Wed, Feb 21, 2018
After an illustrious and influential career spanning over 13 years with the National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation), National Program Director Lois Kitsch is set to retire from the Foundation effective May 1st.
“Lois is living proof of the power of one,” said Gigi Hyland, Executive Director at the Foundation. “Over her distinguished and varied credit union career, she has inspired thousands of credit union people worldwide to use their skills to make the world a better place and give a hand up to those in need. She is exquisitely artful in her ability to facilitate people’s learning about themselves and how the credit union model can improve peoples’ financial lives. She is fierce, humble, passionate, funny and an undeniable force for good in a world impatient with helping people achieve their financial aspirations. We are so thankful for all she has done for the Foundation and to advance the mission of credit unions. We know, without a doubt, she will continue to do amazing work in the movement, and wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on this new adventure.”
“This time is bittersweet for me,” said Kitsch. “I will be forever grateful to the Foundation for allowing me to do the work that I love. I sincerely believe that credit unions are the vehicles for change and I know that what they do empowers millions of people in thousands of communities around the globe to live stronger and happier lives. The Foundation is an integral part of that change and deserves our movement’s support. It has been my privilege to work for credit unions and the Foundation.”
Kitsch started out her career in the financial services industry as a drive-up bank teller in North Dakota in 1980. She later, by chance, fell into a job at a credit union but it wasn’t until 1986 when she went through the Credit Union Development Education (DE) Program that she realized the true power of the credit union movement and felt that she had finally found her purpose.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Kitsch spent time working in credit unions, eventually working her way up to serve as CEO of Sarasota Municipal Employees CU in Florida. She then became immersed in international work with the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Kitsch focused on international development projects aimed at building financial capability through cooperatives in some of the world’s poorest areas. Her work has taken her to more than 40 countries including the Philippines, Haiti, Macedonia and many throughout Africa.
“World Council had the privilege of Lois’s leadership and diligence in the field from 1996 to 2004,” said Brian Branch, President and Chief Executive Officer at WOCCU. “Lois was one of our most outstanding project directors, making a real impact on credit union performance in the Philippines, introducing higher performance standards and providing the know-how to achieve them. A true global citizen, Lois will always be a welcome part of the family of any credit union movement in our global community.”
One of her most notable projects and accomplishments was traveling to Afghanistan during wartime in 2003 and 2004, working with WOCCU and the World Bank to assist in the creation of credit unions.
After spending seven years serving as the Regional Manager for Europe and Asia for WOCCU, Kitsch then worked as the Director of Field Projects for the Filene Research Institute where she spearheaded the creation of programs aimed at assisting credit unions to better serve low-wage working families.
“Lois is the ‘Mother Teresa of Credit Unions’,” said Mark Meyer, CEO at Filene. “Fearless. Lois has travelled the globe to plant the seeds of economic empowerment by placing it in the hands of the people through cooperative finance. Dedicated. She has dedicated her life to being a fierce advocate for the financially vulnerable. Inspirational. Lois is a champion of cooperative values and inspired 1000’s to lead credit unions by keeping purpose constant, even when the winds of change create turbulence in the environment.”
Kitsch eventually joined the National Credit Union Foundation and spent 13 years continuing her innovative program work and became a champion of experiential learning programs for credit union staff, volunteers and members. Programs such as the Foundation’s Life Simulation and Reality Fairs have helped thousands learn lessons on how to better manage their finances to improve their financial futures.
Perhaps her most well-known work has been with the Foundation’s DE Program, the transformational learning experience that immerses credit union professionals into the principles and philosophy of the movement. Kitsch has been instrumental in building the program into one of the credit union movement’s premier and in-demand training opportunities.
“Lois had served as an incredible ambassador for the Credit Union Development Educators Program” said John Bratsakis, President/CEO of the MD|DC Credit Union Association. “It is through her dedication and passion for helping others that will endure past her departure. Lois has touched many lives over the years; we wish her well in her retirement, and will miss her presence in the movement.”
She has not only served as a leader for the DE Program in the US, but also internationally. Kitsch has served as a mentor and facilitator for DE programs in Africa, Asia and the Philippines. Through her work with the DE Program, Kitsch has changed the lives of thousands of credit union professionals by helping them to understand the business and social responsibility that credit unions have to their members and to the movement as a whole. Kitsch has delivered many presentations and led discussions around leveraging the credit union difference and credit union principles and philosophy. She inspires and energizes hundreds of credit union professionals each year through these presentations. Her influence and inspirational leadership has served as a change agent for people across the globe.
Kitsch has been acknowledged and celebrated for her many accomplishments, including being recognized by the World Council of Credit Unions as an outstanding mentor to other women, being a recipient of a Herb Wegner Award in 2004, and receiving the Athena Leadership Award from WOCCUs Global Women’s Leadership Network in 2015.
Kitsch will be assisting with the first two DE Trainings in 2018 (April and June) and working with Chad Helminak, who has recently been hired by the Foundation as Director of Credit Union Development and Cooperative Values Engagement, on a successful leadership transition plan for DE. She will also be leading efforts for the 2018 DE Workshop set for August 14-16.