Recognizing Horace Taylor Peery as vice president of the nation’s largest bank during a customer-relations visit in the 1940s may have been difficult. Dressed as a farmer or laborer, Peery spent hours visiting with Bank of America clients in California’s “gold country,” his preferred visiting assignment. Peery had a drive to understand his clients and their needs. The bank’s customers often spoke with him at length before realizing they were talking to one of the bank’s top executives. “He was always more people-oriented than status-oriented,” recalls Peery’s son, Richard Peery.
H. Taylor Peery
Peery was not only an attentive businessman but also a financial genius. During his career of thirty-four years, he rose to the top ranks of the worldwide Bank of America, helped expand Allied Properties, invested wisely, and started a real estate company that helped build today’s Silicon Valley.
What made Peery even more remarkable was his ability to achieve career success without compromising what was most important to him—family, friends, and church. He raised his family steeped in gospel principles; attended to the needs of students, neighbors, and business associates; and faithfully served his church and country.
Perched on Peery’s dresser was a photo of his grandfather, David Harold Peery, a leading Utah banker who was highly respected for his business ideals and hard work. Peery looked up to his grandfather and followed his example, striving to embody an honest, strong work ethic that enabled him to achieve similar success.
Early in life, Peery learned to understand the importance of hard work and responsibility. As his career progressed, it became clear that Peery had inherited many of his grandfather’s talents, including a keen eye for investments and the ability to act quickly and wisely when opportunities presented themselves. Peery approached his work with vision, a plan for action, and a humble desire to accomplish great things with the Lord’s help.
As a young teenager, Peery landed his first official job at a local grocery store. “I had to be at work at seven a.m. I rode three miles into town on my bike and worked until seven or ten p.m.,” Peery reminisced in a 1963 letter to his wife, Mary. He also remembered doing a lot of the “dirty jobs,” including sorting rotten potatoes, delivering groceries, sweeping the store, and delivering dynamite and caps with a horse and wagon. “I got paid twenty-five dollars a month,” he recounted. He was surprised to later learn his mother reimbursed the owner for his wages. He added, “She did it in order to get me started, thank goodness.”
His mother’s efforts to teach him the value of work paid off while he was at Stanford University. He had experience working in the orange grove as a child and a need to support himself through college, which led him to take over his brother Harold’s orange juice company—a job that required discipline and marketing skills. “I used to get up at four o’clock in the morning and deliver juice to stores on campus, to places in town, and to hospitals,” Peery recorded.
Visualizing the potential of the company, Peery took action to market his product. With the help of radio ads emphasizing the nourishment of orange juice, the business built up a good market for selling individual bottles to school children. Over the course of two years, the business grew large enough to buy four delivery trucks and employ fifteen people. Proceeds from the company not only supported Peery through his schooling but also left him with several thousand dollars to begin his post-graduate career.
After graduating from Stanford with a BA in 1927, Peery headed straight to the nation’s financial center—New York City. There, he spent the summer researching investments for a national investment trust firm. After returning to California and completing his MBA at Stanford Business School in 1929, he began work as an investment counselor for Brookmine Economic Service.
After working three successful years with Brookmine, Peery accepted an offer extended by A.P. Gianinni, the founder and president of Bank of America. Peery was hired as a financial clerk with the responsibility of managing the bank’s investment portfolio. “It was a position that required great insight—an unusual assignment for such a young man,” points out Justin Eccles, Peery’s nephew.
In addition to Peery’s keen investment insight, his sound judgment and reliability also served him well at Bank of America, where he was employed from 1931 to 1955. Over twenty-four years, Peery worked his way up from clerk to vice president of Bank of America. “He was a key figure in the operation of the bank in their San Francisco home office, the headquarters of their worldwide bank,” said Elder David B. Haight, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a close family friend.
