Janine ‘Momma J’ McBee Celebrates 40 Years with Cornerstone

Nov 18, 2021, 10:18 AM by Cornerstone League

Janine McBee

Cornerstone League recently marked the 40-year anniversary of employee Janine McBee, better known to her students as “Momma J.”

On Nov. 4, a celebratory luncheon was held in McBee’s honor to recognize the four decades of contributions she has made in the various positions she’s held, most notably as the director of Southwest CUNA Management School. Watch the video.

It All Started in 1981

Forty years ago, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and a California girl named Janine McBee moved to Texas to explore what would become a lifelong love for credit unions.

McBee’s heart for credit unions began when she was earning her degree at Cal State Bakersfield and working part-time for a California credit union. The move to Texas in 1981 allowed her affinity for credit unions to evolve. She noticed a credit union sign on the side of a building, went in and applied, and began work for Southwest Corporate Federal Credit Union, which later became Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union.

In 1986, McBee seized the opportunity to transition to the Texas Credit Union League’s training department. Because TCUL was a sister organization to Southwest Corporate, her years of service transferred to the League.

Joe Wasaff was the VP of training and SCMS director at the time, and he allowed McBee to serve as a coordinator. “From the beginning,” McBee said, “I knew the school was my passion.” From there, her journey with SCMS took off.

McBee’s Destiny with SCMS

When Wasaff left the League in 1988, McBee took on the director’s role. In the years since, she has seen more than 1,300 credit union and industry professionals successfully complete the SCMS program and reports that just under 200 of those graduates are serving today as CEOs, presidents, or managers.

Janine McBee with group

When she first started working with SCMS, she was the youngest person on campus. Today, the average age for SCMS students is 40, and McBee jokes about being old enough now to be the mother of many of her students. And how did her nickname “Momma J” come to be?

“Over the years, I’ve told students that I can be anyone from drill sergeant to dorm mom,” McBee said. “It takes many personas to direct the school. Along the way, students and faculty have given me a variety of nicknames. As I have gotten older and students younger, the evolution to Momma J was natural. The oldest child of a single parent, the momma role is in my DNA.”

It's not very common these days for an employee to have the staying power of decades in the same position. McBee said her staying power (minus a 2-year break for other projects) is derived from faith, friends, and a commitment to life-long learning.

“The support of my family and friends has always been there for me,” McBee said. “Professionally, I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to grow up with many of the leaders in our industry. My career began when many of our regional founders were still active.”

McBee said she’s also grateful to the future leaders that are entrusted to her care. “I love celebrating their personal and career successes.”

The one leadership quality that McBee believes is most important is trust.

“We advise students to trust us, trust the process, and eat the elephant one bite at a time,” she said. “Where there is trust and collaboration, we are able to move mountains.”

In Comes a Pandemic

Throughout recent business disruptions and social distancing, McBee has stayed connected with industry thought leaders and virtually connected with new subject matter experts to create a blended learning environment of higher learning for the school moving forward.

“Together, our passion for growing credit unions and developing others has been our common purpose,” McBee said. “We have shared, challenged, collaborated, and bounced ideas together. Friendships grew. I can only imagine how much fun and excitement there will be when we meet in person.”

“We are continually transforming the SCMS experience, collaborating with industry and academic leaders,” she added.

McBee issues a special thank you to the Cornerstone leadership team for challenging and supporting both risk and transformation as the League and SCMS have evolved to meet the needs of their members, providing relevant products and services to promote credit union growth.

The Future of SCMS

For those that haven’t gone through the SCMS program, McBee offers this advice:

“The SCMS experience is about expanding horizons and exploring opportunities while building agile and resilient leaders. We are excited about the opportunity to provide year-round engagement and learning for the students. By tapping into the best of in-person, live virtual, and micro-learning, we can provide the best learning and growth experience while minimizing time away from the credit union.

Add to that the support of the alumni, students, and credit union leadership, which allows us to focus on developing tomorrow’s leaders and positioning credit unions well into the future.

The Momma J Scholarship Fundraiser Challenge

In a demonstration of their affection and respect for Momma J’s contributions to the SCMS program over the years, the SCMS Alumni Association issued a challenge to its members to donate $40 for 40 years to the SCMS scholarship fund during the month of November.

“To say I love our students and alum is an understatement. I am honored by The SCMS Alumni Association’s Momma J Scholarship Fundraiser Challenge,” said McBee.

Learn more about this fundraiser.

In 1981, the U.S. economy experienced the most significant recession since the Great Depression. The average 30-year mortgage rate was 16.63%, inflation hit 10.32%, and average income was a whopping $21,050. Compare more of today’s costs to that of 40 years ago:

  • A first-class stamp: $0.18
  • A dozen eggs: $0.90
  • A gallon of gas: $1.25
  • A new house: $66,000 to $78,200

The most popular TV shows were Dallas, The Jeffersons, Three’s Company, and Alice

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