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Life Trustee Ralph Hansmann ’40, P’72 Dies at Age 96


Ralph Hansmann '40
Ralph Hansmann '40

Hamilton College President Joan Hinde Stewart announced the death of Life Trustee Ralph Hansmann ’40, P’72 in an email to the Hamilton community on April 2.

To the Hamilton Community,

I’m writing with sad news. Ralph Hansmann ’40, P’72, a life trustee, died this morning. He was 96.

Ralph was born in Utica. He majored in history, was a member of the Emerson Literary Society and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Active on the debating team at Hamilton, he met Dorie at a regional debate conference in 1938. They married five years later and last October celebrated their 71st anniversary. They have two children, Jane and Bob who is a member of the class of 1972.

Ralph received an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1942 and then entered the U.S. Navy, serving until 1945 when he began a 47-year career as a private investment manager. He was elected charter trustee in 1969 and life trustee in 1988. He chaired the College’s Investment Committee for 16 years, during which time, thanks to his prudent management, Hamilton’s endowment increased fivefold.

In 1992 Hamilton conferred on Ralph an honorary degree, and in 2008 he was the recipient of the College’s Bell Ringer Award. He was described on the occasion as the “chief investor” of Hamilton’s future. “The financial foundation you laid,” the citation read, “has of course been sturdily built up in the ensuing years, but the strength of the edifice that Hamilton is today rests upon the firm footing that you provided.”

Although we all enjoy the financial resources Ralph helped build for Hamilton, I knew him more as a warm, unassuming and generous man devoted to his family and loyal to his alma mater.

Ralph was a supporter of the Burke Library and the McEwen Chair and was honored by his friends’ creation of the Doris and Ralph Hansmann Scholarship, the Hansmann Lecture Fund, the Hansmann Library Fund and the Hansmann Science Students Support Fund.

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