Danny Danielson: Honoring a Legend

donald c danielsonIndianapolis, Ind. – May 13, 2015 – It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of one of Indiana’s Living Legends. Donald C. “Danny” Danielson passed away on May 7, 2015 at the age of 95. Danielson spent nearly 40 years working for City Securities Corporation. As Vice Chairman of the Board, Danielson continued to travel from his home in New Castle, Ind. to the downtown Indianapolis headquarters nearly every week until the months leading up to his peaceful death.

Commenting on his life, Chairman of the Board John Peterson said, “We at City are proud to honor Danny for what he did for our business. When he came to City 35 years ago, we were number one in public finance, but we were lacking in other areas. He helped us grow and become what we are today. So to him we say thank you and we will work very hard to not disappoint you. We plan to carry on the tradition of City that you helped us build.”

Born in Minnesota and growing up in South Dakota, Danielson followed his academic and athletic ambitions to Indiana in 1937 where he attended Indiana University on a baseball scholarship. It was there, after joining the Sigma Chi fraternity that his interest in philanthropy began.

After graduating with his education degree and a minor in business, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Danielson. However, World War II had other plans for him. Danielson served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946 and was discharged at the senior rank of Lieutenant Senior Grade. After his discharge, the Dodgers invited Danielson back to try out for their AAA team in Montreal.

“I found out that Jackie Robinson was recruited to play second base for the Dodgers, like I was recruited to play second base,” said Danielson in a 2014 interview with the Indiana Historical Society. Danielson laughed, “That is when I decided that, ‘Now, it’s time to change careers.’”

Leaving a long-time dream behind, Danielson returned to his alma mater and accepted a job with the Indiana University Alumni Association as Assistant Alumni Secretary and Varsity Baseball Coach for the university. During this time, Danielson set his sights and heart on Patty Peterson. In what he described as a “whirlwind romance”, they were married within nine months.

In order to better support his new family, Danielson made a career change in 1948 and moved to New Castle where he started a business profession at New Castle Products, Inc. Later known as Modernfold, it became one of the top companies in East Central Indiana and Danielson worked his way up to President. After retiring from Modernfold, Danielson joined in his father-in-law, J. Dwight Peterson’s, efforts at City Securities Corporation.

“What I loved about Danny was his incessant enthusiasm for life and all that it threw at you. He was a man of unbridled optimism wrapped in integrity,” said CEO, Mike Bosway.

For the past 20 years, Judy Patrick has been Danny’s administrative assistant. She said of Danny, “Danny Danielson was the most generous, caring and thoughtful individual I have ever known.  In working with Danny for over 20 years, I have had the pleasure of seeing Danny enlighten the lives of so many people in so many walks of life.  He always did everything possible to help those who needed his advice and/or encouragement.  Some were City employees or family and friends of City employees, others were people who just needed someone to listen to their aspirations.  I don’t remember him ever turning anyone down if they needed his help.  How lucky I have been to have known this phenomenal man and to have him in my life.”

The story of Danielson’s remarkable journey would not be complete without mentioning his philanthropic efforts and immense impact in communities throughout Indiana and across the globe. Close to Danielson’s heart, he gave back to Indiana University in a number of ways. He led several key endowment campaigns and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the university. From 1959 to 1980, Danielson served on the Indiana University board of trustees, including serving as chairman from 1969 to 1980. Danielson is the longest-serving trustee in the university’s history. Danielson has also been a member of the IU Foundation board since 1967.

“I’ve never seen anybody who surpasses Danny in terms of his commitment,” said Curt Simic, President Emeritus – IU Foundation. “He brings to the table: knowledge, awareness, a sensitivity to what the need is, and an enthusiasm to make it come to reality – whatever the project is.”

Awards from the university include the notable Alumni Service Award, the President’s Medal of Excellence, the Significant Sigma Chi Award, the Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion, the University Medal and the Zora G. Clevenger Award.

In his adopted hometown, Danielson become a civic leader for New Castle. It was Danielson who led a successful campaign to locate the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame Museum, over eleven other competing cities. He was recognized as the New Castle Chamber of Commerce’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1972, as well as 1983 and was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by three different Indiana governors.

Nationally, Danielson’s impact has also been felt. His deep religious background projected his efforts as a chair of the board of trustees for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He served on the board of directors of the Walther Cancer Foundation and was instrumental in raising and donating money to the Riley Foundation.

In 2009 Danielson was the recipient of a Sachem Award – Indiana’s highest honor. Most recently, The Indiana Historical Society named Danielson a “Living Legend” for his extraordinary contribution to the state and nation in 2014.

Danielson was a true inspiration to those who had a chance to work alongside him, experience his generosity first-hand, or watch him in his craft as a businessman, father and follower of God. He embodied what it meant to work hard and give as much as he received back to the community and people who supported him. His presence at City Securities will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the many areas and people he touched.

