CU Hero 2009: The Winner Is

May 28, 2009
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Credit Union Magazine subscribers have chosen Cathie Tierney, CEO of $1.2 billion asset Community First Credit Union, Appleton, Wis., as the 2009 Credit Union Hero of the Year.

She’ll receive her award at (and complimentary registration to) the America’s Credit Union Conference & Expo June 21-24 in Boston.

Tierney has spent her entire 33-year career at Community First, giving her a chance to share her faith in and love of a movement “that does so much to help others,” she says.

"My being here," Tierney says, "is truly a calling I'm extremely proud of. I know in my heart this is where I'm supposed to be. And because I've grown up in credit unions, I believe so strongly in what they stand for and I'm committed to making a difference."

That commitment inspired her to jump in to the fray to help others on many occasions. Her most recent, and perhaps biggest, leap of faith came when she approached her board and management team to challenge the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on its determination that certain insurance products offered to members fall outside the credit union's main mission and are subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT).

Community First won its challenge against the federal government over the IRS’s interpretation of UBIT as it relates to three insurance products. Eight jurors ruled in favor of the credit union on all three products May 14 after deliberating less than two hours, reports CUNA’s News Now.

U.S. District Judge William Griesbach entered the judgment in favor of the credit union for $54,604, the full amount the credit union was seeking, plus costs, which could go into a five-figure amount. The amount represents taxes paid on credit life and credit disability insurance and guaranteed asset protection (GAP) products.

"Community First is focused on meeting our members' needs, and we need to offer credit insurance and other wealth management products to meet this core purpose," Tierney says. "When the board and senior management team first heard about UBIT becoming an issue, we disagreed with the IRS but figured someone else would take care of it. It never occurred to us Community First would be that ‘someone' until we heard the talk about litigation.

"In situations like this, you need to look inside your heart and think, ‘if we're able to help, why not?' The board voted unanimously to move forward. We basically decided if not us, then who? UBIT will ultimately impact us in a big way, so we need to stand up and fight. You can't always lean on someone else to fight your battles."

Other 2009 Credit Union Hero nominees were:
* Carla Hedrick, CEO, Denver Community Federal Credit Union.
* John Herrera, senior vice president of Latino/Hispanic affairs, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Durham, N.C.
* Regina McIlrath, president, Table Rock Federal Credit Union, Shell Knob, Mo.

Nominate a CU Hero

Credit Union Magazine is celebrating the credit union movement's heroes. Do you know someone who fits the bill?
Qualified individuals:
* Are credit union employees or volunteers;
* Are working or retired;
* Are unsung heroes, going above and beyond to promote credit union philosophy;
* Take a stand or exhibit a firm belief in credit union values;
* Show dedication to credit union principles; and
* Make a difference in the local community.

Send CU Hero nominations to Mary Mink, Credit Union Magazine senior editor.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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