‘Look at the Big Picture’

The 2012 Herb Wegner Award winner shares the secrets to his success.

December 4, 2011

Tom Dorety, president/CEO at Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, Tampa, Fla., stands by his principles.

Dorety is one of two winners of the 2012 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement. William (Bill) Eckhardt, president/CEO of Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Anchorage, is the other winner.

They will receive their awards, sponsored by the National Credit Union Foundation, during CUNA’s 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington D.C. in March.

He has served as president/CEO at the credit union since April 1996, and was a senior vice president for eight years before that. Suncoast Schools Federal is the largest credit union in Florida, and the 11th largest nationally, with about $5 billion in assets.

Credit Union Magazine spoke with Dorety to learn his secrets to success.

Q: What’s it like to win the prestigious Herb Wegner Award?

A: I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of things in the credit union community. I appreciate that, and hope that I’ve been helpful. But the main thing I’m judged on is how this credit union performs. So to me, winning this award is more of a reflection on the success we’ve had over the years at Suncoast and the dedication and talent of our staff and board that allowed me to spend considerable time contributing to the credit union community.

Q: What do you consider your greatest credit union accomplishment(s)?

A: I haven’t achieved it yet. That will happen when this credit union is once again providing the best value our members can get anywhere. Because of the financial impact we felt from the Great Recession we had to adjust our rates and fees much closer to the average found in our market. We need to get back to providing the best deal that anyone can get in this area. We’re working hard to get there and will do so.

Q: What do you most hope you’ve impressed upon those in the credit union community?

A: I hope people understand they can get engaged and involved, and make a difference, while being straightforward, honest and not taking themselves too seriously.

Q: What were the biggest sources of inspiration for you to go above and beyond at your various credit union organizations?

A: The person who most inspired me to “go above and beyond” my job was my father. He was a successful businessman and, along with my mother, raised 5 children in a small town in North Carolina. Yet he was always looking for ways to make our community a better place.

He served as chairman of the school board during integration, chairman of the hospital board during construction of a new facility and chairman of the Rotary Club. He also raised funds for all kinds of civic projects and made sure dozens of high school students were able to afford to go to college. Most impressively, he did so quietly, without any fanfare. I couldn’t have had a better role model.

Q: What advice do you have for credit union leaders today?

A: Don’t let isolated or arbitrary ratios or numbers determine your future. Continue to look at the big picture. Do what’s best for the long-term benefit of your members. Make your case, support it, and carry it out.

The awards dinner will be held March 19, 2012, during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. Visit for more information.