I‘m not easily impressed. I think I have a good eye for spotting a phony, perhaps because the world is full of them. I’ve known talented people who are as phony as a three-dollar bill, as the saying goes. Integrity matters, but it’s not always easy to measure.
When I was young, I compared older men I’d meet to my father. That’s not unusual for sons lucky enough to have fathers who are good men. I learned from my father to judge a man carefully and offer your trust and friendship sparingly—at least at first.
No father is perfect. Mine wasn’t. All fathers have flaws, sometimes some big ones. But once a son passes the age of hero-worship and looks honestly at his father and can accept him for who he is, then the better traits that are integral to a man’s character loom even larger.
My truest way to gauge people has never been business acumen or professional skills. I’ve known many who can legitimately boast of both. Those skills aren’t uncommon. It’s less common for it to be said of you at the end of life that you always had a friend’s back or that your handshake was as good as a signed contract. Integrity matters, but it’s sometimes hard to see.
I once knew a man named Warren Morrow, and he impressed me. Warren was young enough to be my son, but I knew from the moment I met him at dinner on a cold January night in Madison, Wis., that he was a guy I could count on and trust if I did business with him. And during the few short years I knew him, he never disappointed. Warren was president of Coopera, a Hispanic consulting firm and CUNA partner. The Iowa Credit Union League acquired Coopera because it recognized sooner than many that the nation’s Hispanic demographic was important for credit unions.
It was a bit more than one year ago that Iowa League President Pat Jury called me to deliver the terrible news that Warren had passed away in his sleep the night before from an undiagnosed heart ailment. We all lost something that day.
Warren was a visionary for credit unions and for the Hispanic community-at-large. He believed passionately that credit unions needed Hispanic members and that Hispanics needed credit unions.
At Warren’s visitation and funeral, it was obvious how deep his touch went and how many people loved and respected him—and not just credit union people. His influence reached many community neighborhoods and business sectors.
True visionaries are rare. They’re people like Edward Filene, Roy Bergengren, Louise Herring, and Dora Maxwell. Those are the kinds of giants I believe Warren now walks among.
Many years ago, I interviewed a departing CUNA executive who’d been instrumental in getting credit unions the ability to provide checking accounts, credit cards, and mortgages. I can’t remember much from that interview except one comment he made: He feared for the movement if it ever lacked the visionary leadership that drove its creation.
Movements do not live forever if they lack the passion, drive, and integrity of visionaries. An industry or business might survive but a movement will die. Fortunately, I still can see other Warren Morrows, other visionaries at work in credit unions and leagues. They might still be rare, but this precious movement of ours is in good hands.
Warren’s vision and passion continue at Coopera in the capable hands of Miriam De Dios and her staff, and with the continued support of the Iowa League.
Warren was a man of integrity. He wasn’t a phony. His handshake was as good as a contract. My father would have liked and respected Warren Morrow. And that’s the greatest compliment I can give anyone.
MARK CONDON is CUNA’s senior vice president, business and consumer publishing. Contact him at 608-231-4078.