The National Association of Corporate Directors presented its lifetime achievement award to Jon F. Hanson on Tuesday night at the Waldorf-Astoria, in Manhattan.
The founder and chairman of The Hampshire Cos., in Morristown, and member of various boards was cited by NACD for “exhibiting the highest standards of integrity, ethics and courageous leadership under difficult circumstances.”
Finn Wentworth, founding managing principal of Normandy Real Estate Partners, said he has seen Hanson exhibit those three tenets in the boardroom and the community. “His presence and his quiet leadership and appreciation of others leads us all to a more positive outcome,” Wentworth said.
Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean credited Hanson’s leadership heading the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority during a time that welcomed two new teams — the New York Jets and New Jersey Devils — and the Army-Navy game to the state. “He made this into a very exciting venue” for sports, Kean said.
Regarding Hanson’s integrity, Christopher J. Paladino, president of New Brunswick Development Corp. and a member of Hanson’s commission on gaming and entertainment, said, “His word is his bond … his handshake is better than any contract you can enter into.”
Hanson currently serves as nonexecutive chairman of HealthSouth Corp., based in Birmingham, Ala., with facilities in Tinton Falls, Toms River and Vineland; chairman of Pascack Community Bank; a director of Yankee Global Enterprises; and chairman emeritus of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. Hanson also has served as lead director for Newark-based Prudential Financial Inc., director of CD&L and member of the board of directors of Hackensack University Medical Center.
While accepting the B. Kenneth West Lifetime Achievement Award, Hanson described his approach to serving on a board: “I look at it as being a part-time job with full-time responsibility.” Hanson also said board members should operate under the philosophy of “don’t be in a hurry to go, and don’t stay too long.”
“This guy to me is kind of the true north of the compass between judgment, balance and the ability to pull people together,” said Wesley M. Lang Jr., managing principal of WML Partners LLC and a member of the Hanson commission. “That’s a pretty rare combination to me.”
Hanson generally shuns the spotlight, noted by his son-in-law, Harold Imperatore, director of Hampshire Destination Properties: “I really have never met someone like him who is as low-key as he is, yet calls all the shots behind the scenes.”
Several attendees noted Hanson’s competitive spirit, especially related to playing tennis. “This is a person who is fiercely competitive, but man enough to give respect to a person who might best him in a contest,” said Robert C. Holmes, a Rutgers University law professor and member of the Hanson commission who has played tennis with Hanson every Friday afternoon for 15 years.