How I Started My 25 Years at CUNA

This entry was posted by Monday, 21 June, 2010
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Ellis Waller holding a cut-out image of himself from the 1980s as part of a "Home Alone"-styled marketing promotion.

From Ellis Waller:

It was April Fools day, 1985 when I arrived at CUNA for a job interview. Dressed in a gray business suit, with dark gray socks, black shoes, white shirt and a tasteful stripped tie, Glen Farrell ushered me into Wes Millar’s office for an interview.

CUNA Strategic Services was then called CUNA Supply and was located on the ground floor across from the stock room. At that time, CUNA was in the ad specialty business and the stock room was filled with more teddy bears, key chains, note pads, baseball hats, and statement stuffers than you can imagine.

Wes and I hit it off well and after a while he asked me to write the answers to several marketing questions he had prepared. I was being interviewed for the Marketing Manager position. Long known for my unreadable handwriting, I told Wes that I would need to borrow a typewriter because he would not be able to read my handwriting. He obliged and asked Glenn Farrell to give up her desk outside his office to let me use her typewriter.

It was a new IBM Selectric. Some recent, and younger CUNA staffers, are unfamiliar with the Selectric. But back in the 1980s, clerical staff would almost fight to have one. On the Selectric, the type fonts were embossed on a small silver ball that rotated up and down, right and left and front and back. Each ball, (they were interchangeable, thus the name Selectric) had the full alphabet in lower and upper case, numbers from 0 to 9, and the symbols that are found on the current PC keyboard. It was very fast, but when you made a mistake you had to use Whiteout, to correct it.

The puzzled looks on people’s faces were a delight to see when they came into CUNA Supply and saw me typing away at a secretary’s desk. I must have scored well on the Wes Test or else Wes was playing an April Fools day joke on me, but he hired me and I showed up the next week, again dressed in gray and black. I stayed for 25 more years, moving around among various CUNA Departments.

I have truly enjoyed my twenty-five years at CUNA and working with the Councils has been a great capstone for my career. What a pleasure it is to see the Councils grow, prosper and achieve new degrees of professionalism each year. I am delighted to be leaving on an up-tick with membership at an all time high and still growing.

We have a great team, a great mission, and a great organization here at CUNA. I am proud to have been part of it all!

Ellis Waller is the Membership Manager for the CUNA Councils. He will be retiring in a few weeks after twenty-five years at the Credit Union National Association.

18 Responses to “How I Started My 25 Years at CUNA”

  1. We’ll miss you Ellis and you have big shoes to fill!

    I’ve enjoyed our time working together and wish you all the best in your retirement.

  2. Great post Ellis! It’s been a pleasure working with you. I wish you the best for your retirement!

  3. We’ll miss you Ellis. You have been incredible to work with and your energy and insight has been a breath of fresh air! Good luck in your retirement!

  4. Diana Wozniak

    Ellis,
    Thank you for all your help and guidance with the HR/TD Council. I wish you fun and happiness in your retirement…you will be missed!

  5. Pam Finch

    Ellis,
    Thank you for your dedication to CUNA…especially CUNA Councils! May your retirement be full of lots of love, laughter and happily ever after!!

  6. George Fiegle

    Congratulations Ellis. You are a good man and were fun to work with. Appreciate the enthusiasm you brought to the position.

  7. Salute Ellis – you are a True CUNA Champion – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FF22cBZJsU
    Wishing you the Best retirement ever

  8. Ellis,
    Great to read about your start at CUNA. Lots has changed in 25 years…you’re right, younger people now are scared to death of typewriters. But, in those years you’ve kept the professionalism while changing with the times, and thats why we’ll miss you so much!

  9. Bill Vogeney

    Ellis, it’s been great working with you over the last several years with the CUNA Lending Council. Best of luck as you enter the next inning in the great game of life.

    Bill Vogeney

  10. Debbie Baumann

    Ellis~

    Sounds like you got a lot of good use from that gray suit! You’ve helped all the CUNA Councils grow to their all time highest membership ever! Wow! May you enjoy your family, especially grandkids, more each day. Thanks for your many contributions over the years. You’ll be missed.

  11. Rich Schaffer

    Ellis Waller is a true gentleman and a champion of the credit union system. As a new League employee, Ellis was the first CUNA staffer I met when I made my first trip to Madison back in March of 1988. Almost a decade later, while attending League Management Institue, he acquired a few studio audience tickets to ‘Whadda Ya Know” a nationally (PRI)syndicated radio program broadcast in Madison every Saturday. As luck would have it, I was selected as a contestant on the quiz portion of the show. I was immediately famous to the folks back who who faithfully listen to the program. I lost the quiz, but Ellis couldn’t stop laughing at/with me. Everyone who knows Ellis will miss his quick witted humor. I wish you the best my friend, and I’m glad I got to know you over the years. The passion rubs off on others. Please stay in touch.

