Barry Jolette to Receive National Credit Union Foundation’s Wegner Award for Lifetime Achievement

The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) will bestow the Herb Wegner Award for Lifetime Achievement upon Barry Jolette, President and CEO of San Mateo Credit Union in Redwood City, Calif.

“Barry Jolette is most deserving of this highest honor awarded by the credit union movement,” announced NCUF Awards & Recognition Committee Chairman Bob Schumacher, who will emcee the Wegner Awards Dinner at the Hilton Washington on Feb. 25, 2007. (Reservations are available at or by clicking here)

Jolette’s award will recognize his service to the credit union movement at the local, state, national, and international levels. Among Jolette’s many achievements:
  • managing one of the first credit unions to successfully emerge from federal conservatorship
  • fighting to preserve his state’s independent credit union regulator
  • helping to lead the nationwide campaign to pass the Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1998
  • working to spread the benefits of credit unions worldwide
  • earning “Outstanding Employer” and “Best Place to Work Awards” in his own credit union
Innovative Regulator

Famous for seven-day work weeks, Jolette was the National Credit Union Administration’s leader in the effort to qualify credit unions for federal deposit insurance. During his 19-year public service at NCUA, Jolette effectively modernized training for federal and state examiners in transforming credit union accounting systems to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. As NCUA’s Western Regional Director, Jolette was first to use call report data to identify specific credit unions’ trouble spots and assign regulatory staff to help work through the issues.

But he did not rely solely on data. Described by those he regulated as “a numbers guy with a heart,” Jolette also relied on gut instinct, treating people with a keen sense of fairness.

“I first met Barry in the early 1980s when my credit union’s attorney and I asked NCUA for permission to merge our credit union,” recalled 2005 Wegner Award recipient James Likens, who is now Chairman of First City Credit Union in Los Angeles, President & Dean of Western CUNA Management School, and Economics Professor at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. “The local examiner and other NCUA officials had recommended against the merger. But Barry listened to our case, sized us up, and to our amazement, approved the merger on the spot! I will never forget it. This was not the behavior of a risk-averse government worker trying to keep his record free of mistakes. This was Barry Jolette, a man of courage and conviction, acting in the best interest of credit unions.”

Credit Union Builder

Jolette left NCUA in 1984 to help credit unions directly. For nearly two years, he managed one of the first credit unions to successfully emerge from NCUA conservatorship. “With great determination, commitment, and hard work, Barry was able to save that small credit union and return it to its membership,” observed Larry Sharp, President & CEO of Arrowhead Credit Union in San Bernardino, Calif.

In 1987, Jolette became CEO of San Mateo Credit Union with 16,000 members, $57 million in assets, and 46 employees. In the San Francisco Bay financial market, credit unions were overshadowed by for-profit banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. But since then, San Mateo Credit Union has enjoyed two decades of growth that its founders in 1952 may have never imagined.

San Mateo Credit Union’s services today reflect Jolette’s lifetime commitment to cooperation. In addition to a wide range of services provided in-house, the credit union participates in cooperative partnerships to provide nationwide shared branching through Financial Service Centers Cooperative, national ATM access through The Co-op Network, and point-of-sale auto loans through Credit Union Direct Lending.

Further strengthened by Jolette’s vision to seek a community charter in 1999, the credit union now has 60,000 members, $560 million in assets, and 165 employees.

But to Jolette, success means much more than numbers. “As we’ve grown, Barry never lets us lose sight of our role in serving the underserved,” explained San Mateo Credit Union Chairman Donna Vaillancourt. “This year we were recognized as ‘National Lending Partner of the Year’ by the Ways to Work Program for our role in providing loans for low-income parents to help them maintain self-sufficiency.”

Community Activist

San Mateo Credit Union has also been recognized as an outstanding business in its community by earning a Sequoia Award, the Rotary Club’s award for Outstanding Employer, and the Redwood City-San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce’s “Golden Apple Award.” Most recently, San Mateo Credit Union was recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work” in the Bay area.

“Barry believes that community involvement is more than writing a check,” Vaillancourt pointed out. “He encourages credit union employees to participate in initiating and supporting community activities – and they volunteer hundreds of hours serving their community.”

Jolette has given back to the credit union community as well as his own community. He has made commitments to help credit unions throughout the Bay area provide needed financial education to a diverse population including recent immigrants and low-income workers whose wages cannot keep up with rising home prices. Believing that educated consumers will ultimately choose credit unions, Jolette has served on the board of the San Francisco Consumer Credit Counseling Service and now chairs Balance – a provider of proven financial literacy programs for hundreds of credit unions serving millions of credit union members nationwide.

Political Advocate

Jolette became such a believer in credit unions, he made a lifelong commitment to take political action. In the early 1990s, Jolette organized and chaired a political action group to plan and promote political activities in California Credit Union League chapters across the Bay area. In 1995, he chaired a special task force to fight additional state taxation – and won.

Jolette also used his experience as a regulator to fight for credit unions in the state regulatory arena. When the state created a new Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), Jolette served on the Advisory Board and helped drive a statewide effort to preserve an independent credit union regulator for California credit unions.

He then chaired a special subcommittee of the Government Relations Committee that was responsible for finding a candidate for the newly created position of Deputy Director for Credit Unions. His group’s candidate was officially appointed by the Governor of California. Jolette continues to serve on the DFI Credit Union Advisory Committee today.

