” were: Matthew J. Ballou of Wyoming; Shannon Brammer of California; Alicia Carlson of Washington; Jennifer Clements of Colorado; Aaron C. Embrey of Colorado; Ash Greenspan of Nevada; A. Douglas Kearbey of Colorado; Matthew A Rice of Idaho; and Eric M. Zittel of Washington.

Scott Rabe of Washington received the Rick Craig Prize for Excellence in Project II recognizing excellence in the second-year project, an endeavor that usually takes each student of the school more than 200 hours to complete.

In addition, every year the senior student who best represents high moral character, leadership, credit union dedication, and academic achievement is nominated by his or her class to receive the Charles M. Clark Memorial Award. This year’s recipient was Evan Keith Strandberg of Washington, whom was said by his peers to be “a living example of the credit union ideal.”

The long-standing tradition of giving back to WCMS funds earned in the service-learning activities continued with this year’s graduating class presenting a check totaling $47,000, representing the total raised over the past three years in Pi- and tri-class-led efforts.  These funds are used by the school for scholarships and tuition support for all students.