CLAREMONT, Calif. (7/29/11)--More than 150 credit union professionals networked extensively during the Western CUNA Management School’s (WCMS) special two-day 50th anniversary conference and graduation held July 20 and 21 at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. Throughout, some of the school’s more than 3,500 alumni over the past five decades mingled with current students. The event--sponsored by CO-OP Financial Services--included a reception, breakout sessions and graduation ceremony. CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney served as the 50th graduating class commencement speaker, and Google Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock was the conference keynote speaker. Other conference speakers included WCMS President James D. Likens, long-time WCMS faculty members Martha Andresen (Pomona College English professor), Harry Eggleton (Emergent Consulting president), and David Tansey (Josephson Institution of Ethics business ethics speaker), as well as WCMS Dean Michael Steinberger, CO-OP Financial Services Inc. President/ CEO Stan Hollen, and Filene Research Institute CEO Mark Meyer. At the July 21 graduation, Cheney--a former WCMS board member--shed light on the mission credit unions have to convince consumers the industry is a “smarter choice” over banks. “We have to create an operating environment that will allow credit unions to grow, and we need your help to accomplish this,” Cheney said. “For you to show a commitment to credit unions at this point in the history of our nation and economy shows how much you value our movement and the people we serve. I am counting on you.” During the two-day conference, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, (R-Calif.), was featured in a video message during lunch, saying credit unions are committed to helping give consumers a choice. Royce also spoke about the member business lending cap bill he authored. “What this bill will do is create 100,000 new jobs,” he said. “I ask you to contact your senator and urge their support. That’s my call to action.” Conference keynote speaker Bock addressed Google’s unique culture and discussed the “heart” of business. He noted parallels in the people-oriented management approaches of credit unions and Google. He encouraged credit unions to “use data to make better people decisions.” Likens’ focused on the theme of “adaptability”. As the economic, political, and social environments continue changing, credit unions have always been able to adapt and contribute to the future success of American consumers, he said. He gave a history of how credit unions have adapted over the years, referencing significant events. “We must continue to recognize the significance of such important forces of change and be adaptable to them,” Likens said as he addressed the opening general session audience. “We operate in an ever evolving world, and as it changes, credit unions must adapt if they are to survive and remain vital. For this to happen, credit unions need smart, adaptable leaders. That’s where WCMS comes in. We don’t train--we educate for the future.” Likens was “honored and humbled” by his students’ success, and thanked them for attending the momentous occasion. "If you have someone in your credit union that you want to attend this school, we want to find a way for them to attend. Money should not be a barrier." Steinberger said during the conference. "Credit unions are more relevant today than ever. WCMS is helping produce the next generation of credit union leaders." And Hollen added: “We’re proud of this prestigious school and its students. We are all proud to celebrate its achievements over 50 years. This year’s James D. Likens Alumni Recognition Award went to Susan Streifel, CEO of Woodstone CU, Federal Way, Wash. The Charles M. Clark Memorial Award went to Jay Lee, operations officer for Mattel FCU, El Segundo, Calif., and risk management and technology officer for City of Downey (Calif.) FCU. The Likens Award, founded by the Alumni Association of WCMS, is given to a graduate who has made significant achievements in the credit union field since graduation. The Clark Award is given to the senior student nominated by his or her class who best represents high moral character, leadership, credit union dedication, and academic achievement. WCMS’ program for credit union professionals is held over three years, with two-week terms during consecutive summers, led by a faculty made up of carefully chosen professors, consultants and credit union leaders. Students also complete two major projects that analyze their credit unions.