The theme of the silver anniversary event is legacy, which reflects the unique path AACUC and its partners have curated in the past quarter century, says Renee Sattiewhite, AACUC president/CEO.
Sattiewhite recalls that the organization’s initial gathering attracted a small number of attendees.
“It is amazing that we’ve gone from a social club-type atmosphere to a bona fide organization that’s well-respected within the industry,” she says. “Because of the leaders who have been a part of this organization and shaped our direction, we have been blessed to do a lot of great work in this space with people who want to spend their time with us and share ideas.”
The past few years have been especially significant for AACUC as social awareness around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have raised its profile. The National Credit Union Foundation recognized the organization with its 2022 Anchor Award to recognize its leadership through times of adversity.
“We’ve done a great job of providing a safe space for people to have very difficult conversations,” Sattiewhite says.
One of the key moments of this year’s conference will be the presentation of the first Maurice R. Smith DEI Leadership Award. The award is named in honor of the retired president/CEO at Local Government Federal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C.
Among Smith’s most forward-thinking contributions within the cooperative world was adding DEI as the eighth cooperative principle. This was formally adopted by the CUNA Board and is currently under discussion by the International Cooperative Alliance. Smith serves as AACUC’s board chairman.
“I cannot imagine what the credit union industry would look like without Maurice Smith,” says Sattiewhite. “Having Maurice on our board for all these years has elevated the board and governance of AACUC in such a way that we are poised to do more great things in the future.”
Smith has made fighting poverty a hallmark of this career.
“Regardless of the economic cycle, whether it's a recession or an expansion, we know who suffers in our membership,” he says. “It should be the responsibility of the credit union to look after its members, to not think of ourselves as just purveyors of a commodity but to find ways help families break the cycle of poverty in their communities and families.”
As for his legacy, Smith says providing the prospect of hope is what inspires people and communities to better themselves.
“If you don't have hope as an individual, as a leader, as a community, then you don't have the incentive or the motivation to look for something better,” he says. “I'd like for the leaders of the credit union movement and my colleagues at AACUC to continue to hold onto this idea of hope, and giving hope to our members and to consumers.”