In recognition of his outstanding leadership and numerous contributions to the credit union system, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) is pleased to announce Rick Craig, President and CEO of America First Federal Credit Union in Ogden, Utah, as the winner of the 2013 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
This will be one of three Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special dinner hosted by NCUF at the Grand Hyatt Washington on February 25, 2013, which is Monday night of the Credit Union National Association’s 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference. Online registration for dinner tickets will be available later this year on the NCUF website.
“For many of us, helping people is a passion,” said Bob Schumacher, NCUF Awards & Recognition Committee Chairman. “But for our 2013 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement winner, it is a lifetime of hands-on work. No matter if it’s teaching at Western CUNA Management School, fighting for credit unions in the Utah State Legislature, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. or serving on countless local, state, or national organizations that make a difference, Rick is there in full force.”
Leading America First FCU Forward
After graduating high school, Craig worked with the National Security Agency in Turkey listening in on communications from across the Soviet border, where he became proficient in code and computer programming. When he left the military, he settled in Utah where he continued to do sophisticated computer work for the federal government.
Craig earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics with a minor in physics from Weber State University and a Master’s Degree in engineering from the University of Utah. He also taught mathematics and data processing at Weber State University
Craig soon moved to America First FCU and became Executive Vice President in 1977. In 1997, he was appointed President and CEO of America First FCU.
“I know Rick received many inquiries from search firms inviting him to apply for CEO positions, but he said no to them all,” said James D. Likens, President and CEO, Western CUNA Management School and Chairman of the Board of First City Credit Union. “He has been an incredibly effective CEO. On his watch, the credit union has achieved $5.4 billion in assets, 575,000 members and 100 branches.”
“The credit union has a laser focus on serving their members and doing whatever it takes to help them achieve financial success if the member is willing,” said Diana R. Dykstra, President/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. “Probably the most amazing contribution to ‘people helping people’ is their Care-A-Lot Foundation which serves the employees of the credit union. This foundation accepts voluntary cash contributions from its employees - including the gifting of sick and vacation hours - and uses the funds to assist employees in need.”
In addition to the credit union’s many community activities, Craig is regarded a leader in adopting new technologies at America First FCU to benefit members and make managing money easier. America First FCU also participates in the Member Loyalty Group which consists of large credit unions across the country utilizing the Net Promoter survey score. America First FCU consistently leads the group in the highest scores from their members.
“Led by Rick Craig, America First FCU has been a proven leader in the introduction of a great number of innovative products and services to enhance service to members,” noted Dykstra. “Rick cultivates great talent and encourages creativity in moving the credit union forward.”
Nationally Involved to Support the CU System
Craig has held leadership positions at the local, state and national levels by serving on various boards and committees in the credit union system. For example, he served many years on the Utah Credit Union Association board and was also appointed by Utah's governor as a member of the Board of Credit Union Advisors. Craig has been a director of the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES) and was Chairman in 1995. In 1996, he was inducted into the CUES Hall of Fame and was selected as the CUES Executive of the Year in 2004. He also served on the Filene Research Council, is a board member of CO-OP Financial Services, and on the CUNA Committee on AICPA Audit and Accounting Guide Task Force as well as CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Field of Membership (FOM) Committee.
Making an Impact for CUs Politically
Craig has worked for credit unions in many arenas and is well known for leading America First FCU in impacting the political process. For example, through multiple lawsuits and legislative attacks, America First FCU modeled a form of public and government advocacy that many in the industry would follow. America First FCU was recognized in 2007 by the Credit Union Times as having the most “Outstanding Political Action” program in the country.
“One of the most visible actions Rick took on behalf of credit unions was the fight with the Utah bankers who were aggressively attacking the credit union tax exemption,” noted Dykstra. “These efforts increased the awareness that being actively engaged in the political and legislative arena was important for all credit unions.”
“Not only has his credit union supported candidates that support credit unions - especially through member advocacy - but Rick has also made exemplary strides in activating his membership,” said Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01). “By gathering a group of member-advocates, he has created a political group of ‘minutemen,’ who can rally on behalf of the credit union at a moment's notice. I often say that the world is run by people who show up, and Rick has taught many credit union members to show up and get involved in their government.”
Working with Next Wave of CU Leaders at Western CUNA Management School
Another of Craig’s efforts that have extended well beyond his own credit union is his involvement at Western CUNA Management School (WCMS). He has served on the faculty without interruption for thirty-one years until his retirement in July 2012.
After Craig’s graduation from WCMS in 1981, Rick began teaching at the school. In addition, Craig was responsible for the overall design of the financial simulation module, finance classes that introduced credit union analysis to beginners; and the highly successful “big circle” discussions wherein current day issues, challenges, and successes were discussed.
“Rick has touched well over 3,000 credit union professionals who have gone on to achieve great things for our credit union movement,” noted Likens. “He has imprinted the values of credit union philosophy, innovation, advocacy, and leadership on those who have had the honor to be associated with him. These values have produced generations of credit union leaders with both the analytical skills and philosophical commitment to contribute to the sustainable momentum of the movement.”
“When I think of an individual that has dedicated his lifetime to not only his job but also an ideal, I think of Rick Craig,” said Scott F. Simpson, President/CEO of the Utah Credit Union Association.
About the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards:
The awards are named in honor of the late Credit Union National Association CEO Herb Wegner, whose tireless dedication, innovative ideas and deeds truly revolutionized the ways that credit unions serve their communities. The awards that bear Wegner’s name recognize his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership. View past award recipients here.
About the National Credit Union Foundation (ncuf.coop):
The National Credit Union Foundation is the US credit union movement’s primary national philanthropic program provider, fundraiser and grant-maker. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes.
NCUF is funded primarily by investments in the award-winning Community Investment Fund (CIF) and by generous Supporters led by the Credit Union National Association and CUNA Mutual Group. All NCUF donors provide support that empowers NCUF and state credit union foundations to make a real impact in the credit union community.
The National Credit Union Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. NCUF continues to earn the Better Business Bureau seal of approval as an “Accredited Charity” for meeting all 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for national charities.