“Barry went on to become one of the finest chairmen the California Credit Union League ever had – and that’s very heavy company,” asserted retired president Dave Chatfield.

National Leader

Jolette’s commitment to the credit union movement could not be contained at the state level. In 1997, Jolette earned election to the board of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Soon after, he was appointed to serve on CUNA’s Government Affairs Committee. In that position, Jolette helped lead the nationwide campaign to pass the Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1998 – the landmark legislation that enabled federal credit unions to diversify their fields of membership and open access to affordable financial services for millions of Americans.

Jolette was later appointed to chair the Government Affairs Committee, then elected to chair CUNA from 2001-03. During his chairmanship, Jolette led by example. He inspired tens of thousands of credit union officials to become advocates – greatly increasing credit union involvement in regulatory advocacy, elections, and political action programs including “Hike the Hill” and “Project Zip Code.”

“I sat at his knee and learned a lot from Barry over the years,” reflected Texas Credit Union League President Dick Ensweiler, also a former CUNA Chairman. “I worked especially close with Barry as I followed him through the chairs of CUNA. I found him to be compassionate, respected and fair. For those reasons CUNA used Barry on many other key committees, such as on the new Dues Formula Task Force, the Finance Committee… and many more.”

International Ambassador

Jolette was also appointed to serve on CUNA’s World Affairs Committee, then elected to represent CUNA as a delegate to the board of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Having completed two years as Treasurer, he now serves as WOCCU’s 2nd Vice Chair.

“Barry’s drive to make healthy and safe credit unions available to those around the world is commanding,” reported WOCCU Chairman Gary Plank, President of the Arizona Credit Union System. “Barry is always in the forefront of any discussion in developing and strengthening of credit unions nationally and worldwide.”

Jolette intends to concentrate his energy on international efforts over the next several years.

“Barry has shared stories with me about the value of loans as small as $3 in developing countries,” related James McPheters, President & CEO of California Coast CU in San Diego and Chairman of the California League. “These loans can start a business for people who as a result are able to feed, clothe, and shelter their families.”

“Barry’s leadership has greatly benefited WOCCU and credit unions throughout the world,” added Chatfield. “Barry epitomizes the phrase, ‘If you have an important volunteer job to be done, ask the busiest person you know…’ Barry just doesn’t know how to say no when asked to help a worthy cause.”

Trusted Mentor

Jolette has also helped countless credit union people become stronger leaders. “Barry has been a mentor to many individuals throughout his career,” observed Diana Dykstra, President/CEO of San Francisco Fire Credit Union and a past chairman of the California CU League. “I am certainly one of the lucky people who has benefited from his wisdom and sage advice.”

“Barry is an inspiration to me and all who know him,” added Vaillancourt. “For his role as a mentor to others, his passion for the credit union movement, and his tireless efforts on our behalf at all levels, Barry is a rare individual whose lasting influence will continue to be felt for many years to come.”

“When I first met Barry in person, I was in awe of him – as I still am today,” reflected Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, President & CEO of Travis Credit Union in Vacaville, Calif. “While I was a lower-level manager, I’ll always remember how easy Barry was to talk to – so down to earth and so interested in everyone he met.”

“World Class Human Being”

“Barry is a world class human being who cares deeply about people, about credit unions, and about the credit union movement worldwide,” maintained Sharp. “Barry’s positive contributions, changes, and accomplishments make a difference in all our lives.”

“Both personally and professionally, I have benefited from Barry’s lifetime of achievement,” affirmed CUNA President & CEO Dan Mica.

“Barry has developed and used the power of his leadership for the benefit of credit unions, their members, and consumers everywhere,” agreed Chatfield. “At the same time, he is as humble, thorough and hard-working as anyone I know. Barry is among the first at work and the last still at it when more needs to be done. And he is generous to a fault with his time and personal resources.”

Leader with a Legacy

“When I Googled the name ‘Barry Jolette,’ up came 756 references,” suggested Dykstra. “Even that only begins to tell us the importance of Barry’s contributions to credit unions.”

“I really cannot think of any nationally recognized person who has given more time, money and effort to credit unions over the past 40+ years than Barry Jolette,” contended McPheters. “We are all better off because Barry has always been an advocate of credit unions and has actively walked the talk.”

“Barry is the epitome of those men and women who have dedicated their life to promoting credit union philosophy, created innovative concepts, and provided leadership that has had a significant and lasting impact on the national and international credit union movement,” agreed Likens.

“I had the honor and pleasure of knowing and working with Herb Wegner,” concluded Chatfield, who received a Wegner Award in 1997. “I believe Barry is that special breed of unselfish leader who makes us all proud. Barry’s selection for the Herb Wegner Lifetime Achievement Award would have pleased Herb very much.”

Wegner Awards

Lifetime achievement will be the final of three prestigious awards to be celebrated at NCUF’s Herb Wegner Memorial Awards Dinner during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

The first award will honor the year’s Outstanding Program, a partnership between Prospera Credit Union and Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin to place the first credit union services inside a Goodwill retail store.

The second award will honor Credit Union Development Educator Carol Schillios for Individual Achievement. Schillios has formed cooperative partnerships that provide access to affordable credit, education, and self-sufficiency for some of the world’s neediest people.

The Wegner Awards are named in honor of late CUNA CEO Herb Wegner, who revolutionized the ways credit unions serve their communities. The awards recognize Wegner’s spirit of “innovative, risk-taking” leadership.