Our Northwest

PEMCO founder was a defender of educators and education

Friday, March 15, 2019by  PEMCO Insurance


Handy-Photo.jpgNot many guys would climb atop a 100-foot water tower and stand on one foot long enough for a photo to be snapped. Even fewer would do it to win a $10 bet.

But then again, PEMCO's larger-than-life founder, Robert J. Handy, wasn't just any guy. 

The photo represents someone who didn't flinch when it came to taking calculated risks. His entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to step up when others stepped away led him to launch two companies – a credit union in 1936 and, in 1949, PEMCO Insurance – to help fellow struggling teachers make the most of their money.

A math and journalism teacher at Seattle's Franklin High School, Mr. Handy (who had no formal training in banking or insurance), launched PEMCO during the boom of pent-up demand for cars and housing following World War II. Mr. Handy understood the power of people helping people. He established PEMCO as a mutual company where customers pool their money to share risk with other customers. Mutuals are owned by their customers – not stockholders. To this day, PEMCO is member-owned, serving policyholders, not Wall Street.

Over the years, Mr. Handy started a patchwork of PEMCO-branded financial services companies that eventually either merged or became independent. Through them all, his philosophy of helping and defending never wavered. In 1968, he established a foundation through which PEMCO donates to charities that benefit youth, the environment and safety.

Mr. Handy served as PEMCO's Chief Executive Officer from 1949 until his passing at age 83 in 1984. Since then, PEMCO has had only two CEOs, both committed to his legacy of freeing people to worry less and live more, while leading through responsibility, relationships and positive contributions to the community.  

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