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First Union’s Harald Hansen made mark on Midtown and Paralympics

Harald Hansen A photo of Harald Hansen at the 2014 ARCS Foundation Atlanta Chapter Scholar Awards Luncheon on the occasion of the 2014 ARCs Betsy Hansen Memorial Award. Left to right: Harald Hansen, Scholar Lauren Casa - Georgia Tech and Ed Hansen (Special: ARCS Foundation Atlanta Chapter)

By Maria Saporta

One of Atlanta’s most civic-minded bankers, Harald R. Hansen, has passed away.

Hansen, 85, made his mark on Atlanta as the president of the Georgia operations of First Union National Bank.

It was Hansen who helped shepherd the ground-breaking BluePrint Midtown planning process when he was chairing the Midtown Alliance. First Union’s Atlanta office was in the heart of Midtown at the corner of Peachtree and 10th streets.

Hansen also chaired the 1996 Paralympic Games, which was a pivotal effort to formalize the relationship between the Paralympic Games and the regular Olympic Games.

On Monday, Clyde Tuggle, a Coca-Cola executive who is this year’s president of the Rotary Club of Atlanta, announced the passing of Hansen on March 16, calling him one of the pillars of the business community.

The family shared his obituary with SaportaReport, and we are sharing it with you.

In Memory of Harald R. “Pucho” Hansen (Aug. 10, 1931 to March 16, 2017).

Harald R. Hansen (Pucho), a respected and admired gentleman, businessman, civic leader, and philanthropist passed away, peacefully, at the age of 85 on March 16, 2017, attended by his devoted son and daughter.

Harald was born in Durham, NC on August 10, 1931 to Dr. Oscar Hansen-Pruss and Frances Hansen-Pruss. He was a graduate of The Asheville School and Duke University. It was at Duke that he met his beloved wife of 53 years, Betsy Brandon Gamble Hansen.

Harald Hansen

A photo of Harald Hansen at the 2014 ARCS Foundation Atlanta Chapter Scholar Awards Luncheon on the occasion of the 2014 ARCs Betsy Hansen Memorial Award. Left to right: Harald Hansen, Scholar Lauren Casa – Georgia Tech and Ed Hansen (Special: ARCS Foundation Atlanta Chapter)

He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Marine Corps, and Marine Corps Reserve for more than 35 years, retiring in 1986 with the rank of Colonel in the USMCR.

Harald joined First Union National Bank of North Carolina in 1969 as Assistant Vice President. In 1986, he relocated to Atlanta as president and chief operating officer of First Union National Bank of Georgia. Two years later he was named chairman of First Union of Georgia Corporation.

He garnered many accolades during his career, including the Whitney M. Young, Jr. award from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Urban League, Minority Business Advocate of the Year from the American Jewish Committee, the Atlanta Business League’s Distinguished Service Award, the Bransby Christian Leadership Award from the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, and many others.

Harald served as chairman of the 1996 Paralympic Games and was integral in bringing those games to Atlanta.

He was a man of great integrity and wisdom and brought those traits, along with his vision, experience and dedication, to serve as an advisor/director/trustee to numerous institutions, including the Atlanta Symphony, United Way, YMCA, American Red Cross, Shepherd Center, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Midtown Alliance, the Midtown Improvement District, Friends of Piedmont, Southern Golf Association, and the Tull Foundation.

Within the financial industry, he served on the board of directors of First Union National Bank of Georgia, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, Georgia Commerce Bank (Iberia Bank), Georgia Commerce Bancshares, Magnet Communications, Inc., Chastain Capital Corp., Crystal River Capital, Hyperion Strategic Bond Fund and Hyperion Collateralized Securities Fund, Inc.

Harald Hansen

Harald Hansen

Harald valued education, serving as a trustee of his high school alma mater – The Asheville School, on the board of advisors for Duke University, as a member of the Business Advisory Board of Clark Atlanta University, and as a devoted member of Oglethorpe University Board of Trustees.

Upon his retirement from First Union National Bank of Georgia, First Union Corp. established a scholarship in his name with the Atlanta University Center Consortium.

In 2008, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Oglethorpe University and in 2013, the University honored him with a dormitory named for him and his beautiful wife, Betsy.

An avid golfer, he was a long-time member of the Capital City Club and Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, and the Country Club of the South in Delray Beach, FL.

Harald is predeceased by his parents, his wife, and his beloved sister, Joy Litaker of Charlotte, NC. He is survived by his daughter Brandon Hansen Frein and her husband Tracy of Chicago, his son Edward Eugene Hansen and his partner Michael Barnett of Atlanta, and his step-grandchildren, Kelly Frein and Dan Frein of Chicago. He is also survived by his loving companion of eight years Lynne Winship. We love and will miss you, Pucho!

A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11:00am on Thursday, March 23rd at the Cathedral of Saint Philip, with the Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler presiding. A service will also be held at the Saint Phillip’s Episcopal Church in Durham, NC at 11:00am on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Interment following at Maplewood Cemetery, 1621 Duke University Drive, Durham, NC.

A visitation will be held on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm, H.M. Patterson & Son-Oglethorpe Hill, 4550 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30319.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made in memory of Harald R. Hansen to The Asheville School, 60 Asheville School Road, Asheville, NC or to Oglethorpe University, 4484 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30319.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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