Ira Hall was 16 when he set his sights on becoming a corporate executive. It was 1961, and he was arguing for the desegregation of a hotel lunch counter in his hometown of Oklahoma City, the sole activist to make it inside. He emerged from the upscale dining area perfumed with high-end dishes, and said, according to his wife, Carole Foster Hall, ’67, “Someday, I’ll have the type of job where I can afford everything that I want to eat.”
Former Stanford trustee Ira D. Hall, ’66, MBA ’76, a corporate executive and devoted public servant, died on January 11. He was 78.
Molded by the civil rights movement, the young Hall committed to a lifelong assault on racial discrimination. His method: leadership. As a senior at Stanford, where he was one of seven Black students in his class, he was elected class president. The electrical engineering major secured five job offers in various departments at Hewlett-Packard before he graduated. At 24, he helped its founders, Bill Hewlett and David Packard, both ’34, Engr. ’39, develop and run what is now MidPen Housing, a nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable housing. At 26, he was elected to the Stanford Board of Trustees, becoming not only the board’s first Black member but also the youngest member in its history.
Often cited as the first Black executive at IBM, Hall was most proud of his role at Texaco, the 12th-largest corporation in the country when he joined. As its corporate treasurer, he managed more than $50 billion. And Hall’s success served a larger purpose. For him, “business was the next civil rights frontier,” says his friend Ken Chenault, a former CEO of American Express and current chair and managing director of General Catalyst. “For other African Americans on Wall Street, Ira was sort of looked at as the leader.” Hall would later help lead Wall Street investment firms, including Utendahl Capital Management, where he was president and CEO.
Hall chaired the advisory board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project on campus, was nominated in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate to be a governor of the United States Postal Service— where his model of customer offerings led to the creation of Priority Mail—and served on the Clinton-Gore Presidential Transition Team.
When private equity executive Lloyd Metz, ’90, presented Hall with the Graduate School of Business’s Ernest C. Arbuckle Award in 2020, Metz spoke of how he had harbored self-doubt as an undergrad with ambitions of working in finance. Upon seeing Hall featured in an issue of Black Enterprise as one of America’s leading corporate executives, the young Metz said to himself, “Well, there it is. There’s the way forward.”
Hall is the namesake of the Ira D. Hall Under 30 Service Award, presented annually by Stanford’s Black Community Services Center.
In addition to his wife, Hall is survived by his daughters, Alicia Hall Moran and Stephanie Hall; two grandsons; and two siblings.
Kali Shiloh is a staff writer at Stanford. Email her at email@example.com.