Pam Vaughan honored by VCUL

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, May 31, 2017

by Lewis Wood

Pam Vaughan, a recent retiree of Franklin, Va.-based Bronco Federal Credit Union who worked in the credit union system for 40 years, has been recognized by the Virginia Credit Union League with the James P. Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented on April 27 in Roanoke at the League’s 83rd Annual Meeting.

“It’s been a great ride,” said Vaughan. “I feel truly blessed to have worked with so many wonderful people over the years and to have had a hand in helping so many credit union members and the community. I had the opportunity to prove that adage that if you find a job you love, you’ll never really work a day in your life.”

Vaughan got her start in the credit union system in the early-1970s at Newport News Shipbuilding Employees Credit Union, now BayPort Credit Union, working as a teller on summer breaks during college and on holidays.

“I thought I was destined to be a teacher after college, but credit unions and Ed Bennett [the general manager at the credit union] had other ideas,” said Vaughan.

She joined the credit union to split her time between working as a teller and handling the credit union’s public relations work, which was becoming a major undertaking as the credit union and the shipyard, its sponsor organization, grew more community-minded. Public relations events, including sponsorship of the Virginia Squires professional basketball team, became an integral part of the credit union’s community outreach in partnership with the shipyard. Over the course of her work at NNSECU, she served in various roles, including loan officer, collections officer and training officer.

She soon found herself working with other credit unions in the area through the Hampton Roads Chapter of Credit Unions, which supported the educational needs of local credit unions through the Virginia Credit Union League, and helped coordinate credit unions’ work with lawmakers in Richmond and Washington. She would serve on various chapter committees and in several leadership roles.

“Ed [Bennett] really pushed us to get involved,” said Vaughan. “He was a strong believer that as a cooperative movement, we needed to work together for the good of all credit unions and our communities. And he believed that any good work you did for an outside organization reflected positively on the credit union.”

Vaughan’s involvement in credit unions would reach national heights in the mid-1970s through a new initiative called the National Youth Involvement Board. NYIB’s mission was to encourage credit unions to expand their membership eligibility to the children and grandchildren of existing members. At the time, many credit unions had strict limits on membership, generally allowing only employees of the credit union’s sponsor organization to be members. That meant membership was closed to credit union members’ relatives and families, and often even those who had been credit union members for years were forced to close their accounts once they retired from the credit union’s sponsor organization.

“Credit union membership was very different in the 1970s,” said Vaughan. “We recognized that times were changing and for credit unions to survive, we had to think about membership opportunities beyond that core group of sponsor employees.”

Vaughan counts her work with the NYIB and its state-level counterpart as career highlights, as she crisscrossed the commonwealth to meet with credit union boards to discuss policies to expand credit union membership to young people. This initiative prompted many credit unions to rewrite their membership policies to include credit union membership eligibility for existing members’ family members and to institute “once a member, always a member” policies that allowed members to maintain their membership regardless of any change in their original membership qualifications.

This was a game changer for credit unions, who could now market their benefits and banking services to a whole new group of people.

Although she felt at home at NNSECU (BayPort Credit Union), the opportunity to do public relations work full-time at nearby Langley Federal Credit Union was too enticing an opportunity to let pass. “I had the opportunity to start my career with one credit union legend in Ed Bennett and move on to work for another legend in Jean Yokum at Langley.”

“Working with the service members at the base was one of the more rewarding parts of my career. For many, the Air Force was their first ‘real job’ and some struggled to manage their money. I still remember young airmen telling me they didn’t understand how they could have run out of money when they still had a checkbook full of checks!”

She would move on to a position at Hampton Roads Educators’ Credit Union, and after a three-year break outside the credit union system, would join her final credit union home — Bronco Federal Credit Union — in 2002. “Jean [Yokum] actually encouraged me to come back to credit unions, and I’m so thankful she did!” said Vaughan. “Joining Bronco was like coming back home.”

“It was a truly amazing, truly wonderful career,” she said. “I was blessed to have worked for and with so many great people and to have had mentors who always pushed me to get involved and work to make a difference. It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized with an award that bears the name of Jimmy Kirsch. He was a true Southern gentleman that exemplified everything I think of when I think about credit unions. He cared deeply about people, he cared about his credit union and he cared about the credit union movement.”

Throughout her credit union career, Vaughan continued to work with the Hampton Roads Chapter of Credit Unions and its counterpart on the Southside, the Tidewater Chapter, which supported credit unions in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Suffolk. Her service also included various committee appointments for the Virginia Credit Union League, the statewide trade association for Virginia-based credit unions and the “parent” organization for the Hampton Roads and Tidewater chapters. Vaughan’s volunteer work included service on the League’s Community Involvement Committee, which supports the charitable work of Virginia-based credit unions. During her 12 years of service, including service as the committee’s vice chairman, Virginia-based credit unions contributed more than $2 million combined to their two key charities: Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks.

Beyond the late Ed Bennett, Jean Yokum and the late Jimmy Kirsch, Vaughan cites a long list of mentors, co-workers and leaders who inspired her own journey in the credit union system, including the late Gene Farley, longtime president of the Virginia Credit Union League; the League’s Don Eberhard; retired Bronco Federal Credit Union CEO Bob Petty and current Bronco CEO Brian Hedgepeth.

“If I had to point to one thing they all taught me it would be that ‘changing the world’ requires patience,” said Vaughan. “Real change requires that you work through the process; it requires patience. Call it maturity, but I think that’s an important lesson for all of us in our professional and personal lives, and I hope that’s a lesson I passed on to those I worked with.”

On credit unions and the state of the movement, she noted that credit unions’ greatest asset is their employees.

“The people at credit unions are the heart and soul of the movement,” said Vaughan. “So many are like me who found a home in credit unions and what they stand for. My hope is that never changes, because credit unions really are special.”

LEWIS WOOD is the vice president of Public Relations and Communication for the Virginia Credit Union League. Contact him at 800-768-3344, ext. 629, or