Peery believed in the sound principles espoused by the bank’s founder A.P. Gianinni and Gianinni’s son, Mario, and enjoyed participating in the growth of the company. In 1955, after many prayers and much deliberation, Peery decided he was ready to begin a new chapter in his career.
Peery left the bank to pursue his lifelong hobby: real estate. Recognizing Peery’s unusual background in conservative investments and talent for spotting land, Robert Odell offered him a position as executive vice president and director of Allied Properties.
Peery was responsible for managing the general finances of the company including making arrangements for loans, consulting on real estate developments, and locating opportunities for income and appreciation. In addition to increased salary, bonuses, and stock incentives, Peery was given the travel and vacation time he desired and permission to look after his own investments in real estate and securities.
A two-year stint at Allied Properties was just what Peery needed before starting his own real estate company—his ultimate career objective. In a 1963 letter to his brother, Peery wrote, “I wanted to go into business eventually for myself so that my sons could benefit from my experience. I hoped to set up an organization that my sons could carry on if anything happened to me.”
With insight and action, Peery’s plan fell into place. Now, under the management of his son, Richard, what began as Peery & Co. in 1957 has become one of the nation’s most successful commercial real estate companies—Peery/Arrillaga. Still adhering to principles taught by his father, Richard credits the success of the company today to Peery’s early vision and wisdom.
Peery had an intrinsic sense of value and location. “Peery’s vision of land investment was prophetic at a time when things were rather quiet in the Bay area,” recollects Justin. Peery foresaw the location of many new companies that needed modern leased facilities and acted on it. “He was there at the right time with the exact facilities they needed,” Justin recalls. “This venture was the precursor to what would later become the Silicon Valley expansion.”
Throughout his career, Peery not only kept an eye on promising real estate developments but also on the stock market. While at Bank of America, he successfully managed his own stock investments in addition to those of his clients. “I have always felt that in doing so, I have increased the value of my position,” Peery wrote in a 1955 memoir. “It has given me an independence of thought, which in the long run was beneficial to the bank as it fortified my intellectual honesty.”
However, Peery’s investment successes didn’t come without some valuable learning experiences. During graduate school, he began investing money from the orange juice business in the stock market. The first few stocks turned a profit. Peery began to wonder why he was going to school when there was such “easy money to be made.” He concluded that if he had bought on the margin with his first investments, he would have made four times the profit.
His next purchase was heavily margined—a decision he regretted when the market hit bottom. “I used to receive a phone call from my broker each morning when I was in bed, like a big shot,” Peery said. “I remember when I got a call on 30 October, my birthday, from my broker saying there had been a break in the market. I had been sold out and had a debit balance.”
He later commented that his early investments gave him a good foundation because he learned from his many errors. “In a period of three months I had made almost every mistake possible in investments,” he recalled.
After World War II, Peery began investing in Japanese stocks, something most investors considered unwise. But he had the foresight to see that Japan was determined to regain its prominence as a world trading power. His insight proved visionary. “He was there at the right time when others were sitting on their hands,” Justin said.
Gleaning from both successes and mistakes, Peery made it a priority to teach his children wise investment skills. His philosophy was simple. He was very specific on putting something away each month: 10 percent for the Lord and 10 percent into a personal savings or investment account. He told them that the end result would be personal wealth and happiness—a combination the world rarely achieves.
Justin remembers how his uncle taught this philosophy. Peery gave each of his children a sum of money and a four-drawer file cabinet. The children were to invest the money at their own discretion and use the filing cabinet to keep close track of it. “That struck me as a preamble to financial and spiritual discipline coming from one who had achieved a high measure of success,” Justin recounted.
Known for his sense of humor and fun-loving spirit, Peery was always popular in school. At Porterville Union High School in California, he participated in the band and played for the football team.
Following his high school graduation in 1920, Peery attended the University of California for a short time before transferring to the University of Utah. “I had a good time [at the University of California], but flunked out,” Peery wrote in a 1962 letter to Mary. “I feel I was blessed, for then I went to the University of Utah, where I met so many dear friends. If I had not gone there, I would have not gone on a mission and probably not married in the church . . . my life would have been so different.”
