International banking executive, Carthage supporter Tom Clausen dies
By Michael Moore
Clausen Center was dedicated in his honor
for achievements in public, private sectors
Alden W. “Tom” Clausen ’44, a worldwide banking leader in both the public and private sectors, and namesake of the A. W. Clausen Center for World Business at Carthage, died Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Mr. Clausen, a trustee emeritus and longtime supporter of the College who lived in Hillsborough, Calif., was 89. He is survived by his wife, Helen, and adult sons Eric and Mark.
“Tom Clausen helped Carthage emerge as a leading liberal arts college,” said Debra S. Waller, chairman of the Carthage Board of Trustees. “He was generous with his time, his financial contributions to Carthage programs he believed in, and his leadership. He loved his college, its students, and had inspiring dreams for the success of both. Tom will be sorely missed.”
For two stints totaling 15 years, he worked as CEO of BankAmerica Corporation before retiring in 1990. Under his leadership, assets quadrupled and Bank of America became the largest commercial bank in the United States.
Between his tours with BankAmerica, Mr. Clausen was appointed president of the World Bank and served in that capacity from 1981-86. His roles in banking and public service brought him to 119 nations, and he served on numerous panels analyzing foreign policy and economic issues.
Carthage President Gregory Woodward described Mr. Clausen’s accomplishments as “incredibly inspiring.”
“I only had the good fortune to meet Tom once, but in the time we shared together, I immediately recognized that I was in the presence of a person almost larger than life,” President Woodward said. “Tom was a gentle person, but a tough-as-nails leader. He had an incredible wit and an unflagging devotion to straight talk and the truth. I also met a loving husband, and recognized a kind heart and a huge, magnanimous soul.
“We will all miss Tom’s influence and leadership, and hundreds of fortunate people will forever cherish the memories of a great friend.”
Professor Arthur I. Cyr called Mr. Clausen “an impressive combination of integrity and effectiveness.” The two became acquainted and then grew close after Prof. Cyr accepted the Carthage professorship that Mr. Clausen and his first wife, the late Mary Margaret Clausen, endowed.
As a banker, Mr. Clausen’s effectiveness was most evident in his early leadership in emerging markets around the world, Prof. Cyr noted. His efforts in the public sector delivered similar results. Serving under both the Carter and Reagan administrations, he was credited with increasing donations from member governments and stabilizing the institution for the years ahead.
“In these highly partisan times,” Prof. Cyr said, “it’s worth noting that he was an effective bipartisan leader.”
As for integrity, Prof. Cyr pointed to Mr. Clausen’s reputation and the commitment he demonstrated after his World Bank service by returning to the corporation where he had worked for more than 30 years to usher it through uncertain financial times.
Born in Hamilton, Ill., Mr. Clausen enrolled at nearby Carthage in 1940. Although he was called into the Army Air Corps during World War II, he earned a degree in mathematics from Carthage “in absentia.”
He received an honorary doctorate from Carthage in 1970 and that same year began almost 43 years of continuous service on the Board of Trustees. Mr. Clausen received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1981 and the Carthage Flame award a decade later.
Besides the professorship he and Mary Margaret established — held by Prof. Cyr — to unify the studies of political science, business and economics, Mr. Clausen and his sister, the late Joycelynn ’43, endowed scholarships for outstanding students.
“He was very, very loyal to the school and had an emotional attachment to it,” former Carthage President F. Gregory Campbell said.
In 2004, Carthage dedicated the Clausen Center to honor the longtime banker’s international service. Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, gave the keynote address.
Mr. Campbell found it noteworthy that, despite working in the same circles as many of the most influential leaders in the world, Mr. Clausen never wavered from his opinion that Carthage roommate Robert Roth ’41 was the smartest person he knew. The late Mr. Roth had a distinguished career as a pastor, professor, and administrator.
In describing Mr. Clausen as a strong, substantive, “almost brutally honest” man, Mr. Campbell said the banker’s lasting influence was evident in media coverage. News of his death received prominent placement in The Wall Street Journal.
“Anybody in international finance knew the name Tom Clausen in the’70s, ’80s, and ’90s,” Mr. Campbell said.
Mr. Campbell shared an anecdote that illustrated the banker’s commitment to his work. During the 1989 earthquake, Mr. Clausen is said to have hauled two briefcases full of impending work down 40 flights of stairs during the evacuation of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco.
Mr. Clausen’s drive extended to philanthropy. He played a leading role in Bank of America’s establishment of a home loan fund for minority neighborhoods and served in leadership capacities with the United Way, including as national chair of the organization’s long-range planning committee.
Prof. Cyr and Mr. Campbell were among the friends who joined Mr. Clausen and his family in California on Sunday, Jan. 20, for an early celebration of his birthday. A memorial service was held Sunday, Feb. 17, at First Presbyterian Church in Burlingame, Calif., the date he would have turned 90.
Here on campus, the Carthage and American flags were lowered to half-staff in remembrance of Mr. Clausen through Friday, Jan. 25, and again from Feb. 17-19.