  12. Ellis, You were a great help to me during my early years at the league. Good luck as you begin a new chapter of your life. Your smile will be missed by all!

  13. Ellis, what a great article. It was a pleasure to work with you during my time and travels at CUNA. I wish all the best to you during retirement. Enjoy!

  14. Mark Condon

    Ellis — you and I shared some memorable experiences running the National Marketing Program together, but what I remember most fondly is your ability to get up early and stay late setting up and tearing down the CUNA Superbooth while I either slept in or found excuses to be busy somewhere else. You deserve your retirement, and I could not have worked with a better guy.

  15. Ellis Waller

    I never dreamed that so many of my good friends would read my blog post. You have inspired me to write more in the future. Thank you for all of the nice things you have written and the memories that it brought back. Rich (Schaffer), when you next get to Madison I think we can get you on the Whadda You Know quiz again because of of the fact that you were given three very hard questions that neither you nor your partner could answer.

    I’ll be around the CUNA Campus until the 30th, and after that not too far away. Thanks again to all of you for making the last 25 years an outstanding and memorable experience for me. Together we have accomplished a heck of a lot for the members of America’s credit unions.

  16. Congratulations on your retirement, Ellis. Your unlimited enthusiasm and multiple interests most certainly guarantee an interesting and fun future. Enjoy this next phase — I can’t think of anyone more deserving.

  17. Ellis Waller

    Thanks again to all of you who re-blogged me on CUNAverse and to those of you who emailed your congratulations to me. I have 18 pages of emails from you that I will read next week on vacation in Maine and Upstate New York. I recommend retirement. The last two days have been a delightful experience starting with my retirement party at Delanys, a nearby restaurant. All day long before the party, began staff members who had conflicts came by to wish me good luck in my retirement. I received many hugs from staff as well as heartfelt handshakes. Then, in the late afternoon when the party started, in comes Tom Greenhalgh, a member of our bagpipe band, playing Campbell’s Farwell to Redcastle. I was delightfully surprised and beginning to get a little teary eyed.

    Before long the restaurant was packed with good friends from CUNA and CUNA Mutual, the Foundation, and some previous CUNA staff members…..A good time was had by all. Then the presents started with an official retirement hat and flashing pin, followed by cowboy hat and bandana to remind me of the large wooden CLC Ranch sign that I had shipped back from a Lending Council Conference in Palm Springs about 7 years ago. (We paid so much for it I could not bear to leave it behind. It still hangs in our CUNA Councils storage room).

    Then a large heavy box appears, that contained a beautiful crystal vase on a granite base with an inscription from the Councils’ leadership and membership. Then I really got teary eyed, but my bi-focals kept it from showing. Thank you, to all of you Council Executive Committee members, committee members and council members. The crystal vase is not quite large enough to swim in but it would hold a good sized small mouth bass.

    Following the crystal vase were two nifty gadgets: a new Leatherman tool that does everything but take pictures and make phone calls. But that was ok, because the next little box contained a gift card for an iPhone. I will pick it out in a week or two after I do some research to determine if the iPhone 3 or 4 is the best for me. There was also another gift card for iPhone applications. I am delighted to have these and thank all of you who contributed to these great gifts.

    The next day, Thursday, was complete with more hugs, congratulations and a lunch at Imperial Gardens with Councils staff, my favorite Chinese restaurant. The Councils staff obviously were disappointed that I would not be at the annual Christmas white elephant luncheon so, they each brought a white elephant for me. I could not pick just one. I had to take them all. Joining us were Tom Decker from the Foundation, Cindy Parker from Meetings and Special Events, and Lisa Duval from Marketing. They added to the three bags of “loot” that I took away from the lunch after my egg roll and Governors Chicken.

    I received: two books, Time Magazine’s Obama photo book and the Ascent of Man. I can’t determine which to read first. Cheryl Sorenson contributed a hot dog cooker from late in the 20th Century that cooks six hotdogs in 60 seconds by zapping them with electric prongs inserted in the hot dog ends. I think this was made by the company that makes Lawn Darts. I hate eggs, so we think David Rohn contributed a hand held egg shell breaker. Other items included a Topsy Turvy tomato grower for which I have already purchased some potting soil, a paint by number set and a Magic Kingdom princess reveal pen and book, slightly used by a third grader. Add to that a battery powered solitaire game, and a really difficult spherical globe puzzle that will take at least a month to complete if not longer. There were other items too numerous to mention from colleagues who preferred not to be identified. It was a great lunch. Thanks to everyone, for everything, for the last week and the last 25 years. It has been great experience, I recommend CUNA and I recommend retirement.

    Note: this blogging is fun, I may continue it.Thanks again to all of you for your good wishes, presents, and hugs.

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