By JOHN HAMIL
FIRST DIRECTOR: Linnie B. Wilson, above, was a bookkeeping teacher at Tulsa Central High School in 1934 when she was asked to manage a new credit union for teachers. She served as the director until her retirement in 1967. This photo was taken in the early 1960s at the 905 S. Guthrie location.
From a cigar box in the right hand desk drawer in Room 326 at Central High School in downtown Tulsa, to assets approaching $1 billion. That, in a sentence, is the 75-year history of Tulsa Teachers Credit Union (). That history is complete with a few words about TTCU’s remarkable devotion to one overarching principle: serving its members.
That, after all, was the impetus for its founding on Nov. 20, 1934.
Donald Duck made his cartoon debut for Walt Disney. Bob Wills played his first broadcast on in Tulsa. And a Central High School chemistry teacher, George Pearson, visited the classroom of a bookkeeping teacher, Linnie B. Wilson.
As the story goes, Pearson seated himself on Miss Wilson’s desk and announced that it was his intention, as well as that of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association (), to organize a credit union, a new kind of financial cooperative that had recently been authorized by federal and state law. And Pearson added, “You, we think, are the one who ought to manage it.”
This was The Depression and as friend of Miss Wilson would later note, “teacher morale was at its lowest, salaries were agonizingly inadequate, increments were not being paid; and Linnie B., like her associates, was very discouraged.”
Little surprise that the bookkeeping teacher replied, “Where will we get our money?”
The answer was swiftly supplied after that Nov. 20 organizational meeting presided over by a Central High history teacher, David E. Temple. By the end of 1934, there were 21 members and Tulsa Teachers Credit Union had assets of $1,600.
Just as Central High School itself moved west and its building became headquarters for Public Service Company of Oklahoma, so were there remarkable changes in the credit union.
Within only three years, Tulsa Teachers Credit Union had more than 400 members. Originally, Miss Linnie B. Wilson, who was better known simply as “Linnie B.” ran the credit union from a cigar box in her desk drawer. Soon, however, the move was made to offices near TCTA’s in the Masonic Building, now the Bernsen Center. The concept of “not for profit, but for service” guided the fledgling credit union as loans were made to help new teachers buy such necessities as a suit of clothes for the classroom, as well as to help teachers make ends meet during the summer months when there were no pay checks.
Since the primary method of growth was through loans and the money earned in interest (loan interest being higher than interest paid on deposits), Linnie B.’s watch words to qualified loan applicants were, “Are you sure that’s enough?”
That also became a slogan of co-founder David E. Temple as he assumed leadership of the credit union after Linnie B. retired in 1967.
Temple, who played a major role in the growth of the credit union and its re-location from downtown Tulsa (following the Masonic Building it moved to 905 S. Guthrie) to its 31st and New Haven location, believed both in member service and that members should support their credit union. Though it was not financially necessary, Temple would borrow from the credit union to pay his taxes, saying it was simply a matter of being a good credit union member.
Years of steady growth were hallmarks of the leadership of Temple, and subsequent credit union leaders Todd Harrison and Catherine Vale. From 1970 to 1980, for example, the number of school systems served grew from 25 to 125, membership reached nearly 18,000, and assets grew from $11.1 million to $60.7 million.
Dr. C. Wayne Bland, a credit union board member and a top administrator at Tulsa Public Schools, was elected chief executive officer in 1986 and the remarkable growth continued, highlighted by the opening of the credit union’s first branch, in Tahlequah, in 1992. Today, has 12 branches throughout northeastern Oklahoma. And, during this period the credit union was no longer simply a place to save money or take out a loan. First with Share Drafts (to compete with Savings & Loan accounts that competed with bank checking), the credit union added more financial services. But, as Bland would frequently note in newsletters and annual reports, this was not to increase profits, but to provide members with the services they needed.
More spectacular growth was to come under its current management team led by Les Rector, who was elected to his position following Bland’s retirement in 1985.
With new marketing initiatives under Marketing Vice President Kristi Brooks Cohea, continued growth of its branches, and a strong reputation for financial stability, and a continued dedication to member service, grew from assets of $330 million in Rector’s first year (1996) to assets of $900 million in its 75th year.
Today it isn’t necessary to be a Tulsa teacher, or a teacher anywhere, for that matter, to become a member. One must, however, be associated with education (employee, student, or family member) and live in one of the 14 counties (Tulsa, Creek, Osage, Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Nowata, Okmulgee, Ottawa, Rogers, Wagoner and Washington) served by . In addition, members (or employees) of companies (called Select Employee Groups) or organizations (Select Association Groups) who have affiliated themselves with to provide membership as an added employee benefit can also join.
As a result, actively advertises its services to it communities. What began as a tentative foray through direct mail advertising some dozen years ago is now a multi-media campaign. TTCU’s roots in education, however, continue to be held in high esteem as all of TTCU’s marketing activities revolve around one or another aspect of education, such as its affinity School Pride Visa Check Cards which benefit 34 educational institutions.
And, on its 75th birthday, a new milestone of $1 billion in assets is within sight of the credit union started in a cigar box in Room 326 of the old Tulsa Central High School.