With the encouragement and influence of friends and family in Utah, Peery left the University of Utah to serve a mission in Germany. Upon his homecoming three years later, he decided to return to the West Coast to finish his education at Stanford University. Peery said school was hard but worth it. “My studies were difficult, but I enjoyed them,” he said. With diligence and hard work, Peery graduated with his BA in economics in 1927 and his MBA from the Stanford Business School in 1929.
Peery’s education did more than prepare him for his career; it began an attachment and loyalty to his alma mater that would last a lifetime. One of the reasons he and Mary chose to live in Palo Alto, California, was to live near the university and surrounding Stanford hills. Peery was honored to serve as president of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Alumni Association, to which he had a lifetime membership.
In addition to classroom learning, Peery believed much of life’s learning takes place in nature. “The outdoors had a rejuvenating effect on him,” recalls Peery’s daughter, Nancy Peery Marriott. During a hiking trip to the High Sierras in 1963, Peery wrote to Mary that such a trip in the mountains was a renewal of mind and spirit. “It has given me the needed exercise I should have and the privilege of seeing some of the most wonderful country in the world . . . I never felt better.” Peery also enjoyed strolling the Stanford hills, both alone and with his wife, friends, and children.
Peery was born 30 October 1901 in Ogden, Utah, to Horace Eldridge Peery and Sarah Jany Taylor. He had an early introduction to his future father-in-law, Dr. Edward I. Rich, who delivered him. Peery came from a family steeped in church tradition and values. He was named after his great-grandfather and president of the church, John Taylor.
Peery and his three siblings—David Harold, Richard John, and Virginia—were born in Ogden, Utah, where they lived until 1911, when the family moved to Porterville, California, to purchase and manage orange groves. Two years after moving to California, Sarah Peery found herself widowed with four young children. Peery was the oldest at twelve. Determined to provide for her family, Sarah worked hard caring for the orange groves.
Though the church had not yet reached Porterville, Sarah wanted her family to stay connected with their religion and relatives. She drove her four children back to Utah three times—in 1915, 1917, and 1919. “Mother had courage,” recalled Peery. “She kept our contacts with your family in Utah and the church there. She was a wonderful mother.”
After his father passed away, Peery took on a paternal role in his family that lasted throughout his life. He assumed early responsibility for his family’s finances and wisely invested to help provide for and increase his siblings’ inheritances. “My father always taught us to respect and honor family members,” said Richard. “Family always came first for him.”
Before heading across the country in 1927 to work in New York, Peery made a stop in Utah that would change his life. He returned to his hometown, Ogden, to visit Dr. Edward I. Rich and his wife, Emily Almira. Peery had visited the Rich family numerous times, but this time was different: their youngest child, Mary Almira, had grown up. Although he was nine years her senior, Mary felt comfortable around Peery—after all, she was a college woman.
Mary had attended the University of Utah and the University of Michigan, working toward a degree in fine arts. Adding to her scholarly pursuits, Mary was an accomplished ballet dancer, who at the age of sixteen was invited to join the Chicago Civic Opera Ballet Company.
After many visits together in Ogden, Mary and Peery corresponded frequently during the following winter and early spring. The next summer, Mary visited Peery in California, where they became engaged. In a letter written 15 August 1931 asking Dr. Rich for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Peery wrote: “While we have known each other intimately but a comparatively short time, I believe that our common background, families, training, and religion are fundamentals which, in addition to our affection, will lend to our happiness.” Less than a month later, on 12 September 1931, Peery and Mary were married in the Salt Lake Temple by church president David O. McKay, a close family friend.
