Cheryl Malm, longtime CEO of Med Park Credit Union in Grand Forks, ND is retiring after more than 30 years of service to the industry. The credit union extends an invitation to stop by their office at 1200 S Columbia Road to wish her the best this week, she will be welcoming visitors on Monday December 13th – Wednesday December 15th between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and between 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. as well as those same hours on Friday, December 17th.
Cheryl became the CEO of Med Park in 1997. She was profiled a few years ago in a CEO Spotlight, and the article has been reposted below. Congratulations Cheryl – we will all miss you!
by Shawn Marie Brummer – March 23, 2018
Cheryl Malm grew up as one of the “city kids” in the town of Grand Forks, along with her two older siblings, one sister and one brother. As a child and as a young woman, she was quite athletic, and participated in several different sports, but since there were no girls’ competitive sports teams, she focused on cheerleading, and played saxophone. Her older brother was an All-American athlete, talented in football, basketball, hockey and baseball. The family often travelled to watch him play, and through the years Cheryl was one of his biggest fans.
Cheryl’s father ran a trucking company, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. “My parents were a very strong and positive influence on me growing up,” she recalled. “They always showed me love and support in everything I did in life, and they stood behind me no matter which way my life was leading.”
Once Cheryl was old enough to work, she found employment at Norby’s Department store. She graduated from Grand Forks Central High School, and no one was surprised when Cheryl married her high school sweetheart and started a family of her own. As a young married mother, Cheryl also decided to be a stay-at-home mom, and was quite involved in her children’s activities. She volunteered with the schools, was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader for many years and oversaw the Right to Read Program in East Grand Forks for a number of years.
She also began volunteering for the Meals on Wheels program. Every Wednesday, Cheryl and her mom would help deliver meals to elderly people – with her children alongside her. “It was a great experience for my kids, as they got to meet elderly people who were less fortunate than they were. It was a very humbling experience, and I did it for eight years – and enjoyed each visit,” she stated. “I remember one gentleman had a cardboard box that he used as a table as he sat on the floor to eat his meals, and yet he had a cookie each week to give to my children.”
In 1979, Cheryl became a single mother with two children to support. She began working full-time in medical collections for the North Dakota Hospital Association. It was a big change, going from full-time mom to a full-time assistant manager, but the family adjusted and Cheryl had the strong support of her parents behind her. However, when the organization decided to move from Grand Forks to Bismarck, Cheryl didn’t want to uproot her son who was going to be a senior in high school. She took a summer off to follow her son’s baseball team, and then was hired as a collection supervisor in 1989 at 1st Liberty Credit Union, located on the Grand Forks Air Force Base. This was her first experience with the credit union industry, and she was hooked. The “people helping people” philosophy was right up her alley. Soon she was promoted to loan & collection manager, and also was branch coordinator.
While working at 1st Liberty FCU, Cheryl pursued her further education, taking classes at the University of North Dakota (UND) and also at the college located at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Those classes proved to be very helpful to her as she made her next transition.
It was also during this time that Cheryl had a life-changing experience. Most people of a certain age can remember exactly where they were when the news broke about the horrific bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Within a week of the disaster, she was asked to go there to help the Federal Employees Credit Union that had been destroyed in the blast, and re-located to a make-shift space nearby. She went with another employee from the credit union’s Great Falls, Montana location. They stayed for three weeks, doing anything they possibly could to serve the stunned members. Cheryl’s primary duties involved making loans for people that had lost loved ones in the bombing. In Cheryl’s own words, “It was a very emotional position to be in. I became very close with one of the employees who made it through the bombing. She lost co-workers who were standing just two feet away from her at the teller window. The stories were unbelievable, and heart breaking, to say the least. Being there made me a better person – it made me appreciate each day.”
In 1997, a close friend of Cheryl’s who worked at Altru Hospital and was a member of Med Park Credit Union told Cheryl there was a position opening up at the credit union, as the CEO was moving out of state. Cheryl sounded interested in learning more, so the friend gave her name to the president of the board. The rest, as they say, is history, as Cheryl was interviewed and hired almost immediately. Even though she had ten years of credit union experience by this time, taking on a CEO position was a learning experience. Cheryl said during this time, Kermit Larson (a former North Dakota League consultant) helped her whenever she had questions. She also networked with Veronica Hollweger (CEO of Riverfork FCU) who was also a new CEO in the area at the time.
