Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 1986, Scott Chicoine planned to use his political science degree to pursue a career in government, but a friend who knew Chicoine’s knack for numbers suggested he apply for a job in banking.
After 22 years in that career, it’s safe to say that friend was right.
Chicoine currently serves as president and chief executive officer of the UW Oshkosh Credit Union, a position he has held since 1999. In that time, he has tripled the credit union’s assets, increased employees from eight to 14 and opened several branches — making it one of the fastest growing credit union in northeastern Wisconsin.
“The University is very much like a small city, with more than 11,000 students and 2,000 employees, and I just happen to be the banker,” he said.
Chicoine holds a unique position at UW Oshkosh. Because the credit union is a separate business from the University, Chicoine is not an employee. Yet the support he offers the University rivals that of the most dedicated employee.
Perhaps the most visible of Chicoine’s contributions is a $25,000 donation to the Oshkosh Sports Complex’s recent renovation. The credit union also sponsored the Sept. 16 ribbon-cutting at the complex.
“Scott is truly committed to advancing UW Oshkosh. His support is evident on so many levels,” said Darryl Sims, the University’s assistant athletics director.
Sims added that it’s hard to imagine the University without Chicoine — an alumnus who is “connected to the heartbeat of this campus and so willing to partner with us in sponsorship of scholarships, events and more.”
The credit union also contributes two $500 annual scholarships, renewable for four years. The scholarships are open to children of credit union members and seniors at any of Oshkosh’s four high schools.
“We wanted to make the scholarship renewable because our hope is that it encourages students to stay at UW Oshkosh,” Chicoine said.
Among other UW Oshkosh initiatives the credit union has supported over the years are Classified Staff Day and a variety of academic programs, including theatre, art, music and kinesiology. More than $83,000 has been given in total.
“Our focus is narrow — serving everyone who is connected to UW Oshkosh,” he said. “We have products specifically designed for faculty, staff and students because they are far from the average consumers.”
One way that the credit union serves UW Oshkosh faculty’s needs is a new faculty loan program.
“When a faculty member joins UW Oshkosh, they begin teaching in September but don’t get paid until October,” Chicoine said. “They still have bills to pay, moving expenses and security deposits to make, so we have a loan to help them until they become settled.”
Faculty who work nine-month contracts also present a unique situation.
“They don’t get a paycheck during the summer months, so we have a savings program that helps them distribute their income over all 12 months,” he said.
A history of investing in UWO
Since opening its doors in 1966, the UW Oshkosh Credit Union has had many homes.
“We started in Halsey and then were in Dempsey for many years,” Chicoine said. “Eventually we opened an office on High Street near Blackhawk Commons, which is now the Faculty Development Center.”
When Reeve Memorial Union was expanded in 2001, the credit union opened a full-service branch office there.
“It was small, but being inside Reeve — which is ideal because of its proximity to students and staff — was a huge leap forward in our growth,” he said.
In 2002, the credit union expanded significantly when it opened a new main office on Wisconsin Street, which Chicoine developed with local real estate developer Dennis Schwab.
“I have to admit that I am proud of the work we did together to improve the first impression of campus when people cross the bridge,” Chicoine said. “We are thrilled to have been part of it.”
In addition to the main office, the Reeve Union branch office still exists. In 2006, it moved to a new, larger location near the Algoma Boulevard entrance.
The new facilities have helped been instrumental in the credit union’s recent growth, Chicoine said. The people of UW Oshkosh — its students and alumni — also have been important partners in its success.
“We consider ourselves very fortunate here to have access to the human resources at the University,” Chicoine said.
Chicoine regularly employs College of Business interns, who primarily work as loan officers, and many staff members are UW Oshkosh alumni.
And during these times of economic uncertainty, he added, the UW Oshkosh Credit Union, along with all other credit unions, remain strong.
“We are very stable and unaffected by the national banking crisis,” he said. “All of our members can rest assured their money is safe with us.”