Yale Bulletin and Calendar

April 13, 2001Volume 29, Number 26

William Lanman

William Lanman, Yale alumnus
and benefactor, dies

Colonel William K. Lanman Jr., an alumnus of the Sheffield Scientific School who was one of the University's most generous benefactors and ardent supporters, died March 26 at a Florida hospital at age 96.

Following his military career, Mr. Lanman, who was a resident of Tequesta, Florida, made a series of major gifts to Yale, including $10 million for construction of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium's recently completed 57,000-square-foot wing housing basketball and volleyball courts and an elevated indoor running track. The wing was dedicated in 1999 as the William K. Lanman Center in honor of the alumnus.

In 1993 Mr. Lanman also provided funds for the refurbishing of Wright Hall on Old Campus, which was renamed Lanman-Wright Hall in his honor, and in 1995 he underwrote the complete renovation of a Hillhouse Avenue building for the Undergraduate Admissions Office. Two years later, he endowed two professorships, the Lanman Professorships in Mathematics and Computer Science and in Economics. As plans for the Yale Tercentennial were being formulated, Mr. Lanman stepped forward to be the main sponsor of the celebration, supporting many of the symposia, special programs and publications.

"Colonel Lanman was thoroughly dedicated to his alma mater and to the generations of students who have succeeded him here," says President Richard C. Levin. "His generous gifts and spirited support -- whether for the renovation of a facility or to help his alma mater celebrate its 300th birthday -- were a reflection of his love for Yale. Modest by nature, he was honored to be connected to Yale. And the University, in turn, has been honored to count him among its own."

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Lanman was a 1928 graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School who had family ties to Yale dating back to the 18th century. A forebear, U.S. Senator James Lanman, graduated from Yale College in 1788. In the 19th century, three Lanmans graduated from Yale College: Charles J. in 1814, Joseph in 1864 and Charles R. in 1871. Colonel Lanman's two brothers also attended Yale; the late Henry R. Lanman graduated in 1932 from the Sheffield Scientific School, and the late Jonathan T. Lanman graduated from Yale College in 1940 and from the School of Medicine in 1943. The Yale tradition has continued in the extended Lanman family with several younger relatives.

At Yale, Colonel Lanman served as captain of the golf team and was awarded the MacDonald Cup. "His love for golf, like his love for Yale, was lifelong," says Charles Pagnam, vice president for development, noting that the alumnus won many amateur golf championships and was a member of the 1986 Senior Golf Team, which was the international champion that year. Pagnam also recalls Mr. Lanman's love for world travel, and says the alumnus will be remembered fondly by many for his dry wit.

Lanman was a career Naval and Marine Corps aviator who won the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals, a Bronze Star and a U.S. Navy Commendation for his World War II service in the Solomon Islands combat zone in the Pacific. After retiring from service in 1955, he began a career in real estate and investment management.

In 1996 the University presented Mr. Lanman with a Yale Medal, the Association of Yale Alumni's highest honor for outstanding service to the University. His citation read, in part, "All those who pass through the Old Campus are aware of the generous gift that transformed an anchor buildingon that historic quadrangle into Lanman-Wright Hall, a now-welcoming residence for hundreds, indeed thousands, of freshmen to come. Ensuring that the Admissions Office will continue to be able to attract the best and brightest, you provided the support that allowed the relocation and renovation of this office to Hillhouse Avenue, while also renovating several facilities in that historic neighborhood. More recently, you ensured the vibrant quality of life within the Yale community by providing support for the renovation and expansion of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium; completing a triple play in A's, you moved from athletics and admissions to art, by delivering to the Yale Art Gallery a gift of a significant painting by John Trumbull."

In a recent tribute to Mr. Lanman in the Yale Development Report, it was noted that the alumnus corresponded frequently to University administrators, and that he closed handwritten letters to Levin with the phrase "Best wishes to you, and the greatest to Yale."

"The loss of Mr. Lanman is felt even more acutely as we prepare for this month's Tercentennial tribute to alumni noted for their service both to Yale and beyond," says Linda Koch Lorimer, University vice president and secretary. "We feel immense gratitude for the generous support he has given to Tercentennial-year activities, and are saddened that he will not be among us as we celebrate the past and future of this place he so loved."

Mr. Lanman was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He is survived by his sister, Harriet Fluton, and his friend, Isabel Pollen.


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