Two years before he passed away, Peery lovingly wrote the following in a letter to his sweetheart of thirty-one years:
“Fortunately . . . I went to Utah and met you, Mary Rich. I feel that has been the outstanding thing in my life. The happiness you have given me, the wonderful children, and the spiritual guidance have made my life worthwhile. I feel the Spirit of the Lord directed me in my choice of a wife.”
Above all else, Peery is remembered as a devoted family man. He established personal bonds with each member of his immediate and extended family. His niece, Sharon Lewis, recalls being eight years old and very disappointed that she had never received a letter in the mail. Following her father’s suggestion, she wrote a letter to each of her uncles, hoping at least one of them would write back. To her delight, Uncle Taylor returned her note and began a correspondence she greatly valued.
Whether it was an occasional letter, a Sunday afternoon picnic, or a bouquet of fresh flowers, Peery showed love and appreciation for his family. He was proud of his heritage, his choice of a loving companion, Mary, and their three children, David Rich Peery, Richard Taylor Peery, and Nancy Peery Marriott.
Apart from the day he married Mary, the three happiest days of Peery’s life were when his children were born. Peery and Mary provided a warm family atmosphere and made it a priority to teach their children gospel principles. Before family home evening became an official church program, the Peery family was already meeting together one evening a week for a lesson and activity. “My parents’ example of living in obedience to the commandments has been a priceless heritage that I am eternally grateful for,” Nancy acknowledges.
Peery often said that more than anything else, he wanted his children to develop solid testimonies. “I hope and pray that my children will place the value of the gospel above everything else and that they will raise their families in it and keep to sound basic values,” he said.
Peery was also keenly aware of the potential damage material wealth could have on his children. He once told Mary that wealth could do more harm to families than anything else. He said, “With money they become soft, lose their ambition and sense of values, and often are tempted by ways of the world and lose their spiritual values.” Peery taught his children to work hard so that “luxury would not soften them.”
Richard says his father always gave them jobs. “We’d cut the lawn, trim the bushes, take out the garbage, clean out buildings, clear lots, pull weeds, and even catch rats,” he recalls. In his early teens, Richard told his father he thought they needed a carport. Peery responded, “If you want a carport, you need to figure out how to build it.”
Nancy says her father was not only dedicated to teaching them to work hard at home but also in their other pursuits. “My parents were committed to giving us the opportunity to learn and provided lessons in arts, sports, the sciences, or any other field in which they sensed we might have potential interest or talent.” Nancy fondly remembers her father’s encouragement and support of her vocal pursuits. “He always listened very intently when I performed,” she notes.
Peery and Mary urged their children to work hard, but also knew when it was appropriate to play. As a family, they went on Sierra Club expeditions, snow skiing trips, horseback riding adventures, and vacations throughout the United States as well as visiting Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and the Philippines. “This exposure . . . gave us an appreciation for and knowledge of other peoples’ cultures, social customs, history, and art,” Nancy said.
At home in Palo Alto, the Peery family enjoyed picnics in the nearby hills; casual get-togethers with family, friends, and neighbors; traditional Christmas open houses; and Sunday dinners with Stanford students. “New as well as long-standing friends were welcome into our home and invited to join us for a meal and good conversation,” Nancy explains.
Making time for family was a top priority for Peery. His decision to leave Bank of America was heavily based on his desire to spend more time with his family. He took every opportunity he could to teach his children important life principles.
One Christmas when the children were young, he asked them to tell him about their favorite gift. He then asked them if they would be willing to give that gift to someone who needed it more than they did. The children rewrapped their gifts and delivered them to another family.
Peery also felt it was important for his children to expand their vision beyond their daily lives. One summer evening, several mattresses arrived at the Peery home in Palo Alto. “My father wanted us to study astronomy together,” Nancy said. “So that night, we rolled out the sleeping bags, mattresses, maps, telescopes, and flashlights and studied the stars.”
H. Taylor Peery was a humble servant. Whether it was mentoring students or slipping coins into kids’ pockets at ward bazaars, Peery exemplified the selfless service of Jesus Christ.
