For many years the completion of three years of study and the close alliance made with fellow students possibly ending, left graduates feeling an emptiness knowing there would not be another year together at CUNA School.
In 1980, following her graduation, Pauline Carroll set out to have an annual “graduate program” in conjunction with the regular classes; the first such program was held the summer of 1981. One of the scheduled instructors for that program was Dr. Mario Conforti, a beloved friend of all CUNA School students and graduates.
The unexpected death of Dr. Conforti just a few weeks prior to the 1981 graduate program was deeply felt by both the returning graduates as well as the Class of 1981. The Class of 1981 and the graduates attending the graduate program met to discuss ways to carry on the teachings of Dr. Conforti and the meaning of his fable of the FROG. As a result, the concept of forming an alumni association whose purpose would be to provide an opportunity for continuing education and networking for past and future graduates was conceived. A committee was formed and met with members of the Western Regional CUNA School’s administration committee at the School prior to the end of the 1981 school session. The graduates attending the graduate program asked Bob Toohey (’75), Glenda Young (’76), and Pauline Carroll (’80) to serve as the committee to seek out the formation of such an alumni association. At the request of the formation committee, the Class of 1981 selected the President of their class, Winifred Corey, to represent them as part of the formation committee.
James Sassahara, Vice Chairman of the Local Administrative Committee, arranged for a meeting to discuss future graduate programs and the possibility of having an alumni association with the formation committee. The meeting took place at the School. Meeting with Mr. Sassahara and the Committee were faculty members Dr. James Likens, Chuck Harris, and Robert Haage.After extended discussion, Mr. Sassahara and the faculty members felt the concept of an alumni association would be acceptable to the CUNA School Policy Committee if some specific criteria were met. Namely these were:
- There was an indicated support of an alumni association from graduates other than those currently at the 1981 graduate program and Class of 1981.There was an indicated support of an alumni association from graduates other than those currently at the 1981 graduate program and Class of 1981.
- Such alumni association did not interfere with the operations of the School itself.
- There would be a clear accountability of any funds solicited by the association.
- The School, including the Local Administrative Committee and Faculty, were not involved nor asked to be involved in the formation or future success of such an association.
Following the meeting, Bob Toohey was asked to serve as the Formation Committee’s Chairman and to proceed with complying with these requirements and the formation of an alumni association. The class of 1981 donated $500.00 as a pledge of their support.
A list of all known addresses of graduates from the first graduating class of 1962 through the most recent class of 1981 was assembled and a letter mailed to each of them announcing the concept of forming a Western CUNA Management School Alumni Association and an invitation for them to show their support. Fifty-four graduates responded with an initial payment of dues. It was also found from this announcement, there were two previous attempts to form an alumni organization for the then CUNA District 4 School; one in the late 1960’s and the other in the 1970’s. The Formation Committee met with those who attempted these previous organizations and analyzed what they tried to do and why they failed. This provided valuable insights and it was apparent such an organization should be established within a legal framework.
The Committee then turned to the California Credit Union League’s counsel, Joe McDonald, for advice. While Mr. McDonald was not allowed to act on our behalf as direct counsel, he provided very valuable insights and direction. Following that advice, the Committee Chairman solicited the support of the law firm of Solton and Jacobs in Downey, California. This law firm represented several Southern California credit unions and an active participant at many of the League’s chapter meetings. Bob Toohey and Cheryl Bebelaar met with Mr. David Weiss at the offices of Solton & Jacobs to draft corporate bylaws and articles of incorporation. As a result, the first fifty-four graduates who responded were given the title of “Charter Member”. Donald R. Jacob provided the law firm’s services at no cost.
A draft set of bylaws and plans to incorporate as a non-profit public benefit corporation within the State of California was developed with the following mission statement:A draft set of bylaws and plans to incorporate as a non-profit public benefit corporation within the State of California was developed with the following mission statement:
“The purpose of this Association is to support the Western Regional CUNAManagement School Administration, the currently enrolled students, andall alumni of the School in any activity which enhances the position of theSchool, credit unions as a whole, and/or advance the cause of credit unionmanagement and education.”
These were presented to the Local Administrative Committee of the School and subsequently approved.
On August 23, 1982 the California Secretary of State endorsed the Articles of Incorporation of the Western Regional CUNA School Alumni Association.
The first annual meeting and election of the Alumni Association board of directors was held during the August 1982 graduate program. Bob Toohey was elected President; Winifred Corey, Vice President; Glenda Young, Treasurer; Cheryl Bebelaar, Secretary.