Dec. 3, 1919 – May 7, 2015

Donald C. Danielson, Indiana philanthropist and business leader, died Thursday at his home in New Castle after a brief illness. He was 95.

“Danny” Danielson served as vice chairman of City Securities, the oldest and largest Indiana-based investment bank, commuting regularly to his office in Indianapolis until the months preceding his death. He was former president of Modernfold and led the expansion of a new industry, as the accordion-fold Modernfold Door transformed the way businesses, schools and churches utilized interior space.

He was the longest-serving trustee on record at his alma mater, Indiana University, sitting on the board from 1958 to 1980 and serving as president for 11 of those years. He spurred the creation of IU’s Wells Scholar program.

As a philanthropist, he led fundraising campaigns in his hometown and across the state that consistently exceeded their targeted goal. He served as vice chair and then as co-chair of two IU campaigns that raised a collective $800 million for the university.

For his excellence in business and service to his state, Danielson in 2009 received the Sachem award, the highest honor in the state of Indiana. Multiple times he was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by an Indiana governor, and, in 2014, the Indiana Historical Society named him a Living Legend. He was inducted into the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame in 2010.

Danielson spent his childhood in Minnesota and South Dakota before becoming the first person in his family to attend college, coming to IU on a baseball scholarship.

He graduated in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in education before entering in the U.S. Navy. He served in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters of World War II until 1946, when he was honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant, senior grade.

Upon graduation, Danielson had been signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. When the war ended, the Dodgers once again invited Danielson to report to training camp with their AAA team – coincidentally, the same year Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers’ AAA team, at the same position as Danielson.

But head won out over heart, as Danielson, a consummate storyteller, would say. He decided instead to return to IU for a job at the Alumni Association. While there, he served a one-year stint as interim head baseball coach.

In Indiana, he met Patricia Peterson, daughter of City Securities founder J. Dwight Peterson, whom Danielson knew through their mutual involvement in the Sigma Chi fraternity. Danny and Patty Danielson were married April 12, 1947. Patty Danielson preceded him in death in 2013.

Danielson joined the future Modernfold in 1948 as a dapper salesman, working his way up to a director on the board in 1958. He was elected president in 1969. Under Danielson’s leadership, Modernfold became a division of American Standard.

But the job involved constant travel. When the Danielsons’ third daughter left home to go to college, he changed careers to spend more time with his wife. He joined Indianapolis-based City Securities in 1976 and was elected vice chairman of the investment bank’s board in 1981.

Danielson and his wife focused much of their philanthropy on giving back to their hometown of New Castle. After kick-starting giving toward an IU East satellite facility in New Castle, Danielson and his wife jointly received the Chancellor’s Medallion for their service to the IU campus. The new branch, which opened in 1999, was named the Danielson Center in their honor.

The couple also led the effort to relocate the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame to New Castle in 1990 and spearheaded the development of the new Henry County YMCA in 2003.

For his involvement in his community, Danielson was twice named Citizen of the Year by the New Castle Chamber of Commerce, and in 2012, he and his wife jointly received the Henry County Foundation’s Judy Melton Award for their commitment to their community.

Danielson also served as chairman of the Walther Cancer Foundation, sat on the board of governors for the Riley Children’s Foundation, chaired the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ national board and served as a director of New Castle’s Ameriana Bancorp.

In 1988, he received a Jefferson Award for public service through The Indianapolis Star.  The Indianapolis Business Journal named him a 2004 Healthcare Hero. In 2007, the Rotary Club of Indianapolis named him Rotarian of the Year.

Danielson embodied true friendship. On holidays, his voice would boom out of his office as he called close friends to wish them well. He’d network and dish out advice in a packed schedule of breakfasts in New Castle, lunches in downtown Indianapolis and golf outings with friends and business partners.

A proud Republican, Danielson aided with the campaigns of Vice President Dan Quayle, Sen. Dan Coats and Gov. Mike Pence and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the Credit Standards Advisory Committee. In 2013, the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site gave him its Advancing American Democracy award.

Danielson’s involvement at Indiana University also continued throughout his life. Along with his trustee’s position, he was a director of the IU Foundation and a member of the IU East board of advisors. The university honored him in 1994 with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. He also received an IU Distinguished Alumni Service award, a Thomas Hart Benton Medal, a President’s Medal of Excellence, a Zora G. Clevenger Award for athletic contributions and the 2007 Herman B. Wells Visionary Award.

Three daughters followed Danielson to IU and, along with their husbands, carry on his legacy of giving and faith: Mary Johnson (Stan) of Quincy, Mass.; Susie Anderson (Duane) of Indianapolis; and Amy Thompson (Ron) of Kokomo, Ind.

Eight grandchildren also survive, along with their spouses. They’re teaching 13 great-grandchildren to share their Go-Pa’s love of sports, especially IU athletics.

