Calanthia Tucker’s leadership stood out while she was a high school student from a poor neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.
“There were times when teachers would say, ‘OK, it’s yours,’ and they would have me lead discussions,” says Tucker, board chair at Apple Federal Credit Union in Fairfax, Va. “I enjoy that kind of environment: working with and helping people.”
Tucker went on to earn a doctorate in educational administration from Vanderbilt University. She built a distinguished, award-winning career as a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent at Fairfax County Public Schools, and was an adjunct professor at George Mason University.
For the past 20 years, Tucker has used her leadership to help Apple Federal grow from a small credit union serving educators to a $4.3 billion asset, community-based credit union with 21 branches. She was recruited to serve after meeting the credit union’s former CEO at a retirement party for a branch manager.
During her time with the board, which she has chaired since 2015, Apple Federal went through three mergers and quadrupled its assets. In 2018, the credit union moved into a new LEED-certified headquarters.
Along the way, the board oversaw upgrades of Apple Federal’s technology with the help of a hired team of experts.
Through it all, Tucker’s focus has been on people.
“When I was in the school system, my philosophy was to expect the best. When you expect the best of people, they give you the best,” she says. “One of the reasons I was successful was I have a lot of faith in the Apple staff. In return, they keep doing fabulous things.”
During her tenure, the credit union adopted a program called the “Apple Way.” As part of this effort, board members each month call employees who have exceeded expectations to thank them for their work.
“Every year, board members visit all of our branches to get to know the people who work there and hear their concerns,” says Tucker, who’s retired from her role with the school district. “They appreciate knowing that we care.”
Tucker also helped engineer a more organized system for recruiting board members and ensuring Apple Federal is led by directors with diverse backgrounds, genders, and races.
“People don’t just tap you on the shoulder anymore” to serve on the board, she says. “We have people from different backgrounds come in and interview. We’ve gotten business people and younger people, and we need all those different ways of thinking—in addition to educators—to look to the future and move ahead.”