Special invitations were mailed out to all WCMS graduates inviting them to a special breakfast held on the Friday morning of the 1981 California Credit Union League’s annual meeting held in San Francisco with more than 50 alumni attending. At the request of those attending that breakfast meeting, the tradition of having an annual WCMS Alumni Breakfast has been a part of every California League annual meeting since. Similar breakfast meetings have been held in conjunction with annual meetings in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington and are encouraged by the Alumni Board of Directors.
Upon the change of the School’s official name in 1984, the bylaws were amended to reflect the new name (Western CUNA Management School Alumni Association) and new articles of incorporation were submitted to the State of California. On November 19, 1984 the Secretary of State of the State of California approved the Restated Articles of Incorporation of Western CUNA Management School Alumni Association.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT - The Formative Years
During the first annual meeting, held in conjunction with the second graduate session held on the campus of Pomona College in August 1982, it was moved by John Dulin to create a memorial trust in the name of Dr. Mario Conforti with the proceeds from the earnings of this trust used for scholarships to deserving students of the Western Regional CUNA School. The first scholarship was awarded in August 1985. Over the years, hundreds of students have benefited from the Mario Conforti Scholarship Fund and from funds generated by membership dues and the selling of “FROG” related items to students on opening weekend.
A concentrated effort to solicit funds for this trust from the graduating classes and credit union business associates along with encouraging graduates from the CUNA District 4 and Western Regional CUNA School graduating classes was the focus for the first five years of the Association.
In accordance with the Association’s Bylaws, members of the Alumni Association increased their support of the School and its students on opening weekends.
Prior to the formation of the Alumni Association, volunteers organized by James Sassahara and Bob Toohey provided transportation for arriving and departing students at the Los Angeles International Airport as well as the Ontario Airport by use of personal vehicles. This assistance began in 1973 at the request of Charles Clark. Ken Facer (‘87) took over the transportation needs of new and returning students in 1988. In 2004. Ray Mesler (’98) assumed transportation duties from Ken for the Ontario Airport., Sam Saplot (’74) assumed the transportation and liaison duties for the students from Hawaii when James “Jimmy” Sassahara retired from the School’s Administrative Committee and continued in this capacity until his death in January 2002. Sam was a “banker”, a data system consultant, and a credit union CEO. Hawaiian born, Sam was a mainland transplant and maintained a very close tie with the Hawaii Hui. He was a dedicated credit union individual, well liked and would help in any way he could.
In addition to attending to the transportation needs, the Alumni Association were asked to assist on opening weekend in many other ways…greeters at the airports and on campus arrivals; assisting with student luggage and room assignments; and providing refreshments to name a few. Over the years, as enrollment increased, returning students [juniors] took over these duties.
Scholarships to current students with financial needs and having the opportunity for the graduates to return each year for continuing credit union education and to expand their networking among credit union professionals became the focus for the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors since 1981. In the beginning, the graduate sessions were a five-day program held during the second week of the WCMS School, thus allowing the returning graduates to attend the graduation ceremonies. Due to a limited enrollment and increasing administrative costs, the graduate programs were cut back each year and eventually to one-day programs. The graduate sessions, which for a time were held off-campus, remained scheduled so that attendees could attend the WCMS School graduation and remain connected to WCMS.
In1986, at the request of the Association’s board of directors to establish better communications between the Alumni Association and the School’s faculty, the position of Alumni Representative was established on the Local Administrative Committee. The first Alumni Association board member to serve in this capacity was Winifred Corey (’81) followed by John Dea (’82); and Delaney Morris (’87). In early 1990’s, changes were made in the governing structure of the School and this position was discontinued.
A separate Alumni Association logo was developed in 1985 combining the traditional Western CUNA School “tri-angle” with a gold crown attached to one of the tri-angle points with a frog attached to one of the crown’s points. The “Crown and Frog” came from a pin received by Bob Toohey from one of the students in 1983 as a token of appreciation for Bob’s encouragement for the student to return and complete their studies at Western CUNA Management School.
Utilizing this new Alumni Association logo, Delaney Morris arranged for the first distinctive “yellow” alumni T-shirts with the new green and gold logo and for yellow cups each year for several years with the same logo and year printed on them. These new bright shirts were used by the alumni at the airports, as well as on campus, and became so popular they were made available to all members of the Alumni Association. The cups were given to the returning alumni for the summer graduate programs as well as to the graduating class with a token gift from the Alumni.
