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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Forging Ahead

Margaret A. Hunnicutt ’96

Photo taken by Elaine Kessler

Margaret Hunnicutt, survivor.

That may be the best way to describe the UTSA alum who has struggled, endured and triumphed, both as an individual and a businesswoman.

Last year, Hunnicutt was named Business Woman of the Year by the Tempe, Ariz., Chamber of Commerce. The award recognized both her stewardship of the Tempe Schools Credit Union, which she heads as president and chief executive officer, and her extensive civic volunteerism.

But the goal of corporate success once seemed elusive.

Massachusetts-born, Hunnicutt had a traditional upbringing, she said, marrying young. She and her first husband went through the loss of a child, an adoption and the birth of premature twins.

But the marriage failed. Hunnicutt found herself suddenly divorced, with little education, and young children to care for. She met and married a military man who was stationed in San Antonio, but they divorced shortly after.

"I was a single mother going to school, and it took me 13 years to earn my bachelor’s degree," she said, recalling obstacles she had to overcome. "I didn’t get my CPA until I moved to Arizona, and I was already over 40."

A couple of years after graduating with a degree in accounting, Hunnicutt moved to the Phoenix area, where she unexpectedly reconnected with an old boyfriend from high school, now her husband. "We should have married in 1977," said Hunnicutt.

And she’s continued to overcome adversity. When her son was a senior in high school, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Through it all, she remained tenacious and committed. "You can’t control what happens in life, but you have to stay focused on what your goals are," she said. "Rely on your own core values and don’t give up. Never give up."

In Tempe, Hunnicutt has emerged as a prominent business leader with an executive mettle forged amidst economic recession. Her industry was hit hard during the subprime mortgage meltdown, in which credit unions became collateral victims of an over-leveraged banking industry.

"We have mortgage loans on our books, foreclosures happen, strategic defaults and unemployment," she said, describing the economic impact. "All of this put a damper on our members’ financial lives."

Exhibiting the same tenacity that drove her to earn her degree, Hunnicutt went to work to keep the credit union—a focal point for community lending—from financial collapse. Unable to issue stock as banks can to raise cash, she instead explored ways to slash costs.

"We had to cut expenses … by a million dollars a year for two years and another $800,000 in 2010," she said. The strategy paid off. "We went from a $5.4 million loss in 2009 to $220,000 net profit in 2010."

Having kept the cooperative afloat during economic turmoil elevated Hunnicutt’s community standing. The credit union continues to strengthen in economic recovery.

Hunnicutt finds herself now happily married and a grandmother. She added that she looked forward to helping her son—now clear of the cancer that once threatened his life—celebrate his 28th birthday.

"You can’t play the victim card," she said. "Life throws you curveballs you have to deal with. But you have to make sure you stay focused on what’s important, both with family and career."

To this day, Hunnicutt continues to reap the dividends of that personal philosophy.

—Tony Cantú


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