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William L. Clayton ’51 dies at the age of 83

William L. Clayton, an esteemed Lehigh graduate who rose through the ranks on Wall Street beginning as a runner delivering stocks and bonds to brokerage houses and rising to the position of executive vice president and director of the second largest investment and brokerage house in the country, passed away June 7, 2013. He was 83 years old.

Brad Eric Scheler ’74, chair of the Lehigh Board of Trustees, remembers Clayton as a special man and a best son of Lehigh, who led an exemplary life.

“Bill's spirit lives on in all of us who had the honor and privilege to know him. We thought the world of him, learned from him, and tried our utmost to emulate him,” Scheler said. “Our memories of Bill will serve as guideposts as we do our very best for countless generations of Lehigh students as they too endeavor to follow Bill's most extraordinary and compelling example."

Clayton attended LaSalle Military Academy. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1951 and later attended graduate school at New York University. He proudly served his country in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

Clayton joined E.F. Hutton’s first training class in 1954. He became Vice President in 1964, advancing to Executive Vice President and a member of E.F. Hutton’s Board of Directors. During his 38 years at E.F. Hutton, Clayton was the founder of Hutton Capital Management, a highly successful group that managed institutional and high net worth client assets.

He was known for the creation of the ad campaign, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” In his last years at E.F. Hutton, he was instrumental in the design and construction of E.F. Hutton’s new headquarters building at 31 West 52rd St., in New York. Clayton retired from Hutton’s successor company, Morgan Stanley, in 2009, following a stellar 55-year career on Wall Street.

In a 1984 interview with Lehigh’s Alumni Bulletin, Clayton shared insights into the creative process that produced what is considered to be one of the most successful slogans in the industry.

“We were having a brainstorming session,” he said. “At that time, our slogan was ‘More than just brokers.’ I’d been asked to handle the advertising function, thought the slogan was terrible. So the creative director said, ‘Well, what do you want from your commercial?’ I said, ‘I want the ability when one of our account executives calls, people will listen.’ And he said, let’s try it.”

The rest became advertising history, despite the fact that Clayton concedes the firm didn’t even test the slogan through market research.

Clayton’s secrets to success, which he shared in a Lehigh Career Services publication, were simple: “Be prepared for every day – think ahead. Do your homework. Don’t come to a presentation unprepared. Anticipate questions and be able to answer them….know what you’re talking about. And don’t forget to say ‘thank you.’ ”

In reflecting on his reason for selecting Lehigh, Clayton said, “I picked Lehigh because I loved the campus. Loved everything about the school. Lehigh gave you no false sense of security. It was the real world. And that sense gave me a good basis for my business career.”

His passion and generosity toward Lehigh never wavered over the course of the ensuing decades. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees for more than 34 years. Clayton also served as president of the Lehigh University Alumni Association, a member of the Business Advisory Council, national chairman of the Annual Fund, chair of the Rauch Business Center funding campaign, and chair of the Asa Packer Society. He led fundraising efforts for Lehigh athletics and also served as a director of Stabler Companies, Inc., and Eastern Industries.

“Bill Clayton’s legacy at Lehigh is large,” said Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh University. “He was a dedicated volunteer and a wise trustee who guided the university through some very important transformations. He also remained a valued advisor to Lehigh’s leadership throughout his life. He will be missed by many who were blessed to have the opportunity to seek his good counsel.”

“He was such good man,” said Joseph Sterrett ’76, Murray H. Goodman ’48 Dean of Athletics. “When I think of the leaders who helped strengthen and shape Lehigh, Bill is one who comes to mind among that elite group. He was a great family man – to both his Clayton clan and to his Lehigh friends and colleagues. The way he loved both was an inspiration.”

In addition to leading highly successful fundraising efforts, Clayton personally established the Clayton Conference Center of the Rauch Business Center, the Clayton Scholarship, and the Clayton Professorship, a faculty position recognizing outstanding teaching and research since 1984.

For these and other efforts, he was honored with the “L-in-Life” Award in 1984 and the Lehigh University Alumni Association’s Outstanding Alumni Award in 1971. In 1987, the university bestowed an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon Clayton during the 119th commencement ceremony.

Despite a lifetime of dedication to his career, his family and his alma mater and the well-earned accolades that came with it, Clayton told the Bulletin that he sees himself mainly as “a damned lucky fellow. Good marriage, good job, good university.”

He and his wife of 62 years, Carol, were married five days after he graduated from Lehigh. Three of their six children – Kevin ’84, Susan ’86 and Chris ’88 – and a daughter-in-law, Carolyn, earned undergraduate degrees and a fourth, Kathy ’94G, earned her Master of Arts degree in English and served as an adjunct professor in that department. A son-in-law, David Veshosky, also earned his doctoral degree in business and economics in 1992.

Kevin Clayton, principal and director of Oaktree Capital Management, currently serves as vice chair of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees and chair of the Advancement Committee. Four grandchildren, including a grandson Patrick, who just graduated with the Class of 2013, are also Lehigh alumni.

Friends and relatives may pay their respects on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, from 2:00-4:00 pm and 7:00-9:00 pm at Burroughs, Kohr & Dangler Funeral Home, 106 Main Street, Madison, N.J. A Roman Catholic funeral mass will be held at 11:00 am on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at Church of Christ the King, 16 Blue Mill Road, New Vernon, N.J. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Carol and William L. Clayton Scholarship Fund, Lehigh University, 27 Alumni Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, Pa. 18015. 

Story by Linda Harbrecht and Janet Norwood

Posted on Sunday, June 09, 2013

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