Paul Mercer, president of the Ohio Credit Union League, and Lauren Whaley, president of the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation, were recognized with the 2023 Eugene H. Farley League Leadership Award by the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL). Both were honored at a reception held in conjunction with the 2023 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC).
The award honors a League president and League executive who demonstrates visionary leadership at the state and national levels.
“I am deeply honored by this special recognition. Eugene Farley was a leader I admired and looked to earlier in my League career. To see his example continue to be celebrated through leaders across the state and national system is meaningful. Working for credit unions and leagues matters, makes a difference, and fortifies the Movement for the future. It is an extraordinary privilege to work alongside inspiring system leaders committed to the same vision,” Mercer said.
Mercer joined the Ohio Credit Union League in 1992. Since 1997, he has been president of the Ohio Credit Union League and its affiliated organizations: OCUL Services Corporation, its state and federal political action committees OCULAC and OCULPAC, its grant-making organization the Ohio Credit Union Foundation, and its advocacy reserve entity the Ohio Credit Union Defense Coalition.
“Paul is a catalyst for cooperation in Ohio and nationally. Furthermore, he instills those cooperative values in the people he hires, making the league and ultimately the credit union system even stronger,” said AACUL President Brad Miller. “Paul truly wants every credit union, league, and CUNA to flourish. He is one of the most outspoken promoters of the three-tier system and well-respected for his views.”
“Paul is the epitome of a servant leader,” said AACUL Chair and Dakota Credit Union Association President/CEO Jeff Olson praised Mercer. “He has consistently impacted the CUNA League System through his purposeful and authentic leadership. If there was ever an individual that Gene Farley would be proud to see receive this award, it's Paul Mercer.”
“The Carolinas Credit Union Foundation has truly transformed over the past seven years thanks to the strong support from the team at the Carolinas Credit Union League, the collaborative spirit of my colleagues at state credit unions foundations across the country, and the vision of our Foundation Board of Directors. I’m so proud to have been part of that progress,” said Whaley. “It’s truly an honor to be recognized and join a list of remarkable leaders in our industry to receive the Farley League Leadership Award.”
Whaley joined the Foundation as president in 2015. Since then, the Foundation has distributed nearly $10 million in funding for disaster relief, hardship assistance, educational programs and grants, academic and needs-based scholarships, non-profit grant support, and more.
By revamping the Foundation’s fund management services, Whaley has more than tripled the assets of the Foundation. Among several initiatives Whaley introduced to benefit Carolinas credit union system are professional development grants for small credit unions and a Technology and Capital Improvement Grant Program that helps small credit unions invest in technology, security, or infrastructure upgrades.
“Lauren has taken the concept of ‘foundation’ to heart, working to extend the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation as basis for credit union community support throughout North and South Carolina,” Miller said. “She is a leader among her peers, embracing cooperation and opportunities to help others in anticipated and unexpected times of need.”
In April 2020, the Foundation activated its Disaster Relief Fund to support a COVID-19 Relief Program designed by Lauren, making relief funds available to employees of Carolinas-based credit unions who experienced significant financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
“Lauren has transformed the organization from a fundraising arm supporting large-scale projects to a strategic philanthropic partner to the credit union system in the Carolinas,” Carolinas Credit Union League President/CEO Dan Schline adds. “Through her intentional and focused planning, the Foundation is positioned as a community foundation supporting the philanthropic needs of credit unions, business partners, and chapters in the Carolinas.”