NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

NECC alum Lisa Morelli is now C.E.O. of a multi-million dollar credit union

By Rachael Sarcione

This is a photo of Morelli smilingRachel Sarcione

Morelli is a successful NECC alum

NECC alum Lisa Morelli, 48, became the C.E.O. of a $25 million dollar credit union.
Like many NECC students, Morelli juggled a full-time job and a family while taking classes at night, a schedule that would put stress on any family. A strong support network was crucial to her academic and professional careers.

“My parents set a great example through determination and sacrifice,” said Morelli. “I watched them overcome some pretty big obstacles.”

At the age of nine, Lisa saw her parent’s American dream slip away when their family owned grocery store burned to the ground. With four of their own children and a foster child to feed, they didn’t know how they would survive.

Lisa’s parents worked hard to keep life going forward for their children and were able to send her to Our Lady of Nazareth Academy, an all-girl high school in Wakefield, Mass.

“The nuns helped me get a hardship driver’s license at 15 years old because they stopped sending a school bus to all the way to Lawrence,” said Morelli.

After graduating high school in 1984, Lisa began working for First Essex Bank and was doing well on the teller line. With a promising career in her sights, she was ready to settle down and marry her high school sweetheart, Pete, in 1987 and started a family soon after.
Lisa was on a steady climb up the ladder of success from the teller line to assistant manager and bank manager. She also worked in the loan and business development offices.

“Somewhere around 1991, my career was at a stand-still,” said Morelli. “I knew there was something standing in the way of my next promotion: a college degree.”
After weeks of discussion, Lisa and Pete Morelli decided that they would find a way for her to go back to school. By this time they had two children and a mortgage to pay. Although Lisa had a steady income and Pete had a secure job as a police officer, they knew that it would be difficult to pay the tuition and buying books would be out of the question.

“I was a nervous wreck going to meet the advisors at NECC for the first time,” said Morelli. Much to her surprise, she was greeted John Peroni, Dean of Continuing Education. “He told me all about CLEP Exams and credits for life experience,” said Morelli.

September 5 came quickly, and after working at the bank all day, Lisa jumped in the car with nothing but a sleeve of Ritz Crackers, a brand new notebook and the anxiety of a new adventure, the first-generation college student was on her way to class.

“It was hard being the mommy and the daddy on the nights that she was in class,” said Peter Morelli. “I was so proud of her though.”

They had a lot of support from family and friends.

Throughout her time at NECC, Lisa was impressed by the devotion of her mentor, John Peroni who took a great interest in helping working people succeed as students.

“He kept me on track,” said Morelli.

In 1994 she received an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration and a Banking certificate and eventually transferred to a bachelor’s program at Hesser College. “It’s a shame NECC doesn’t offer a four year degree,” said Morelli. “The campus was so convenient and I really liked the instructors.”

Around the time of receiving her bachelor degree, she left First Essex Bank to take a management job with Lawrence Firefighters Federal Credit Union but it didn’t take long for her name to be recognized by other institutions for her outstanding achievements.

“I was getting calls from banks asking me to work for them,” said Morelli. “Each call was a better offer than the last.”

And then in 2009 the call came asking if she would be interesting in the C.E.O. position of Andover Federal Credit Union. She called her husband to tell him about the offer and how both branches of the credit union are closed on Saturdays.

“Take the job!” he begged his wife. “I haven’t seen you on a Saturday in years,” said Morelli.

Besides overseeing operations at the branch on Lupine Road, the credit union has a smaller branch within Greater Lawrence Technical High School. Collectively generating $17 million.

In 2013, Morelli closed a merger with North Andover Municipal Federal Credit Union with $2.2 million in assets and has since grown Andover Federal Credit Union to a $25 million institution with three locations and over 3,000 members.

Melissa Ferriera, 41, has been a member of the credit union since 2010. “I love the atmosphere here,” said Ferriera. “They seem like a happy little family.”

Morelli has enjoyed working with and mentoring so many great people. Willmarie Rodriquez who works as a teller in the Lupine Road branch is a fellow Lawrence citizen and also a first-generation college student often feels the pressure of juggling work and school. “Lisa was the one who encouraged me to go back to school,” said Rodriguez. “She tells me stories about her academic struggles and they keep me going.”

“I’m so proud of Willmarie for going to college,” said Morelli. “I try to cheer her on whenever I can because I do know how hard it is to study after working all day.”

“I wish all the success in the world for all of the young people who go after their dreams,” said Morelli.

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