Throughout a career that spanned 35 years, Bob Schumacher enjoyed credit unions so much he rarely felt as if he was "getting up to go to work."
"It has been a glorious ride for me," he told Credit Union Journal. Schumacher is the recipient of a 2015 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Credit Union Foundation. It will be presented to him at CUNA's 2015 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.
Three years ago, Schumacher was given the 2012 Wegner Anchor Award for his many years of service to the NCUF. Schumacher is the only person who has received both the Anchor Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hired By Herb Wegner
Few accolades are as appropriate as Schumacher garnering Wegner Awards, as he was hired by the credit union movement icon. In the mid-1970s Schumacher was in the hotel business in Madison, Wis., and managed the property where CUNA held its quarterly meetings. In 1977 Wegner hired him to be in charge of convention services for CUNA.
That was the beginning of a life in CUs that included stops at CUNA, at the credit union leagues in Washington and Florida, two years at a mortgage CUSO and then 15 years at MountainCrest Credit Union in Washington.
"I have been in almost every job position in the movement, even a volunteer," he said with a laugh.
When Schumacher was hired by MountainCrest CU in 1996 it was known as Snohomish County Public Utilities District Credit Union. He was hired as part of a succession plan as the CEO was retiring. In 2001 he took over until December 2011. Then he went to work at Paragon Consulting Group.
This variety has given him a unique perspective, he said. "When we talk about the member being the most important element, when you have the view I have, it really becomes vivid. The member is the king and queen, and our reason for being. Having all those jobs really drove that home for me."
CUDE, WOCCU, CIF, Biz Kid$
During his three-plus decades in the CU community, Schumacher has been involved in a number of large-scale initiatives, including the Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) program, work with the World Council of Credit Unions in the Philippines, the NCUF's Community Investment Fund (CIF), and Biz Kid$. He said involvement in one program led to the next and the next.
In 1981, then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was offering grants for development education programs for cooperatives. Schumacher was part of writing a grant proposal for CUDE while he was at CUNA.
"We were one of 78 grants approved in 1982 — and the CUDE program is the only one still in existence today," he recalled. "I was involved with the National Youth Involvement Board, and did work with CUDE for 19 years. In 2001 I became a DE. Lois Kitsch, national program director for the National CU Foundation, asked me to help with program education. It changed my life seeing how powerful it was changing lives one person at a time."
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Schumacher worked alongside Kitsch to help create the CUES-Philippines' Credit Union Training & Education Foundation (CUTE) program, which provided CUs in that nation with a training curriculum.
Schumacher worked with the Washington CU League (now the Northwest CU Association), to start the first-ever International Development Committee, which he chaired for three years. The committee orchestrated two learning and assistance tours to the Philippines and the CUES Philippines Project. He then worked with the WCUL International Development Committee to form a formal partnership of support with the WOCCU CUES Philippine Project that lasted four years.
Shortly after the introduction of the Community Investment Fund (CIF) by the National CU Foundation, he made it his personal mission to help grow CIF investments by Northwest credit unions to $15 million.
Schumacher was a tireless champion and early advocate for the nationally broadcasted youth entrepreneurial and financial education PBS television program Biz Kid$.
Asked how he had time to be part of all of these projects, Schumacher said, "You don't know what you have inside of you until someone challenges you."
Schumacher said becoming a DE and working with that program for the last 14 years is near the top of his career highlights.
"My involvement in the CIF was my DE project when I graduated. I spoke at every credit union meeting I could get to. It took me five years, but I helped raise $15 million for the CIF. The CUDE program, what we did in the Philippines, the CIF and Biz Kid$, those four things, then moving to the credit union in the trench level, are the career highlights in my mind."
Schumacher cited the "unbelievable, epidemic growth of regulations and compliance" as the biggest change he has seen during his career. He said the first change was sparked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, "then things accelerated after we started going through the Great Recession in 2008. It was tough to run a credit union, let me tell you, after 2008. It is almost overwhelming because there are so many facets."
Schumacher has helped several CUs and non-profit foundations, both as a professional senior consultant through The Paragon Group and as a volunteer. He has served on the National CU Foundation Board, the Washington CU Foundation Board (including chair), the FSCC shared branching network Board, Northwest Corporate FCU's board, Snohomish County Junior Achievement Board, as chair of the NCUF's Awards and Recognition Committee — as well as a member of its Fundraising Committee.
In 2002, Schumacher was recognized with a CUNA Marketing Council's Hall of Fame Award, and in 2006, with the Washington Credit Union League's Ambassador Award.
"Bob has had a long lasting impact on so many people in the credit union industry," said Mark Morrison, current president/CEO of MountainCrest CU. "No matter where I travel, I always have someone say how much they adore Bob. Many people tell me stories about how they were inspired by Bob in developing and advancing their careers."
"Bob is one of the most dedicated and devoted followers of the credit union philosophy who has worked on all levels of the movement," said John Gregoire, chair of NCUF Wegner Awards Selection Committee and President of the ProCon Group. "His impact, particularly on Foundation programs such as the Community Investment Fund, Biz Kid$ and the Credit Union Development Education Program, is beyond belief. Anyone who has had the opportunity to be touched by Bob's contagious energy and enthusiasm comes away a more committed individual."
Days of Wine and Travel
Schumacher said he and his wife picked Walla Walla, Wash., to retire to because, while living in western Washington, they started volunteering in the wine business and fell in love with it.
"We knew we did not want to grow the grapes or make the wines, but we work in tasting rooms," he said. "There are 130 wineries in the area. We pour in tasting rooms, and have helped with crush and bottling. We love doing that and it is great fun. I also volunteer for a couple credit unions, helping with their strategic planning, and I will help with DE whenever Lois calls me."
Schumacher said his wife has gotten rid of their house plants in preparation for beginning to travel. They will be going to Europe in the fall and will celebrate their 30th anniversary in Fiji next year.
For 15 years Schumacher has served as emcee of the Wegner Awards before handing off to current host Denise Gabel. He noted there are two podiums at the awards dinner — one for the emcee and one for the program. "This will be my 39th GAC, and the first time at the wrong' podium. It won't be sad, just different."
Asked what lessons he would like to pass on to current/future CU leaders, Schumacher said someone recently asked him if there still is a need for credit unions.
"My answer is simple: as long as there are banks there is a need for credit unions. The DE program goes back to the roots of credit unions, which is important. As we become more modern and offer new products and technology, we need to remember where we came from. We need to keep in mind the members are our reason for being."