A Humble Retiree with a Mountain of Accomplishments

Q&A with Wegner Award-winner Tim Haegelin.

March 3, 2014

In recognition of his outstanding leadership and selfless commitment to the credit union industry, the National Credit Union Foundation is presenting Tim Haegelin, a 2014 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Haegelin is the retired president/CEO of Generations Federal Credit Union in San Antonio.

Credit Union Magazine recently chatted with Haegelin about the award and his career.

What does being awarded a Wegner Award mean to you?

I can only describe the feeling as a state of shock. 

As you work through your career, you don’t count up your accomplishments. You walk in each day and do the best that you can, you give back and you help others. And you do that because it’s the right thing to do. 

When retirement comes, you personally find a sense of pride in those accomplishments. But when someone comes along and says to you that those accomplishments made a difference, that in the long run they will matter; it’s extraordinarily humbling.

But I think it’s also a bit of a shock because you have a sense of urgency that goes along with that. You want to make sure everyone knows that this is not recognition for my work or my accomplishments.  It’s the team.

Credit Unions for Kids wouldn’t have been possible without Charlie Amato and Jack Finger, just as the successes of my credit union wouldn’t have been possible without my team that I trusted implicitly.

What are you most proud of in your credit union career?

Without a doubt my proudest achievement has been the success of Credit Unions for Kids.

Jack, Charlie and I started this because we wanted to help local kids from San Antonio have a better future. The program started as a statement stuffer fundraising campaign that grew beyond anything that any of us could have imagined.

There’s an old expression, ‘If you are truly successful in this life, the legacy of your actions will live on long past your name.’ That absolutely sums up what I feel.

I’m just so grateful to look at Credit Union for Kids now to realize that what started out with Jack’s phone call to my office has grown into an organization that has raised $100 million for children’s hospital across the country. 

But what is most humbling for me personally, is that long after I’m gone, when no one remembers the name Tim Haegelin, Credit Unions For Kids will still be going strong, still raising money, and still helping children go on to lead stronger, better lives.

In an article in our local paper, Jim Eskin recently commented that anyone can be a philanthropist.  No matter who you are, or how much you can give, anyone can be a philanthropist and give back.

I encourage everyone to find a cause that is important to them and support it. Because one day you will look back and you will find that personal sense of pride in the impact that you made and the people you helped.

What was the most challenging issue you had to deal with during your credit union career?

The most challenging issue would be change.  During my 48 year career, change came every single day in every shape and form. 

From changes in technology, staffing, HR laws, regulations, compliance, etc.  It’s a never-ending push to keep going, to stay timely, to stay on top and to do it effectively. 

Anyone can be a leader, but the real challenge is being a leader that others look up to and will follow through that never-ending change.

What’s your best leadership idea/advice?

Be truthful and genuine in everything you do.  It’s just that simple. 

When you are truthful and genuine it fosters and encourages respect; and when you have that in your pocket, it can carry you through a lot of challenges and change.