by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications Specialist
Jan Swenson grew up on a ranch in McKenzie County, south of the small city of Arnegard in the far western side of North Dakota. Her parents, Arnold B. Hagen and Eileen L. Hagen, taught her to work hard, that nothing is free, and anything worth having must be earned. They also taught her to save for things that that she wanted, to spend money wisely, and to be grateful and thankful.
The family’s ranch borders the North Unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park on the west side, and while her parents are both deceased, to this day she still shares the ranch with her two brothers and their families. “We all love going to the ranch and spending time out there,” she shared.
Jan attended the Arnegard School through elementary classes, then bused to Watford City High School for 7th through 12th grades. “It was about an hour in the morning, and again after school to get home – but I am very grateful that I grew up in the country as opposed to the city,” she said.
Because of the distance from home to school, she didn’t participate in extracurricular activities, but she was an active member of the Red Wing Ranchers 4-H Club, and spent many hours helping on the ranch, pitching hay to cattle, filling feed sacks, moving cattle from pastures in the badlands, onto the reserve pastures, and back out again, helping at branding time, even wrestling cattle, and then helping her mother with inside chores while her brothers drove tractors in the fields.
After graduating from high school, she attended North Dakota State University in Fargo, where she received her BS Degree in Textiles and Clothing, majoring in fashion merchandising and minoring in business. During her college years, she worked at Herbst Department Store in downtown Fargo, and then began working at JCPenney, first in downtown and later at West Acres Mall.
Once she had her degree in hand, she began working at Stuarts as an assistant manager, and later was promoted to Manager at the new Dakota Square Mall Stuarts in Minot. However, after a few years she wanted to return to Fargo and accepted a position at Kmart there; then in 1982 she accepted a transfer to the Williston Kmart so she could be closer to her family.
There she was, working in the appliance department, planning sales, taking inventory and assisting in other departments, when it occurred to her that she actually wanted to get out of the retail business. When she saw a teller position opening at Western Cooperative Credit Union (WCCU), she decided to apply, and was hired in July of 1984.
She continued working as a teller at the downtown location for several years, before being promoted to supervisor. In 1990, she was promoted to assistant head teller, and then in about 1995, she began working as a loan clerk, the title she still holds. Over the years, she also completed multiple certifications through CUNA.
In her role at WCCU, Jan “shuffles a lot of files,” making sure all necessary documents are signed, dated, and lien perfected on titles. She transfers the loan docs over to the imaging software, making sure loan officers can retrieve files, and available for supervisory committee review as well as for auditors and examiners. Other clerical duties include proper document destruction when needed, assisting members with questions, backing up the loan processor, special projects as assigned, and basically just making sure that everything is in order.
Throughout her career at WCCU, Jan says she especially enjoyed the “People helping People” philosophy. “The employees, as well as the members, have become my second family, and WCCU is like my second home,” she stated.
Besides her professional work, Jan volunteers for the credit union’s Relay for Life Committee, spending many hours with the team making quilts for raffles, with proceeds going to the Williston Relay for Life. She is a member of the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, a prior member of the Jaycees, was a 4-H volunteer when her kids were younger, and is currently a member of the Dakota Prairie Quilt Guild, where she has also served as treasurer, vice president and president.
“Jan has been a part of the WCCU family for 37 ½ years,” says Melanie Stillwell, CEO. “Her retirement is so well deserved, even though we will miss her in our day-to-day at the office. Over the years, Jan has participated in many volunteer events and has been a very reliable, valuable, and dependable employee. She has been instrumental in the WCCU Annual Relay for Life quilt design, stitching, and auction; her ability in sewing and quilting is simply amazing, and I am glad she will now be able to devote more time to her favorite hobby. Best wishes Jan, and thank you for your many contributions and years of service to WCCU,” she concluded.
In reflection, Jan says her biggest achievement was hitting her 37 years as an employee and member of WCCU last July. This was a major event, as it marked the beginning of her preparation for retirement, which will take place on December 7th, promptly at noon. While she doesn’t generally enjoy being in the limelight, she graciously agreed to do this Spotlight before her final day!
In her personal life, Jan has been married to her husband, Ron, for 38 years, and they have two children and three grandchildren. Daughter Megan and husband Josh live in Fargo; son Ryan and wife Moriah live in Casper, WY with two sons, Talon and Atticus, and Ryan has another daughter, Rylee, who lives in Texas with her mother.
As for retirement, Jan’s plans include: “Just living the adventure of each new day that God gives me, travel a lot, do some ‘period camping’ at Fort Union and attend other Rendezvous at forts across the area, and maybe just some regular modern-day camping, sewing up a lifetime of fabric I have collected over the years, reading my collection of books, and spending a lot of time with my family and friends. I would love to just start out someplace and decide as we go where we might end up… might have a plan in the beginning but most times we venture off from the main plan. I will enjoy traveling when I do not have to get back in time to go back to work!”
(On a side note: one way we know that Jan will NOT be celebrating her retirement is with tequila. According to her, once was enough many years ago – and it did not go well!)
Congratulations Jan, and thank you for your years of service to your credit union and to WCCU members. Enjoy your retirement!
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