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Katherine D. Ortega: 1934—: Former Government Official, Banker, Accountant

Found Strengths In Banking And Accounting

Along with English skills, Ortega showed an advanced proficiency in mathematics and problem solving. Starting in elementary school, she was far ahead of her classmates, so far ahead that her family began having her run the cash register in the family owned restaurant when she was only ten years old. As she moved along to junior high and high school, she continued to amass mathematical knowledge and also showed interest and skill in the area of accounting. By the time she was in her senior year of high school, she had graduated from working the register at the family restaurant to being a part-time bank teller at the Ortero County State Bank. She would take on a full time position as a teller when she graduated, spending two and a half years learning the ins and outs of banking while earning enough money to put herself through college.

At a Glance . . .

Born on July 16, 1934, in Tularosa, NM; daughter of Donaciano Ortega and Catarina Davalos Ortega; married Lloyd J. Derrickson, February 17, 1989. Education: Eastern New Mexico State University, BA, 1957.

Career: Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., tax supervisor, 1969-72; Pan American National Bank, vice president, 1972-75; Santa Ana State Bank, president, 1975-77; Otero Savings & Loan Association, consultant, 1979-82, 1989–; Presidential Advisory Committee on Small and Minority Business Ownership, board member, 1982; Copyright Royalty Tribunal, commissioner, 1982-83; U. S. Secretary of the Treasury, 1983-89; private accounting practice, 1989–.

Memberships: Executive Women in Government; American Association of Women Accountants; United Nations, alternative representative; Leadership America, advisory board member; National Park Service, advisory board member; Ralston Purina Company, board member, 1992–; Kroger Company, board member, 1992–.

Awards: Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award, Eastern New Mexico University, 1977; honorary doctorate of law, Eastern New Mexico University, 1984; honorary doctorate of law, Ken College of New Jersey, 1985; honorary doctorate of social science, Villanova University, 1988; Achievement Award, California Businesswoman's Association; Outstanding Woman of the Year Award, Damas de Comercio.

In the mid 1950s Ortega attended Eastern New Mexico State University at Portales, where she aced many of the business, mathematics, and economics classes on her way to a bachelor's degree in business and economics in 1957. With this degree, Ortega felt that many doors were open to her, and she focused on giving back to the institute of education by becoming a high-school teacher. When she began to look for a job, she found many openings on the eastern side of New Mexico, but as she began to apply for them, she found that she was rejected often without even an interview. She eventually consulted the chairman of the Eastern New Mexico State University business school about this problem and was told, according to an interview she did with the Boston Globe, that she "need not apply in the eastern part of New Mexico, where such a job was open, because of my Hispanic background." Appalled at the level of discrimination in the world of education, Ortega swore off the idea of becoming a teacher, and decided instead to forgo the whole job hunt altogether.

Since New Mexico, and much of the rest of the United States, was still very much prone to discrimination against Hispanics as well as women, Ortega and one of her sisters decided it would be easier for them to go into business for themselves. As Ortega told the New York Times, "My father taught me we were as good as anybody else, that we could accomplish anything we wanted.… He encouraged all three of his daughters to make a living for themselves so we would never have to be dependant on anybody." Taking their father's advice, they started a small accounting firm in Alamogordo, New Mexico, with Ortega's sister, who was a certified public accountant, as the main handler of many of the clients, and Ortega handling more of the day to day business. Ortega floated in the 1960s between the self-started accounting business with her sister and other various accounting jobs throughout the state. In 1967 Ortega felt that she might have more opportunities in another state and headed out to California. This did prove to be a good move for Ortega as she quickly secured work in the accounting field in Los Angeles, and by 1969 was a tax supervisor for Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Company.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerKatherine D. Ortega: 1934—: Former Government Official, Banker, Accountant Biography - Found Strengths In Banking And Accounting, Moved From Accounting To Politics, Became U.s. Secretary Of The Treasury