Besides his wife, Danielson was preceded in death by his parents, Benjamin and Freda Holdhusen Danielson; his brother, John (Patty); and his sister, Leanore von Grossman (Fritz).

The family will receive callers from 2 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, at Sproles Family Funeral Home, 2400 S. Memorial Drive, New Castle. (www.sprolesfamilycares.com)

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, May 15, at First Presbyterian Church, 1202 Church St., New Castle, where Danielson was an elder.

Donations in his memory may be offered to the Indiana University Foundation, P.O. Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN 46206-6460; or the Henry County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 6006, New Castle, IN 47362.

I am honored to be here today to speak to you briefly about Danny Danielson, a magnificent man. Danny knew so many significant men and women throughout his life, many in this church today, that to be chosen to stand here now is completely and utterly humbling.

What I loved most about Danny was his incessant enthusiasm for life and all that it threw at you. He was a man of unbridled optimism wrapped in integrity. There was no obstacle that couldn’t be overcome. His love for his alma mater, Indiana University, was impressive and stood only behind God and his family. Judy Patrick, our shared assistant for many years at City Securities, reminded me of a fact recently that wouldn’t surprise most of you here today…..Danny was voted best dressed man in Indianapolis many years ago……and rightfully so. His dapper appearance was his badge of honor. By the way, when you asked him to do anything for you, you better get out of the way or he would have run you over trying to get it done yesterday.

Like many of you, I’ve had many discussions and experiences with Danny over the more than 30 years I knew him. But one in particular typifies who Danny was and what he was all about.

About 5 years ago when Danny was just 90, at the end of one of our quarterly Board meetings, we were discussing the possible addition of another outside Director. After patiently listening intently to the discussion, Danny looked at me and asked, “Well, Mike, it seems to me that before we decide “who?”, we should ask you “what?”, i.e., what is it that you’re looking for in a Board member.” So I thought for a moment and responded with a list of items I thought were vitally important. A little more discussion ensued before the meeting ended.

The next day, Danny stuck his head in the door of my office and asked if I had a few moments. I said, “Of course.” He closed the door behind him (you don’t usually want that with Danny). As he ambled over to sit in a chair adjacent to my desk, my mind began to race and think of the previous day’s meeting…..what did I forget? What did I say that didn’t sit well with him? What did he and John Peterson discuss that Danny was delivering to me today? (John does not like to deliver bad news!)

He sat down and looked at me with a disturbing look on his face and said, “Mike, I’m concerned.”

I looked at him and asked, “About what, Danny?”

He leaned towards me and said with unequivocal sincerity, “I’m concerned…that I’m not bringing to you what you want and need in a Board member.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle and he immediately responded, “Mike, do you think this is funny?”

“No, no, no absolutely not…Danny there is only one thing that disappoints me about you.”

“Oh?…and what would that be?”

“That you’re not 20 years younger!!”

He looked at me, out the window, and then back at me again and said, “Well, Mike, I just can’t help you with that”. I think for a moment he actually thought he could!

This was a 90-year old icon worried about his value and productivity as a Board member! After he left my office, I had this tremendous feeling of inadequacy but also thought about how impactful this interaction was for me. It still serves as inspiration today in any number of ways.

It is difficult to say how many people over the years at the conclusion of a meeting, on the golf course, or simply over a beer have asked me about Danny. The question consistently asked was, “How does he do it at his age?” Whether it was 80 or 85 or even 90, I usually responded with, “He isn’t his age…he’s much younger.” And his secret, I believe was engagement. He was as engaged as anyone I knew in all aspects of life until the day he passed. Let that be a lesson to us all.

Webster’s defines character as “the total quality of a person’s behavior”. We’re all human and I’m sure Danny, like all of us, had his moments. He expected much of himself and others, including those of us at City Securities. However, in the 33 years I knew him, I believe, based on the way I know he treated people in all walks of life, that he had the innate ability to compassionately understand the essence of a person’s soul. This, he believed, was the basis of character.

He set the “character” bar high for himself without even knowing it and it seemed so effortless for him to be the example we all want to be. Moody’s and S & P would rate the quality of his life-long behavior AAA. In comparison to Danny, we all have work to do.

Danny led an impressive and active life in business, politics, family, church, and community. He was a successful businessman and mentor, a loving husband, a doting father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great grandfather, and a devout Christian. Danny’s integrity, energy, and generosity never ceased to amaze those who knew him.

I’ve said this more than once over the years…if my gravestone reads, “This man was just like Danny Danielson,” I will have lived an unbelievably fulfilling life.

Danny will be missed…but we should look at this the way we know Danny would have and that is not to dwell on what we think WE have lost but rather what HE has gained. We know this day is more glorious than he ever imagined. Now reunited with Patty and probably headed to the beach, I can hear him saying, “Mike, this is Danny. Get this over with and get back to work”…

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