Peery followed the Lord’s counsel to avoid idleness. He said wasting time was the last thing he wanted himself or his family to do. “Constructive activity creates real happiness and zest for life,” Peery said.
He spent his time and found his happiness and zest for life in serving others. He is remembered for his untiring dedication to friends, community, church, and country.
Friend to All
“My father had a special gift of making friends with anyone,” acknowledges Richard. “It didn’t matter how old or young you were; he made you feel important.” The Peery home was often crowded with students laughing, socializing, shooting baskets, and playing kick-the-can or hide-and-seek after dinner.
Visitors to the Peery home recognized Mary and Peery’s ability to entertain with class. They paid special attention to detail and created a sincerity and warmth. Peery was famous for always bringing home fresh flowers to decorate the table and Mary for her angel pie.
The Peerys not only opened their home to nearby students but also to ward members, neighbors, and business associates. One ward member, in particular, fondly remembers his welcome to the neighborhood. David B. Haight and his family relocated to Palo Alto after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942. He and his wife, Ruby, were pleased to find a house at 2020 Webster Street—only three houses from the Peerys. “Through this neighborly friendship grew an association that brought our families together, with all of the children, in a most harmonious way,” wrote Elder Haight in a 1990 letter.
Known as the “Webster Street Jolly Boys,” Elder Haight and Peery formed an intimate friendship that lasted more than twenty years. The two friends served together in a bishopric, worked on church real estate investments, and served in the military at the same time. “We would often meet and talk about world affairs, war, our involvement in it, and how the church was beginning to grow in California,” recalls Elder Haight. “Taylor Peery was a dear friend, associate, and the type of individual that you could discuss any problem with and he would understand. He was wise, considerate, and tender-hearted.”
Ruby and Mary also bonded and spent a lot of time together serving in church auxiliaries. Ruby admired the Peerys for their generosity and service. “Our life was made more rich because of living by Taylor and Mary,” she said. Her favorite memory of Peery is the sweet bouquets of fresh flowers he often left anonymously on their kitchen table. Small behind-the-scenes acts of kindness were not uncommon for Peery. He was always helping others. Peery’s brother-in-law, Calvin G. Collins, gratefully acknowledged Peery and Mary’s help with the Collins’ first house payment.
Another grateful friend, Carl Poll, appreciates Peery’s help getting him started in the finance business. “Upon receiving my MA in economics, I requested and received an in-depth interview with Brother Peery,” Carl stated. “As a result of this discussion and further action on Peery’s part, I was hired into the bank’s executive training program. He was a counselor and mentor during my two-year training. I cherish his memory and my association with the great family he left behind.”
“The most important thing in life is the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Peery wrote in a letter to his brother Harold in 1963. “Active participation in the church will bring you the most happiness and real satisfaction,” he added.
Peery practiced what he preached by serving the church faithfully. Although he held many callings, Peery believed his three-year mission in Germany changed his life. “I cannot understand why I went on a mission, as my knowledge of the gospel was limited,” he told Mary in 1962. “I feel I was guided by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Peery said he worked harder than he ever had before as a young elder and felt true happiness while serving. “I enjoyed one of the richest experiences of my life. I was blessed in the conversions we made.”
Through his missionary service, Peery gained a deep love and appreciation for the German people and became proficient in the German language—skills he would later use to serve his country.
In addition to his full-time missionary calling, Peery served as a counselor in the Palo Alto Ward bishopric, president of the Palo Alto Stake high priests quorum, and a member of the stake high council. “Peery was one of those pleasant, happy, upbeat individuals who you would always like to be around, be on a committee with, or have serve as a counselor,” recalls Elder Haight.
Peery also had the capacity to serve the church in a unique way. With his ability to spot valuable property and his negotiation skills, Peery was instrumental in helping leaders obtain locations for future church buildings.
