A memorial service will be held next month for Walter B. Gerken, former chairman and chief executive officer of Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. from 1975 to 1986, it was announced Monday.
Gerken died on Oct. 5 at the age of 93, according to the company.
Under his leadership, Pacific Life nearly quadrupled in size and gained a subsidiary, Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO).
Gerken was also instrumental in relocating the company from Los Angeles to Orange County. Pacific Life was the first company to purchase land from the Irvine Co. at Fashion Island, which it still owns today in Newport Beach.
A native of New York, Gerken served during World War II in the Army Air Force, where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in economics in 1948 and earned his master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1958.
Gerken served as a chairman, director or trustee on the boards of United Way of America, Orange County Performing Arts Center, South Coast Repertory, California Nature Conservancy, Hoag Memorial Hospital Foundation Presbyterian, W.M. Keck Foundation, Southern California Edison Co., Times Mirror Co., Irvine Foundation Board, Carter Hawley Hale Stores and Whittaker Corp.
He also held board seats on the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, the Automobile Club of Southern California and KCET, the public broadcasting channel in Los Angeles, and served on the Business Advisory Commission for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. In 1988, Gerken was a recipient of UC Irvine’s highest honor, the UCI Medal, awarded for significant contribution to the campus. The Walter B. Gerken Endowed Chair in Enterprise and Society was established by the school in 1998.
Since 1995, the Pacific Life Foundation has recognized an outstanding nonprofit agency with the Walter B. Gerken Community Service Award at its annual Grants Reception. Gerken was the foundation’s founding chairman.
“Walter was a man of vision and action who helped build Pacific Life into what it is today,” said Jim Morris, chairman and CEO of Pacific Life. “And he was a leading example of how to make a difference in the community.”
Gerken and his wife, Darlene, were residents of Corona del Mar and raised six children.
The Gerken family will be holding a celebration of his life on Nov. 14 at 11 a.m. at the Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made in his memory to the Orange County Vital Brain Aging Program, the United Way or a charity of the donor’s choice.
—City News Service
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