In 1994, the board of directors evaluated the recent changes within the Western CUNA Management School governing body as well as the needs of the current students. Several changes to the Alumni Association’s Bylaws were recommended to the membership and adopted during the 1994 annual meeting of the members.
With his announcement of his early retirement from the Southern California Edison Company in 1996, and with uncertainty of his future time availability, Bob Toohey stepped down as a member of the Alumni Board. On July 24, 1997 at the Alumni Association’s annual meeting, Bob was presented the title of Chairman Emeritus in recognition of over twenty years of service to the Western CUNA Management School, the development of the WCMS Alumni Association, his leadership as President for 13 of the first 15 years of the Alumni Association, and for his continued dedication to the Western CUNA Management School and its alumni.
In July of 2011 the WCMS Alumni Association celebrated its 30 year Anniversary in conjunction with the celebration of the 50th Graduating Class of Western CUNA Management School. The 2011 WCMS Alumni Conference, a two day event designed to celebrate WCMS, its graduates and their contributions to the Credit Union movement was a memorable event. The conference was attended by more than 150 WCMS Graduates and Dignitaries and featured sessions by some of our favorite WCMS Professors.
The 30th/50th anniversary celebration allowed both the Alumni Association and Western CUNA Management School an opportunity to review and celebrate their many accomplishments. The task of jointly planning and executing their 30th/50th anniversaries provided the avenue to work together to plot a course for a deeper more meaningful working relationship between the two organizations in the future.
The Alumni Association continues to grow and change as the needs of WCMS and its Students change. Following the 30th/50th anniversary celebration Ray Mesler (’98) was elected President of the WCMSAA. Under Ray’s leadership, the WCMSAA focused on fundraising, scholarships and providing on campus support to WCMS. Under Ray’s leadership the WCMSAA began the process of updating its bylaws, created an Associate Board Member Program and created the Sustaining Donor Program that allows graduates to support the WCMSAA through small monthly donations throughout the year.
In 2016, Robert York (’10) was elected President of the Alumni Association. Under Robert’s leadership, the Alumni Association Board continued to focus on three primary objectives: to increase membership in the WCMS Alumni Association; increase attendance at WCMS Alumni Association events; and, increase both financial, as well as on-campus, support that the WCMS Alumni Association traditionally provides the School.
To assist the Alumni Association with its fund-raising goals, the Alumni Association board worked with the School’s administration to bring back corporate sponsorship of the Alumni Association. Corporate sponsorships provide funding for an individual gift to the graduating class each year and help provide scholarships to current WCMS students. These activities, together with an on-campus presence opening day each summer, provides increase awareness and value of the WCMS Alumni Association.
An Associate Board Member classification was adopted by the Alumni Association Board to provide an opportunity for more WCMS graduates to participate in the governance of the WCMS Alumni Association. Appointment to this position will provide an avenue to directly work with leagues and associations to host, or co-host, events in all the states served by WCMS. Active participation by Associate Board Members in their local areas not only provides increased exposure of WCMS but provides opportunities for WCMS Alumni to reconnect and network with current students.
In 2017 the WCMS Alumni Association began a rebranding effort that included a new logo, new colors and a new website. The result was an updated look that still encompassed our core values of head and heart, leadership, connection, service and passion. The new website had increased functionality and allowed us to do more to promote our networking events and support additional connecting points for WCMS Alumni Association members.
Continuing to look for ways to connect with WCMS graduates and to raise funds, in 2018 the Alumni Association opened an on-line store prior to the start of the 2018 school session. The objective for such a store is to sell merchandise to the graduating class as well as Alumni attending the WCMS Alumni Annual Conference while on campus. The Alumni Association Board also expanded the conference to include a pre-conference dinner where conference attendees can network with each other and with the business partners who support the WCMS and the WCMS Alumni Association.
In 2020, the WCMS Alumni Association Board voiced a desire to expand opportunities for members to participate in the Association via an “Advisory Committee”. The Board also expressed desire to expand the Association’s annual conference to include a golf event which would give conference attendees more time to network, reconnect with other alumni, and meet current students.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the Western CUNA Management School (WCMS) Administrative Committee to postpone the WCMS program scheduled for July 2020. For the first time since 1981 the WCMSAA did not hold an annual conference.
While the COVID-19 pandemic provided many challenges to individual credit unions, the Alumni Association’s Board and committees continued active support of the School and its goals.