When Elder Haight was Palo Alto stake president, he called Peery to serve on the high council because of his “ability to negotiate and find property.” With ten wards in one stake and a rapidly expanding membership, local church leaders were grateful Peery was around to help accommodate the growth. “We always had Peery, who could see where they were beginning to take down fruit trees and build homes and say, ‘Eventually we ought to have a church here,’” added Elder Haight.
Peery’s service and involvement in his community extended well beyond the walls of the Palo Alto church house. Richard once commented that his mother and father were at the center of almost everything that went on in the community.
Despite his commitments to family, church, and work, Peery managed to find time to participate in various community associations and clubs. He served as director of the Stanford Hospital, trustee of Cogswell Polytechnic College, and a member of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, the Stanford Gold Club, and the Palo Alto Club.
He also served in several other capacities. He was president of Utah Investment Company, director and member of the Finance Committee of Occidental Life Insurance Company, director of Guarantee Insurance Company, and a financial analyst for the city of San Francisco.
With the outbreak of World War II, Peery took a sabbatical from the bank to serve his country. He was commissioned as an officer in the US Army on 5 December 1942. Utilizing his familiarity with the country, its people, and its language, the Army stationed Peery in Germany, where he served as lieutenant colonel on General Eisenhower’s staff of civil affairs. “During those years, the military and government were looking for people in the business world who would help in the war effort,” said Elder Haight, who received a Navy officer’s commission soon after Peery’s commission.
Peery was assigned to help Germany revive its economy after the devastation of the war. During his service, he had the opportunity to travel through many of the areas he had served in as a missionary. “Never could I have imagined that I would find such a contrast on this spot in such a short time,” he wrote his mother from Berlin in 1945. He went on to write the following:
“This is where I realized more strongly than at any other time what degeneracy had set in the world, what pathetic condition Germany was in, how completely broken was its power. It was like looking at the ruins of Pompeii, Carthage—the last vestiges of a great civilization. It made me realize how little there is that can be considered to last. . . . Material wealth means nothing; there is no assurance of its retention. Here, the nation and individuals have had all their possessions removed or destroyed. People walk the streets with a lean, hungry, tired, pathetic look on their faces, utter hopelessness confronting them.”
In addition to forming opinions on social and economic issues, Peery gained business insights during his service in Germany that he drew upon throughout his career. “He learned about inflation,” Richard noted. “The German government printed so much money it became worthless. But if you had gold, silver, or land, it adjusted to the currency.” After witnessing the utter destruction of city after city, Peery consistently noted that land was the only thing left—a valuable insight for a future real estate developer.
On 1 August 1964, at the age of sixty-two, Peery passed away in Palo Alto. True to his character, Peery shared his gifts of vision, action, and humility throughout his life.
Although he contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a rare muscle disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Peery maintained a positive attitude and a genuine desire to serve others. “Despite his physical condition, my father’s mind was keen, bright, and aware of people and his surroundings,” says Nancy. “He truly endured to the end.”
Those who knew Peery well remember him for his sense of humor, strong testimony, confidence, sound judgment, and generosity. A good friend, Keith Petty, once wrote the following accolade that expresses the sentiments of many of Peery’s loved ones:
“I have not known any real estate investor who has so wisely and judiciously invested in and developed real estate on such a huge and profitable scale while maintaining high standards of integrity, work ethic, and education, as well as being generous in support of church, community, and educational institutions.”
Through a lifetime of devotion to his work, family, friends, church, and country, H. Taylor Peery left a legacy of financial and spiritual wisdom to his children—a legacy they hope to pass on to students at the Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business through the H. Taylor Peery Institute of Financial Services.
“We deeply appreciate this unique naming opportunity that fits so beautifully with our father’s benefits, talents, and example,” acknowledges Nancy. “Future generations will benefit from his humility and talents. The institute will build and bless many lives.”
The Marriott School at Brigham Young University is honored to be the house of the H. Taylor Peery Institute of Financial Services.