Med Park Credit Union has a closed charter, with membership limited to doctors, medical staff, technicians, medical or nursing students, and all other individuals who work in the medical field in Grand Forks County, North Dakota and Polk County, Minnesota, and members of their immediate family or household. The credit union was established in June 1965, and is just approaching their 53rd year of serving their community. They are located within Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, have a total of four employees, and currently sit at about $18.5M in assets.
Cheryl is extremely proud of her close-knit staff, and has a philosophy that has successfully kept this credit union going for the past 21 years. “The staff I have is so good, and they work so well together. I am a firm believer in this: Clients do not come first; employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. I have found this to be so true. I love people – so working with the public in this job is right up my alley. I have always had an open-door policy, so people can walk in any time. I will stop what I am doing and give them my full attention. The truly challenging part of my job is keeping up with all the changes to regulations and policies,” she added.
Besides leading her credit union, Cheryl currently serves on the board of directors for the Maurie C Byrne Chapter. She also served on the board of directors for Midwest Corporate Federal Credit Union for six years, until they were closed. During that time, she found another mentor of sorts, in former board member Deb Gallagher, CEO of Capital Credit Union. “Through my years in the credit union movement, I have always had great respect for Deb. I served on the Midwest Corporate Board of Directors with her for several years, and looked up to the way she processed things before she acted. Through the years I have reached out to her for help in different areas, and she has always been there with a helping hand,” she said fondly.
Even though Cheryl has had a successful and demanding career in the credit union industry, her first commitment has always been, and continues to be, her family. “My children are the stars in my life,” she stated. “I became a single parent when Rony was in 2nd grade and Traci was in 5th grade, and raised them by myself with the love of my parents always in my corner. My children have become the most beautiful adults with families of their own. By beautiful, I mean inside. They are kind, loving, hardworking, and tender human beings. I am truly blessed. I have and always will believe in honesty. I raised my children with it being in the forefront of everything. I continue to work with my co-workers and members with the same ethics, being honest and upfront with issues and problems and solving them as a team for everyone concerned.”
On a personal note, Cheryl confided that as a single parent, her biggest fear was always how her kids would turn out. But it seems she can stop worrying about that! Her daughter Traci lives in Bozeman, Montana with her husband, Ben, and their twin 17-year-old boys, Aspen and Everest. Aspen is in Spain this year as an exchange student – following in his mom’s footsteps. Traci was also an exchange student at that age and spent a year in Australia. After Traci graduated from college she decided she was going to bike Australia and New Zealand, which she did for over a year. While there, Cheryl was able to join Traci for a vacation.
Cheryl’s son Rony, a talented athlete who played college baseball, lives in Spokane, Washington with his wife, Sarah, and their three children; two boys and one daughter. Caleb has recently graduated from Western Washington University, where Eli is currently a sophomore, and only-granddaughter Paige is a senior in high school. Athletes seem to run in the family, as Paige is an excellent soccer player who will be playing Division I on a soccer scholarship at Seattle University next fall.
Cheryl makes her home in a cozy little condo in Grand Forks, along with her roommate, Charli. Charli, named after Cheryl’s father, is a six-pound Maltese-Pomeranian mix who has a little too much energy. “But, she is the love of my life and each and every day, she showers me with unconditional love.” Cheryl also recently moved her older sister to Grand Forks so she could spend more time with her, and also watch over her.
When she is not working, Cheryl enjoys her “down time” at home, watching her favorite television shows, spending time with friends and neighbors, or connecting with her children on the phone to get updates on their lives and families. She and Charli are looking forward to warmer weather so they can enjoy their walks together again.
Finally, Cheryl lives her life in her favorite color: Red. Her office at work has a purple wall, and highlighted in red are her chair, pillows, and even her picture frames. At home, her kitchen is all decorated in red including dishes and pots and pans, and her living room has accents of red chairs, curtains, pillows, and rugs. Even her bathroom has red walls and red gingham curtains. Her bedroom also has one purple wall with red curtains, rugs, pillows and bedding, embracing the “Red Hat Society” motto that you can never have enough purple and red. “To me, red is like opening your heart – to be able to have the feeling of warmth and love. I may come across as a tough ole lady, but inside I’m a real softy,” she concluded. Having known Cheryl for some 20 years, I would have to agree.
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