2017 CUES Distinguished Director is Serving Country and Credit Union

2017 CUES Distinguished Director J. Marvin Hawk, CCD, receives his award with the support of his fellow board members and CEO.
By Diane Franklin

8 minutes

2017 CUES Distinguished Director Marvin Hawk lives out ‘people helping people.’

J. Marvin Hawk, CCD, reached the pinnacle of civil service before retiring from his position as director of resource management for Fort Knox, Ky. As a long-time board member for the CU that bears the Fort Knox name, he likewise has reached the pinnacle in terms of his service to the CU movement.

Hawk, chair for $1.4 billion Fort Knox Federal Credit Union in Radcliff, Ky., was named the 2017 CUES Distinguished Director based on the stellar work he has done on behalf of the CU over the past four decades. He received the honor at CUES’ Directors Conference, which took place in December at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Marco Island, Fla.

Hawk’s board involvement includes three terms as board chair (including his current term) plus multiple terms in the other officer roles. “I have served on the executive committee for 28 of my almost 37 total years of service on the credit union board,” Hawk says. “I have also served on and chaired most of the committees the credit union has had over the years.”

A Financial Career Path

A Kentucky native, Hawk has never strayed far from his roots. He grew up in Bonnieville, a small town about 70 miles south of Louisville. When it came time for college, he chose the University of Kentucky where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in commerce with a major in accounting. More than 50 years since his graduation, he remains a devoted fan of the Kentucky Wildcats, with his favorite sport being basketball.

Degree in hand, Hawk sought a job in the financial sector. “I’ve always been good with numbers and finances,” he reports. “That is what led me to my career path.”

Hawk started his professional career as an auditor with a regional firm in Cincinnati, just a few miles north of the Kentucky border. In December 1962, he moved back to Kentucky and accepted an audit position in civil service in the comptroller’s office at Fort Knox, a major Army installation that encompasses nearly 110,000 acres and employs several thousand civilians and members of the armed forces.

“I served in a variety of auditing and accounting positions and retired in September 1995 as the director of resource management, the highest civilian rank position at Fort Knox,” after three years in the role, says Hawk. Before that he served as the deputy director of resource management for 11 years.

During his time in the comptroller’s office, Hawk worked with many people who were members of Fort Knox FCU. He liked what he heard about the CU, so in 1974, he decided to become a member as well. Just four years later, he took on his first volunteer role with the CU.

“I served on the supervisory committee from 1978 to 1981,” Hawk reports. “In 1981, I was appointed to fill the vacancy of a board member who retired, and I have been on the board continuously ever since.”

During Hawk’s 37 years of board involvement, Fort Knox FCU has grown dramatically and taken many great strides to serve its members.

“The credit union’s major accomplishments during my tenure on the board are the safety and soundness of the credit union,” Hawk says. “Since I started on the board in 1981, Fort Knox Federal has grown from three branches and $52 million in assets to more than $1.4 billion today with 17 branches and almost 100,000 members. We are now the largest credit union in the state of Kentucky.”

Fort Knox FCU also excels in measurements compared to peer groups.

“The credit union has a net worth of almost 16 percent and consistently has a return on assets significantly above our peer group,” Hawk reports, adding that the CU’s operating expense ratio also is one of the lowest in its peer group. “I believe a major factor in the steady growth of our credit union over the years has been the visionary leadership of the board and the president/CEO. Additionally, we have been blessed with an outstanding staff.”

Another way that Fort Knox FCU has ensured growth is by staying on the leading edge of technology. “Automation has been a key factor that has allowed us to provide the services that members needed and wanted,” Hawk says.

At the same time, the CU has grown its membership through geographic expansion and by reaching out to an ever-increasing number of area employers. “Over the years, Fort Knox Federal has added hundreds of select employee groups that have greatly contributed to our consistent growth and soundness,” Hawk explains.

Strong Support for CUs

One of the prime motivators for Hawk’s long-time service to the CU is the “people helping people” philosophy. Hawk observes that CUs are making a positive difference in the financial lives of their members. “That’s one of the reasons that I decided to get involved with the board,” he says.

