Leader Remembers Appleton Roots

Bach, Pete


Leader Remembers Appleton Roots by Pete Bach for The Post-Crescent Newspaper


APPLETON -- Walter B. Wriston, a pioneering financier with global giant Citigroup who recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, fondly recalls his formative years in the city.

Looking back, the 84-year-old son of late Lawrence University president Henry Merritt Wriston (1925-1937) said he didn't want to linger in his father's shadow, so he didn't stick around Appleton too long.

After graduating from Appleton High School in 1937, he skirted LU to pursue studies at Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. "If you got good grades, (it was because) your dad gave them to you; and if you screwed up, he was embarrassed. There was absolutely no upside and two downsides," Wriston said.

The medal cited the retired former chairman and chief executive officer of Citicorp, and its principal subsidiary, Citibank, for his foresight, principled corporate leadership and unwavering effort to extend the free enterprise system, particularly by implementing strides in electronic banking in the 1970s.

Wriston was unable to attend the award ceremony last month at the White House, but his daughter Catherine and brother-in-law, Robert, represented him. Wriston said President Bush accurately portrayed him as a man who, ironically enough, once had an aversion to banking.

"I came into banking by pure accident," Wriston said. "When I came back from the war my mother was dying and my wife was teaching school in New York, and I needed a job. The family doctor suggested the banking industry. And I told him that of all the things in the world that were dull, that led the list."

That Wriston would go on to excel in the banking world came as no big surprise to J.J. "Jack" Keller, a contemporary and classmate from Appleton High School who went on to found a leading regulatory and technical publishing giant west of Neenah.

"He was a straight-A student," recalled Keller. "He was a real nice kid, real talkative. He was always real popular."

  • This document was created from the article, "Leader Remembers Appleton Roots," written by Pete Bach for the July 15, 2004 edition of "The Post-Crescent Newspaper." The original article is located in MS134.003.025.00025.
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