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2023 Maurice R. Smith
DEI Leadership Awards


About the Maurice R. Smith DEI Leadership Award

The Maurice R. Smith DEI Leadership Award – originally the DEI Trailblazers Award – recognizes leaders and organizations that inspire accountability for collective Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in the credit union movement and blaze the trail for others to follow. Honorees are selected based on the following criteria: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion thought leadership, demonstrated commitment and passion for engaging others in DEI and social impact of their work on the credit union community and our society.

About 2023 Award Recipients

Martin Eakes is the CEO of Self-Help Credit Union and Self-Help Federal Credit Union. In 2002, he helped establish the Center for Responsible Lending, an affiliate of Self-Help, that battles predatory mortgage and payday lenders across the country and fights to protect homeownership and family wealth for working families. Eakes is a well-decorated credit union executive and has been recognized with national awards including the National Credit Union Foundation’s Wegner Award, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Hubert Humphrey Award and Ford Foundation’s Visionary Award, to name a few. Martin holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and physics from Davidson College, a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School and a Master of Arts from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs.


Juan Fernandez is the President/CEO of the Credit Union Association of New Mexico (CUANM). Over the course of his nearly 20-year credit union tenure, which he began as a teller during college, he has led credit unions’ community development efforts in New York, assisting them in seizing opportunities to serve unmet needs in their communities and achieving sustainable growth. He and his team are credited with drafting legislative initiatives – that ultimately passed – to lower the compliance burden and enable credit unions to reach more markets and communities. He recently launched programs to help New Mexico credit unions achieve CDFI certification and serve needs that went unmet by other financial institutions. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Binghamton University and a Master of Business Administration from Western Governors University.


Gigi Hyland serves as the Executive Director for the National Credit Union Foundation, the philanthropic and social responsibility leader of America's credit union movement. In her role, she ignites and inspires credit union professionals to put consumer financial health and cooperative principles at the heart of their business strategy. Her career in credit unions spans 30 years as an advocate, attorney, federal regulator and now philanthropist. She is a Credit Union Development Educator and Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor. Hyland serves on the America Saves® Advisory Board and the National Cooperative Bank Board of Directors, chairing its Board Risk Committee. In 2022, she was inducted into the America’s Credit Union Museum Herstory exhibit, which highlights a range of credit union women and their achievements in the industry.


Diane Rector is the Consumer Affairs Analyst for the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). She advocates for making NCUA a workplace more equitable and inclusive for people with visible and invisible disabilities. Joining NCUA in 1997, her past roles include leading, developing and implementing consumer education and outreach initiatives for credit unions. She has collaborated with various agencies and financial institutions to provide resources and training to credit unions relating to expanding access to financial resources and financial needs to underserved communities. Her work also includes providing strategic counsel and programs that support Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. She holds a Master of Business Administration from Strayer University.


Self-Help, co-founded by Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright in 1980, is a community development lender. Self-Help has provided $13 billion in financing to more than 200,000 homebuyers, small businesses and nonprofits. Self-Help reaches people who are underserved by conventional lenders – particularly persons of color, immigrants, women, rural residents, and low-wealth families. Self-Help has 75 branch offices in North Carolina, California, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington. The Self-Help nonprofit family includes two credit unions. Self-Help Credit Union is a North Carolina state-chartered credit union that started with a $77 bake sale in 1984 and now has 93,000 members and $1.8 billion in assets. Self-Help Federal Credit Union was chartered in 2008 and has 101,000 members and $2 billion in assets.

DEI Leadership Award 2023 Recipients AACUC Logo.png

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