Local credit union's first CEO loved Culver's and it's partnering with the restaurant to honor her legacy - East Idaho News
Arlene Walker Day

Local credit union’s first CEO loved Culver’s and it’s partnering with the restaurant to honor her legacy

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IDAHO FALLS – Frontier Credit Union is partnering with Culver’s in Idaho Falls and Ammon for the third annual Arlene Walker Day on July 8.

Walker, who passed away in 2021 at age 88, was the credit union’s first president and CEO. She served in that capacity for 25 years from 1962 to 1987.

“Arlene was determined, charismatic and visionary. Much of the credit union’s growth and success is a direct result of her abilities and vision of the future,” according to the credit union’s website.

Under her leadership, East Idaho Credit Union, as it was known before the name change last year, became the state’s third-largest credit union. Walker played a pivotal role in transforming it from a $62,000 institution to a $33 million powerhouse, a news release says.

RELATED | Idaho’s ‘fastest-growing credit union’ changes name for first time in 25 years

East Idaho Credit Union launched the Arlene Walker Scholarship fund in her memory in 2022. One purpose of Arlene Walker Day is to raise funds for that scholarship. Those who make a $2 donation at either Culver’s location on Monday will get a scoop of fresh frozen custard. Patrons can also get a $1 discount on Walker’s favorite menu item — the pork loin sandwich.

“She was from the midwest,” former EICU spokeswoman Bailey Foster told EastIdahoNews.com in 2023. “It’s hard to find (that kind of sandwich) in Idaho but they had one at Culver’s. Before she passed, she and her family would go to Culver’s all the time. She loved the strawberry custard.”

old walker pic
An old photo of Arlene Walker provided by Bailey Foster.

Remembering Arlene Walker

Walker was born in Illinois on July 8, 1932. It’s not clear how she ended up in the Gem State, but she was 3-years-old when East Idaho Credit Union first opened in Idaho Falls.

It was 1935 and the newly chartered financial institution initially opened under the name Idaho Falls U.S. Government Employees Federal Credit Union. There are conflicting reports about where it was originally located, but Walker’s daughter, Julie Adams, remembers walking up some stairs as a little girl to get to it.

East Idaho resident Doug Stone says his father, Howard, worked with Walker’s husband, Merrill, at a post office, which shared a building with the credit union. The credit union’s first loan was made to “a fellow sick in bed,” the website says.

Walker was 30 when she first started working there in 1962. It was only open three days a week at the time, according to Adams, and it was her husband who suggested she apply.

“My dad worked for the post office and he came home and said they were trying to find somebody to work there,” says Adams. “She applied and got the job.”

Walker was the sole employee at the time, and quickly became its first president. Adams says having a woman in that role was unusual because it was a man’s world.

Despite growing the company to include eight branches during her tenure, Adams says Walker faced multiple workplace challenges because of her gender.

“The board of directors were all men, and they wouldn’t give her a raise because she would’ve made more than my dad,” Adams explains. “During her retirement, she’d say (in hindsight), ‘I worked so hard at the credit union and no one will ever understand how hard that was to be a woman in that environment.'”

Arlene at work
Arlene Walker as CEO | Courtesy Frontier Credit Union

But regardless of what it was like in the workplace, Adams describes Walker as a “fun mom” who loved to “get in the car and go places” as often as she could. Adams has fond memories of staying at her grandparent’s house in Illinois for two weeks while her mom was there for additional training.

Going out for pork loin sandwiches during their visit is another one of Adams’ treasured memories.

Mailing bank statements was a common family activity that included getting ice cream afterwards.

“She made everything she had to do fun,” Adams says of Walker.

Walker was 55 when she retired in 1987. Though she was never involved in the company after that, Adams says she followed the credit union’s progress the rest of her life, and she remained devoted to the idea of it.

“We never had bank accounts,” Adams says. “We still don’t. ‘Bank’ was a four-letter word at our house. She was very dedicated to the credit union concept — that it was owned by the members. We all grew up with that philosophy, and I still believe it.”

Today, Frontier Credit Union is the fastest-growing credit union in Idaho, according to its Chief Marketing Officer Steven Foster. Its newest location in Driggs opened last year and there are now 11 branches across the state.

Celebrating Walker’s legacy

In the last three decades of life, Adams says her mom enjoyed spending time with her family. She frequently hosted porch parties at her home, where the grandkids would come and play, and she was heavily involved in her grandkids’ extracurricular activities.

“Her place was the gathering place for our family. That’s where everybody wanted to go … and she was always so happy when everyone was there,” Adams recalls.

Before Culver’s opened in Idaho Falls, Adams says they’d often go to the Salt Lake location and bring home a pork loin sandwich for Walker.

“When they got a Culver’s in Idaho Falls, that was like the best thing that happened,” she says.

walker pic 2
A recent photo of Arlene Walker. | Courtesy Bailey Foster

Walker’s professional accomplishments have been an inspiration to her grandchildren, Adams says, and some of them are thinking of pursuing a career in the banking industry.

What Adams misses most about her mom is her smile and how happy she was. She’s grateful to the Frontier Credit Union staff for remembering her mother in this way.

“It’s a cool experience to have the credit union honor her like that after this many years. We wish she’d have been here,” Adams says.

“We are thrilled to partner with Culver’s to celebrate Arlene Walker Day and raise funds for the Arlene Walker Scholarship Fund,” Frontier Foundation President Alicia Jones says in a news release. “The Arlene Walker Scholarship Fund has been dedicated to empowering students to pursue their academic dreams. Through initiatives like this, we aim to honor Arlene Walker’s legacy.”