Lee Hanley and his wife Allie joined the Board of Trustees at The King’s College in 2008, and he assumed the role of chairman in 2014. He saw the Judeo-Christian tradition as the lynchpin of the flourishing of culture in general and of higher education in particular. He loved the history of ideas and the classics of Western Civilization, and was deeply committed to The King’s College.
Lee was born in New York City in 1940, attending the Buckley School and St. Paul’s School before enrolling to study economics at Yale. After earning his Bachelor of Science there, he went to work in the family business founded by his grandfather, where he knew all the employees by name. Originally, the Hanley family’s primary business was brick manufacturing, but factories need fuel, and eventually Hanley Petroleum was created as an oil and gas exploration company. After Lee took over the family business in 1974, he sold the brick manufacturing division and expanded the petroleum company, growing its influence and enhancing its reputation as a firm known for integrity, patriotism, and respect for its employees—to the extent of surviving economic turns without resorting to layoffs. His watchword came from James 2:18b: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Lee became active in supporting conservative causes in 1964, taking a leave of absence from Hanley Petroleum in 1980 to run Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in Connecticut—for whom he would later chair the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from 1986 to 1987.
Lee’s tireless work at The King’s College was remarkable. President Gregory Alan Thornbury described it in the following excerpt from the eulogy he gave at Lee’s memorial on November 15, 2016:
“Lee didn’t countenance new fangled ideas, and he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He never sought the spotlight, but helped others to excel and to achieve their dreams. He was generous – a philanthropist whose list of nonprofits he helped to flourish is legendary.
Most of all, for me personally, he was always, always in my corner.
Without him, I confess with a heavy heart, I, along with all who loved him, are now at a very great deficit.
Lee was not soldier in our armed forces in a theater of armed conflict. But he fought for the soul of this nation as much as any civilian can, and so for me the following words somehow ring true when we think of him.
‘O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!'”
William Lee Hanley Jr. passed away on November 4, 2016 at the age of 76.