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Ray Edwards Speaks Softly, but People in City, Country Listen

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Times Staff Writer

A group of businessmen formulated a grand scheme 18 months ago to promote Glendale nationwide as an emerging business center. To head the committee, they chose Raymond D. Edwards, chairman of the board of Glendale Federal Savings & Loan Assn., the country’s fifth-largest thrift.

“We were looking for a man who has a name that is nationally recognized,” said Glendale insurance executive Noel Veden, one of the founders of the group that became the Glendale Development Council.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. June 5, 1986 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 5, 1986 Home Edition Glendale Part 9 Page 2 Column 2 Zones Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
A story on Raymond D. Edwards, chairman of the board of Glendale Federal Savings & Loan Assn., in the May 29 edition of The Times incorrectly reported that the thrift has $5.5 billion in assets. Actually, the association has assets totaling $15.5 billion.

“Part of our research was to find out what people in the rest of the nation knew about Glendale, if anything. The only thing that came up nationally was Glendale Federal and Ray Edwards. With his leadership capabilities, he was a natural for us.”

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Edwards and his wife, Editha, the daughter of Glendale Federal’s late founder, are known for their leadership and philanthropic contributions. One civic activist described them as Glendale’s unofficial president and first lady.

“If something needs to be done in this town, Ray Edwards is the man who can get it done,” said Mayor Larry Zarian.

‘One of Greatest Leaders’

Edwin Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, described Edwards as “truly one of the industry’s greatest leaders.”

He tackles local issues with tenacity, said Susan Shick, deputy director of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency. For example, when the development council gave priority last year to developing a major hotel in downtown Glendale, Edwards telephoned hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott Jr. to suggest that he look into the project, Shick said. Edwards pressed his corporate staff into arranging the initial meeting between the city and officials from Marriott Hotel Corp., held in a private executive dining suite at Glendale Federal.

The interest shown by Marriott sparked the curiosity of competing hotel developers, who also contacted the city to discuss proposals, Shick said. Glendale now expects to make final preliminary plans for a hotel and select a developer within six months, she said.

Edwards has arranged a number of similar meetings with other developers and corporate representatives who are considering building in Glendale or relocating offices there.

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“Ray has very strong feelings about Glendale and elaborates on all the reasons why his corporate headquarters are in Glendale, which makes a lot of sense,” Shick said. “He is instrumental in setting up the meetings with corporations and then is present at those meetings. That is very, very important.”

Yet, few people outside the financial industry and local leaders have heard of Ray Edwards. “His is not a household name, like that of Lee A. Iacocca,” said Shick, referring to the widely recognized chairman of the Chrysler Corp.

The 67-year-old Edwards says he prefers it that way. “People used to say, and I hate to use the word, that we were a sleepy little organization,” said the soft-spoken, even-tempered Edwards. “But, from the very start, we have been a very aggressive company--in a very quiet, nice way.”

Edwards’ daughter, Joanne West, recalls that, when she was growing up she felt frustrated because she learned of her father’s achievements only from friends or by reading newspapers.

‘He Never Discussed It’

“If he won an award or something, he never discussed it with the family,” West said. “I sat him down one day and said, ‘Look, Dad, would you tell me what you are involved in, what you do?’ And he answered, ‘I’m just involved in a lot of things.’ That’s the way he has always been, a very private man, even with the family. He’s the type of man who likes to quietly go about making his corner of the world a better place.”

Edwards’ longtime support of local schools earned him honorary life membership in the PTA, yet Glendale Unified School District officials said they were unaware that Edwards is a 1936 graduate of Glendale High School. His name is missing from the district’s list of famous and successful graduates, which includes that of Gerald D. Barrone, chairman of Glendale-based Citadel Corp. and president of Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan.

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Edwards noted that his community involvement is also good public relations. “We feel we have an obligation to the community, that, if we can build a better community, we can build a better company. That’s part of my job.”

Efforts Go Beyond PR

Others, however, say Edwards’ efforts go beyond public relations. “He’s very dedicated to the community,” said a veteran employee who asked not to be identified. “He feels very strongly about Glendale and wants to see it improve.” As a result, the burden placed on the staff to help meet obligations can make things hectic, the employee said.

Community service and philanthropy are a tradition at Glendale Federal, which has $5.5 billion in assets and in Glendale alone serves one of every four households. Founder J. E. Hoeft started the practice of performing community service projects and Edwards, who became president in 1965 and chairman after Hoeft died in 1972, has carried it on.

“Glendale Federal does things quietly,” said a spokeswoman for the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, which in April selected the 52-year-old savings institution for the chamber’s Organization of the Year Award.

In the past decade or so, Edwards has either founded or been actively involved in more than 20 community and civic organizations. He is a trustee of the California Museum Foundation and the Criminal Justice Foundation, a director of the Glendale College Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Research Center, honorary chairman of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra Assn. and a former director, president or chairman of the Glendale Kiwanis Club, Community Chest, Red Cross, United Way and the Twelve Oaks Foundation of the National Charity League. He also founded the Glendale Citizens for Law and Order, which has more than 300 Neighborhood Watch groups.

Wide Professional Activities

Edwards’ professional activities also have been extensive. He founded and was the first president of the Conference of Federal Savings & Loan Assns., is a past member of the U. S. Savings & Loan League’s Legislative Committee and the President’s Economic Policy Committee, and is a former director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board of San Francisco.

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He is a registered Republican, but Edwards said he personally avoids involvement in political campaigns. However, he keeps in close contact with legislative leaders on issues, and he started one of the first political action committees in the nation at Glendale Federal. That PAC pools its resources to support candidates and issues.

Those who work with Edwards said he is under increasing pressure from dozens of organizations seeking his time, leadership and monetary support. As a result, corporate officials said, they are being more selective about the projects that Edwards takes on.

