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Even the smallest of credit unions make a difference in the lives of its members. Leon Kusnetzky dedicated his life to spreading that message and supporting smaller credit unions. To say he was passionate about this mission is an understatement—from his first days working with credit unions in the 1960s up until just a month before his passing.
To honor his vision, Missouri Corporate Credit Union (MCCU), Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation (MCUCF) and Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) have teamed up to ensure the Leon Kusnetzky Memorial Fund flourishes for many years. The memorial fund encourages the growth and initiatives of small credit unions. It also helps sponsor scholarships for Credit Union Development Education (CUDE), often referred to as the DE program.
“Leon’s goal was for credit unions—particularly small credit unions—to achieve sustainability,” says Kitty Gray, MCCU chief financial officer (CFO). “It was all about serving the members, but doing it in such a way that it benefited everyone—members and credit unions. I think that’s what he did best, and he did it with passion.”
Gray shares she admired his tireless work ethic and focus. He was constantly building relationships between credit unions and people, bridging that gap between what credit unions needed and the individuals who could assist them.
“Leon was such a support for the whole system. He was a true advocate for small credit unions,” says Kirk Mondy, chairman of the MCUCF Board and president of Poplar Bluff Federal Credit Union. “My hope is that small credit unions will utilize this fund to grow and thrive for years to come.”
It made perfect sense for MCCU to be part of this memorial fund, as Leon had a long history with the organization. He was one of the founding members of its charter in 1976, and he acted as a mentor to several members of MCCU senior management, including Gray and Dennis DeGroodt, MCCU president and chief executive officer. In a similar fashion, he inspired many members of the MCUCF Board and MCUA.
Additionally, it was important to MCCU, MCUCF and MCUA that the memorial fund continue Leon's tradition of mentorship and his fondness for the DE program.
“Leon was a major proponent not only of small credit unions, but also the DE program,” says Gray. “We thought the best way to honor Leon is to have a sustainable way to fund scholarships for others to have that experience.”