Saying Goodbye to a Great Leader

CUES managing editor and publisher Theresa Witham
Theresa Witham Photo
VP/Publications & Publisher

2 minutes

From the editor

Genuine. Mentor. Friend. These are all words used to describe John Pembroke, president/CEO of CUES, who passed away on Nov. 21. John was all those things and much, much more.

If there was one quality that stood out above the rest, it was his ability to listen. At his funeral services last month in Chicago, many of the people who knew him best spoke about how great John was at listening. One even called him an aggressive listener. 

When John did speak, his words were so full of impact and meaning. He was extremely quotable, a quality that is especially endearing to this writer and editor. But we were all inspired by his words. 

During the CUES Podcast episode 62, John shared a quote that inspired him. Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” John enjoyed the irony of a Chicago Bears fan quoting the great Green Bay Packer’s coach.

As good of a listener as he was, he was an equally strong communicator. (Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand.) John had a knack for distilling an idea down to its essence and then stating it in a memorable and, more often than not, quotable way. One of my favorite examples was something he said during a strategy session. As you might imagine, John mostly listened during CUES strategy team meetings, pausing the conversation now and then to ask probing questions or to center us back to our main goals. I wrote down (and hung by my desk) this snippet of John Pembroke’s genius: “Strategy is about saying yes and no. ‘Yes’ gets captured in the plan. ‘No’ doesn’t. Both are extremely important.” 

In episode 43 of the CUES Podcast, John described himself as a product of the credit union industry, getting started as an intern at his church’s credit union during high school. We give thanks for that start, because the impact he left on this industry—and its people—is overwhelming. 

We invited those who knew John to share memories about him, and the response was robust. You can read about his legacy here. Please add your own tributes to the online version of the article by emailing me at

I leave you with two quotes:

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”—Terry Pratchett
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”—Jackie Robinson

John Pembroke’s impact will be rippling around the world for a long time to come.cues icon

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