Go Forth and Serve: The Bond Between Jeanne D’Arc and UML Benefits Students and the Region

Jeanne D'Arc employees sitting in their section of the Tsongas Center
Dozens of UML alumni work at Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union, including this group, which gathered at the Tsongas Center with President and CEO Mark Cochran, front.

By David Joyner

Established in the basement of St. Jean Baptiste Church 111 years ago, Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union has a history in Lowell almost as long as that of UMass Lowell.
But the relationship between the two institutions in the city’s Acre neighborhood has deepened over the past 15 years, says Jeanne D’Arc President and CEO Mark Cochran, as each has expanded its footprint and looked to the other for help in supporting Lowell and its residents.
“It just kind of blossomed,” says Cochran. 
Now, the Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union logo — depicting the patron saint of France and representing the Franco American community it was created to serve — is nearly as common on campus as those of some popular coffee brands.
Jeanne D’Arc supports student scholarships. It backs River Hawk athletics, especially hockey and basketball teams. Commercial lending officers advise entrepreneurs growing startup businesses at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub at 110 Canal St.
Over the years, the credit union has sponsored the Lowell Green Community Partnership, the Saab Center for Portuguese Studies, the Center for Women and Work and many arts and music programs.
A recently renovated suite for student athletes is named for a late Jeanne D’Arc vice president for community engagement, Steve Jones, and prominently displays his personal motto: “Go forth and serve.”
“We think about: ‘How can we create opportunities to help people feel good about themselves, feel good about the community they live in, feel included, feel like they belong?’” Cochran says of the credit union, which serves a membership of nearly 100,000 residents of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Alison Hughes, Jeanne D’Arc’s assistant vice president and community engagement officer, says those values aren’t just reflected in the relationship between Jeanne D’Arc and UML, but also in the people who work at the credit union.
“We really do try to hire people that have a heart to serve,” says Hughes. “We not only want our employees to be engaged at the credit union, we want them to be engaged in the community.”
Many of those people have ties to the university; about 40 alumni are currently employed there at various levels.
Cochran says opportunities to connect with UML emerged as he and former Chancellor Marty Meehan (now UMass president) moved into their positions around the same time. They were both aggressive in looking for ways to support the city.
Both institutions were on growth trajectories: When Cochran stepped into his role in 2007,
Jeanne D’Arc had its headquarters in Lowell, and three branches. Now it has 11 branches, including three in area high schools.
Connections continued to expand under former Chancellor Jacquie Moloney and, now, under Chancellor Julie Chen.
Jeanne D’Arc’s engagement with UML athletics is especially strong. The credit union supported UML’s effort to elevate its athletic program to Division I. And River Hawk student-athletes regularly volunteer for causes supported by Jeanne D’Arc and its We Share a Common Thread Foundation.
Eric Allen, UML senior associate athletic director for corporate partnerships and development, says the institutions share similar values.
“They care deeply about the city of Lowell and making it a great place to live and work,” Allen says. “They care deeply about our students and employ many of them. They know our students are future leaders in the community.”
Allen says Jeanne D’Arc has been instrumental in making UML athletic teams competitive. Credit union representatives are a constant presence at athletic games and events. And UML coaches and student athletes volunteer and support Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union Foundation events.
“Mark leads by example, and it is contagious with his staff,” says Allen. “It starts at the top, and that is why the relationship has been so strong for so many years. We are fortunate to have a relationship like this. They are more than partners; they are family.”
Jeanne D’Arc is also invested in other aspects of the university — including the promise that every undergraduate student, starting with the fall 2023 class, will have at least one opportunity for a career connected experience, earning dollars or college credits.
 The credit union has made commitment in perpetuity to support students working with area nonprofits that could not otherwise afford to pay interns or co-op students. The Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union Endowed Fellowship is part of the Moloney Fellowship program, created by the chancellor emerita for the same purpose.
“We, as an organization, really try to find ways to make other people’s lives better,” Cochran says. “The great thing about the uni-versity is that the people we work with there want to do the same thing.”