Hawk sees CUs as being in a much better position than banks to improve people’s lives and their communities.

“Credit unions are not–for-profit organizations, and because of this, they can generally offer higher rates on savings, lower rates on loans, and low or no fees on services,” Hawk observes. “Credit unions also are more proactively involved in their communities and in providing support to community organizations. We are very visible in the community, which helps to get the word out about our credit union.”

Since Fort Knox FCU has branches in many different communities, the impact that the CU has is quite extensive. “The directors and the staff are involved in many different organizations throughout the communities served by our 17 branches,” Hawk reports.

Another advantage that CUs have is their collaborative nature and ability to work together to further common goals. “Credit unions are willing to share success with other credit unions, which is not the case with banks,” Hawk says. As an example, he cites the positive experience of attending CUES’ recent Directors Conference. Another great opportunity for colleague interaction is the annual CUES Symposium: A CEO/Chairman Exchange, he says.

“At these conferences, you have the opportunity to work with your peer groups and find out what they’re doing that’s been successful and also what’s not been successful,” Hawk says. “It’s beneficial to have the opportunity to network with other directors.”

To ensure that he is an effective board member, Hawk has completed several professional development training courses and has encouraged others to do the same. Under his board leadership, directors at Fort Knox FCU have completed more than 650 educational training sessions.

The CUES Distinguished Director award is one of several honors that Hawk has received in recognition of his tireless work for credit unions. “Because of my leadership positions in the credit union movement, I was selected in 2011 to receive the Steve Brody Award as the Outstanding Credit Union Director in the State of Kentucky” by the state league, he reports. “In 2016, I was selected to be inducted into the Defense Credit Union Council Hall of Honor.”

A Service-Oriented Spirit

Hawk’s service-oriented spirit permeates every part of his life. He served more than 14 years as treasurer of his Baptist church in Elizabethtown, Ky., where he lives. “The church has a membership of more than 4,000 and an annual budget of more than $3.7 million,” he says. “I have been an active member of this church since 1976, and have and still serve on a number of committees.”

During his career at the Fort Knox military installation, Hawk served as the charter president of the Fort Knox Leadership Association, a group of about 125 senior civilian members who advised the Fort Knox Command Group on matters pertaining to civilians at Fort Knox. He also served for many years as the vice president of the American Society of Military Comptrollers, Fort Knox Chapter, and also served terms as the chapter president.

In addition, Hawk was selected as the first civilian representative for a program called Leadership Elizabethtown, a year-long leadership program sponsored by the City of Elizabethtown.

Throughout his life, Hawk also has been a devoted family man. In 1961, he married his high school sweetheart, Jennie Lou Wells. Together, they had two daughters. “We were married 53 and a half years before her passing in 2015 after a long illness of almost six years,” Hawk says. “I was her primary caregiver during that period.”

Hawk’s daughters are both married, and he has two granddaughters, one of whom recently married a Marine stationed in Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

A Tradition of Dedication

Dedicated board service is not unusual among the directors who serve Fort Knox FCU. In fact, Hawk is not the first board member from the CU to receive the Distinguished Director recognition in the 31-year history of the award.

“Fort Knox Federal has been very fortunate over the years to receive this honor,” Hawk says, citing several reasons that several directors from the CU have achieved this feat, including Howard Williams, CCD, in 2014, Henry Wheatley in 2004, and Leo C. Pike Jr. in 1994.

“We have an outstanding board, and many of us have been on the board together for several years. And we work well with the CEO and the staff.”

CUES member Ray Springsteen, president/CEO of Fort Knox FCU, appreciates all that Hawk has done for the organization.

“A couple things stand out about Marvin,” Springsteen says. “He has not only served the credit union for nearly 40 years, but he also serves the community.” That includes the tremendous work he has done on behalf of his church and the military.

“Marvin takes a very proactive approach to serving the community,” Springsteen adds. “He is making a difference in the credit union and in the lives of people in the community overall. He’s very passionate about wanting to see the credit union succeed and to help us continue to make an impact by improving members’ lives.”

Diane Franklin is a freelance writer based in Missouri.

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