Chair of the Board of Trustees from 1977 to 1986, Trustee Emeritus Walter E. Hanson ’49, died at his home in Newport Beach, Calif., after a lengthy illness.
Hanson, who was former chairman of KPMG, died Sept. 24. He provided distinguished service to the College and the Board, serving as a term trustee from 1969 to 1987 and as Vice Chair from 1975-77. He was chair of the Financial Policy Committee from 1972-75. Upon election as Board Chair, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and was elected to emeritus status when he retired from the Board in 1986. His term as Board chair included the six-year Campaign for Lafayette: $53 Million, a fund-raising initiative that more than doubled the total secured during any previous development effort in the College’s history.
Born in Adelphia, N.J., Oct. 17, 1925, Hanson was an economics graduate and member and historian for Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Upon graduating, he completed graduate work in his field and served in the Naval Air Corps from 1943-45. He organized a Lafayette alumni group in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1954 and was chair of the New York City area “On Lafayette” campaign.
In 1984, Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. established the Walter E. Hanson/Peat, Marwick, Mitchell Professorship in Business and Finance in recognition of Hanson’s service to the firm and to the College. Hanson matched the firm’s commitment with a major gift of his own. In 1991 the name was changed to the Walter E. Hanson/KPMG Peat Marwick Professorship shortly before Donald R. Chambers, who currently holds the position, was hired.
A generous participant in the Lafayette Leadership Campaign, Hanson was an inaugural inductee in the Société d’Honneur in April 1986.
During a career at KPMG (formerly Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co.) that spanned more than 23 years, Hanson was widely regarded for his insight and leadership in his field. In 1983, he received the Gold Medal for Distinguished Service from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the highest honor in the accounting profession.
Hanson joined KPMB in 1957 as partner in charge of transportation practice. He later became partner in charge of the New York office, and in 1965, at age 39, was elected chief executive of the firm, at the time the largest accounting firm in the world with more than 20,000 employees in 65 countries. Under his leadership, the company’s revenues increased fivefold to more than $800 million.
Hanson also had a strong impact on the world of professional accounting. In the 1970s when accountants were regularly criticized for failing to expose questionable corporate records, he opened the books of his firm for auditing by a competitor to help restore confidence. He also served on an American Institute of Certified Public Accounts committee to explore restructuring the profession and assisted in preparing the Institute’s response to a congressional investigation in the late 1970s.
Prior to KPMG, he was an accountant with Haskins & Sells in New York and Minneapolis and served as assistant controller and then vice president and comptroller for Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway Co. from 1955-1957.
Hanson retired from KPMG in 1980 but continued to serve on numerous corporate boards including INA Corporation of Philadelphia, Fidelity Group of Funds of Boston, and A.M. International, Los Angeles. He was also involved in accounting education and public speaking. He served as an adviser to the Graduate School of Management, University of California-Los Angeles, the Graduate School of Business, Harvard University; and the business school at Duke University.
Earlier in his career he was a trustee, deputy treasurer, and member of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Council of the International Chamber of Commerce; the Board of Governors and Executive Committee of the United Nations Association of the United States, and a member of the New York State Bar Association Joint Practice Commission of Lawyers and Accountants.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, of Newport Beach, Calif.; three daughters, Barbara H. Maropis ’78 (husband Samuel), Katharine (husband Greg Hurray), and Elizabeth (husband Edward) Lawlor; a sister and brother, and grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lafayette College or the Alzheimer’s Association.