November 23, 2010

Long-Time Credit Union Leader Dies

Jewel Kavanaugh, Vanderbilt University Employees Credit Union’s first full-time employee who went on to the lead the organization for four decades, died Nov. 17. She was 77.

The funeral was Nov. 20 at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Dignity Hall in Nashville.

“There is great sadness in all of our hearts as we mourn the passing of Jewel,” said Michael Bittle, CEO of the credit union. “She has touched so many lives through her endearing spirit. Her life was filled with joy, energy and passion for serving credit union members and Vanderbilt University. I will, as well as many others, miss her greatly for her warm smile, gentle heart and compassion for the members of the credit union. Jewel will always be a part of the Vanderbilt University Credit Union.”

Miss Jewel, as she was known, first came to work at Vanderbilt University in 1953 shortly after her graduation from Cumberland City High School in Stewart County. She worked in the Vanderbilt Bursar’s Office and then the Registrar’s Office of the College of Arts and Science until 1961, when she left the University after the birth of her second son. In 1962, she was persuaded to come back to work as the bookkeeper for the fledgling credit union. Eight years later she was promoted to manager, a position she held until her retirement in August 2002.

Widowed in 1973 with two young sons, she understood the hardships that employees face, and she was dedicated to helping them with their savings and lending needs in a positive and dignified way.

“My pleasure comes from helping people, though it is often in a mighty small way. We promote thrift, we try to help people, and we try to help people help themselves,” she said shortly before her retirement.

In 1992 she was named executive of the year by the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Credit Unions.

She is survived by her two sons, John Robert III and his wife, Joann, of Murfreesboro, and James Michael of Nashville and one grandson.

An item at the VUMC News and Communication blog "Get the NAC" about Ms. Kavanaugh can be read at