During February 2022’s Foundation Dinner, Credit Union Hall of Famer, Roger Heacock, will receive the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement, recognizing his decades-long support and leadership at a national level.
After 45 years of leadership in the credit union system, Roger Heacock retired from his role as President and CEO of Black Hills Federal Credit Union in January 2021. His legacy is as monumental and everlasting as the rock carvings of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse in the South Dakota communities he served.
Beginning his career at the small Rosebud Federal Credit Union (which later became part of Sentinel FCU), Roger joined Black Hills Federal Credit Union (BHFCU) in 1978 and was promoted to president five years later.
Under his leadership, the Rapid City-based organization experienced incredible growth, in both assets and membership. The $10 million institution Roger first joined had $1.65 billion in assets at the time of his retirement; owned by 79,500 members, up from 11,000 in the early 80s.
While such growth could be a strategic distraction, Roger ensured BHFCU remained absolutely focused on the needs of the communities they served, and doggedly championed greater access to financial products and services across rural and extremely under/unbanked communities.
As an early adopter of the Community Charter – envisioning it as both a catalyst to expand outreach and to eliminate any perception of exclusivity – BHFCU was able to positively reach and serve impoverished communities. The organization even invested in television ads produced in Lakota, a language only understood by 6,000 people in the world, to honor the Native culture, promote inclusion, and expand awareness and understanding of the credit union mission among extremely rural and underbanked Native populations.
Roger’s legacy and impact, however, extend far beyond South Dakota.
At regional and national levels, Roger has been a presence for good – and a force for change – working effectively with the NCUA, Congress and other lawmakers to improve the credit union system, and positively affect millions of members.
In addition to sitting on CUNA’s board for almost a decade, Roger was a powerful voice on CUNA’s Field of Membership (FOM) task force: successfully advocating against the FOM population cap, and educating en masse about the hurdles faced by credit unions and members alike in rural communities.
He also chaired the Community Credit Union Committee, served on the National Association of Community Credit Unions Board, the South Dakota Credit Union League Board (for 26 years) and the South Dakota Credit Union League Services Corporate Board for more than 20 years.
With a career spanning so many decades and having true, measurable impact on the financial lives and well-being of millions, it is impossible to do justice to the life and work of Roger Heacock. But Herb Wegner Award-winner and CEO of Local Government Federal Credit Union, Maurice Smith, can put it into some perspective.
“We credit union leaders are often faced with making policy decisions that have ethical ramifications for communities,” Smith said. “Sometimes these choices turn on doing right by society. This can seem nebulous for an industry that trades in products and services. Mr. Heacock recognizes our business can affect a community in positive or negative ways [and] reminds us to consider the downstream impact of our verdicts. This requires a deep examination of what values we hold most dear.”