Community leaders point out that the six-foot, 175-pound Edwards wields power that is rarely challenged. Staff members say that mere suggestions from him usually trigger action. In one instance, Edwards indicated that he was unhappy with the attitude of a public relations specialist who had been hired to promote Glendale. The specialist was immediately replaced, according to one community leader who asked not to be identified.

‘He Is Very Careful’

“He is a very careful, very thoughtful man, a man who doesn’t make a move without knowing precisely where he wants to go,” another said.

W. Dean Cannon Jr., president and executive director of the California League of Savings Institutions, described Edwards as “damn tenacious when he gets going on something.”

Cannon said Edwards was elected president of the 219-member league in 1979 when the savings and loan industry was plagued by record high interest rates and fears over failures of financial institutions. Edwards instituted an intense training program to teach thrift executives how to communicate with the media and the public in an effort to allay such fears.

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Edwards frequently lends the corporate manpower and facilities at Glendale Federal to his projects. The Glendale Symphony Orchestra, for instance, has operated for years out of office space provided by Glendale Federal, which also supplies printing materials and mailings as well as the financial know-how of its corporate specialists.

“What’s good for Glendale is good for Glendale Federal,” Edwards insists, explaining that time and money spent on community projects reap intangible benefits for his company.

Friends and associates describe Edwards as courtly and courteous, yet competitive, strong-willed and at times single-minded. They say he has never raised his voice in anger. Yet his displeasure at any given time is instantly apparent in the tone of his voice and the intensity of his blue eyes.

‘Never Yell and Bang’

“You’ll never get Ray to yell and bang on the table,” said Douglas A. Clarke, vice chairman of GlenFed, who has worked with Edwards since the day Edwards came to work at Glendale Federal. “I would bang on the table and it would get results,” Clarke said. “But he doesn’t have to.”

Both Edwards and his slender, blonde wife are avid golfers; Edwards has a handicap of 11. They are members of the Oakmont Country Club and frequently vacation at their Rancho Mirage hacienda. Edwards is a director of the prestigious Thunderbird Country Club, known for its challenging golf course.

Friends say that Edwards’ tenacity was dramatically demonstrated several years ago when a back injury that required surgery left him bedridden for several months. The injury could have left him permanently disabled, friends say, but Edwards fought to recover and succeeded.

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Dozens of cut-crystal golf trophies are displayed in the den of the Edwardses’ hilltop home in Glendale, which is decorated and landscaped in understated elegance. Oriental design furniture in muted tones graces the living and dining rooms, accented with carved ivory and jade artwork. From a tree-shaded Japanese garden patio in the backyard, the Edwardses have a commanding view of the city, stretching from Glendale to Los Angeles and beyond to the Pacific.

1.8-Mile Commute

The Edwardses’ home is only 1.8 miles from the corporate headquarters of Glendale Federal. From the spacious, wood-paneled offices on the 14th floor at 700 N. Brand Blvd., Edwards directs a company with more than a million customers and 5,400 employees in 184 offices from California through the Sun Belt to Florida. He was paid $342,793 for doing the job last year, not including stock options and other long-term compensation, according to a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The corporation has undergone major changes in the last two years in the wake of federal deregulation of the savings and loan industry. It converted to a publicly held company in 1983 and began trading last year on the New York Stock Exchange. In December, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board approved the formation of GlenFed Inc., a holding company and parent of 10 diversified subsidiaries in mortgage-related services.

The mammoth operation today is in stark contrast to the thrift’s humble beginning.

Hoeft was an unemployed typewriter salesman who was barely supporting his family by selling home-mixed bath salts in Pasadena during the Depression. When he learned that the Home Owners Loan Act had been passed in 1933 to help restore public confidence in the banking system, he applied for a charter to open a savings and loan in sleepy Glendale.

Raised $5,000

It took Hoeft nearly three months to raise the $5,000 required to get the charter, but in November, 1934, the doors of First Federal Savings & Loan Assn. opened on Broadway. The name was changed to Glendale Federal in 1937.

From the beginning, Hoeft was noted for his innovative approach to the thrift industry. He mailed out letters to residents, each with two pennies glued to them, with the message that he was paying 4% on savings while banks paid only 2%. Thus, potential customers were losing two cents on every dollar saved. It was one of the first “direct mail” campaigns and quickly proved a success.

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It was Editha Edwards’ job, after coming home from school, to address her father’s letters. She said she remembers addressing envelopes from names she took out of the phone book. Her younger sister glued on the pennies, or whatever else her father wanted attached, such as strings in another set of letters. “The dining room table was always filled with letters,” Editha said. “And that was before we had Scotch tape.”

Ray Edwards’ father gave up a failing grocery store in Idaho Springs, Colo., and moved to Los Angeles in 1916 to manage a plant in Glendale for Standard Oil Co. Edwards, youngest of three children, was born on Aug. 21, 1918. His mother died when he was 5.

Active in High School

A member of the football team and a pole vaulter at Glendale High School, Edwards was elected vice president of his senior class and was treasurer of his Hi-Y Club. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics from UC Berkeley, Edwards joined the Navy when the United States entered World War II. He served as captain on mine sweepers in the Caribbean and South Pacific.

While on a military leave in Glendale, he met Editha, who was in the Women’s Army Corps. They married in June, 1945. Edwards said he had planned to become a stock broker but that his father-in-law offered him a job as a teller.

“I took it,” Edwards said. “It used to be so simple.” Glendale Federal then had about $10 million in assets and 13 employees.

Edwards conceded that he has considered retiring, but is not ready to quit. He said he thrives on the challenges of running a $5.5-billion company in an era of rapid change. “This is tremendously exciting!” he said with a boyish grin. “It really is!”

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