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

May 29, 1986|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | 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.

"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."

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.

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.

"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.

"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.

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.

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