Former San Diego County CU CEO Irene Oberbauer Passes Away

Irene Oberbauer
Former San Diego County CU CEO Irene Oberbauer

Irene Oberbauer, 64, retired CEO of San Diego County CU (SDCCU), passed away on Nov. 21, lovingly surrounded by her husband and two sons.

Oberbauer served as CEO of SDCCU from 2007 through 2010. When she took over the helm of the credit union, it was a $3.8 billion institution serving 185,000 members. She joined the credit union in 1995 to head up Business Development. She served in a number of capacities at the credit union for 12 years—including as chief operating officer—before succeeding Rod Calvao, who retired after serving as CEO for 15 years. She became the credit union's first female president and CEO. 

Under Oberbauer’s leadership, which began during the Great Recession, SDCCU still continued to grow. When she retired in 2010, the credit union had $4.9 billion in assets, more than 212,000 members, and 28 branches. It gained national exposure when it signed on as the title sponsor of college football’s Poinsettia Bowl in 2005. The credit union sponsored the Bowl for 12 years until the San Diego County Bowl Game Association discontinued it to focus on the other area bowl game, the Holiday Bowl. SDCCU then became the title sponsor of the Holiday Bowl game. Oberbauer served on the Holiday Bowl Board for many years.

She was featured in a 2010 issue of San Diego Metropolitan magazine as a “Metro Mover to Watch”. She received multiple awards through the years, including a lifetime achievement award from the San Diego Business Journal and “Most Admired CEO” awards from the Business Journal and San Diego’s Daily Transcript. In addition, SDCCU received its first “Best Credit Union” Award and continued to do so under her leadership. She was chosen as a local, trustworthy CEO to represent Cox Business in a large-scale advertising campaign to promote business growth. And she also established a community relations plan where she was able to assist nonprofits in achieving their missions. 

Oberbauer had a rare and inspirational leadership style, one of inclusion, fairness, and unwavering support, never looking for accolades. She was quick to recognize achievements while inspiring her team to reach for the next big goal both professionally and personally.  Her philosophies in life were very clear: work hard and efficiently, care for people who work for you or with you, be fair in every decision you make, provide tokens and reminders that you care, and above all, get things done.

After retiring from the credit union, Oberbauer focused on continuing to support non-profits including Susan G. Komen® San Diego and Make-A-Wish® San Diego. She acted as board chair for the local chapters of both of these organizations. For Komen, she took it upon herself to become fundraiser of the year for the annual Race for the Cure walk for multiple years, raising a total of $280,000. Her team name was “IO it to myself” which was a play on her initials and her goal that everyone can fulfill their own dream. She was involved with Make-A-Wish® San Diego for more than 15 years serving as board member and chair, WISH Circle founder, wish granting volunteer, and donor.

Prior to serving in the credit union industry, Oberbauer worked in San Diego County government for 18 years.

"I had the pleasure of working with Irene at SDCCU for 15 years," said Lisa Paul-Hill, now CEO of Wheelhouse Credit Union in San Diego, CA. "Irene was an incredible leader, passionate about the credit union movement and local philanthropy. A true visionary many could argue the success of SDCCU was due largely in part to Irene’s strategic vision, tireless dedication, and tenacity. Irene left a lasting and immeasurable impact on the lives of those she mentored and will be greatly missed.”

Oberbauer is survived by her husband of 38 years, Tom, and their adult sons, Paul (along with his wife Lauren and daughter Gwen) and Sean.  To carry on her philanthropic spirit, donations in her name may be made to Make-A- Wish® San Diego at Donate—Make-A-Wish or Komen San Diego at Susan G. Komen® San Diego.


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