Do you know who one of the country’s most influential female bankers is? Bessie LaRae Orullian, commonly referred to as LaRae Orullian, is a leading woman banker who succeeded and defied the odds in a heavily male-dominated field. This is her story.
LaRae was born in 1933 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She began her journey in the banking industry just as she graduated high school when she got a summer job as a bank messenger to save some money for college.
Then, she was promoted within two weeks to a coin wrapper and appointed as a file clerk. Before long, she worked hard and got promoted until she was the head of the Federal Housing Administration’s Title One Department.
By this point, she knew she wanted to keep climbing the ladder and work on Wall Street, which was an uncommon goal for most women her age during those years.
To make more money and gain more experience before moving to New York City, she began working in Denver, Colorado, as a secretary at Guaranty Bank. Like the first bank she worked in, LaRae quickly excelled there and was promoted several times.
She ended up staying in Denver and spent 14 years furthering her education in the banking system by attending night school to get her three qualification certificates from the American Banker’s Society.
In 1969, when she was 36, LaRae made history as the first woman to be awarded a scholarship from the National Association of Bank Women. She used her scholarship to study real estate finance at the Ohio State University Graduate School of Banking.
While she got her degree, LaRae continued to move up at Guaranty Bank. She began training future bank presidents and taking on duties that typically applied to bank presidents.
However, when she asked the board president why she wasn’t named bank president, he reportedly told her it was because they weren’t ready for a female president, especially one without grey hair.