In his early 90s, retired banker, civic leader and federal official George Hall Dixon Jr. embarked on a new undertaking: teaching himself physics.
His ongoing fascination with the world helped make him a valuable and trusted counselor, said Carleton President Steven G. Poskanzer, who took office in 2010, years after Dixon left the college Board of Trustees he had served for 25 years.
“George was extraordinarily wise and was someone who was a particularly thoughtful counselor and a great help to me as a new president in instructing me in how to effectively work with the board of trustees, and how to lead an institution and stay true to its values,” Poskanzer said.
Dixon, who also served as president of First National Bank of Minnesota and First Bank Systems, now U.S. Bank Corp., and also was a deputy Secretary of the Treasury under President Gerald R. Ford., died June 28. He was 92.
He lived in Exeter, N.H., and Minneapolis.
Dixon wasn’t an alumnus of Carleton but loved the small private college and its commitment to excellence, said George Dixon’s son, Jed.
“George Dixon was not just a great mentor and leader, he was also a terrific role model for saying thanks, celebrating the achievement of others, and constantly learning new things,” said Carleton President Emeritus Stephen Lewis, whom Dixon hired in 1987.
“He was exceptionally loyal to both friends and to the institutions about which he cared. He led by example, and he did it all with a wonderful, often wicked, sense of humor.”
One of Dixon’s achievements was “to help this place build its academic strength while also preserving the best part of its academic culture.” Poskanzer said.
Carleton awarded Dixon a Ph.D. for lifetime achievement in 2000.
A World War II veteran, he played key roles for the United Way, Minneapolis Art Institute, Minnesota Symphony and other organizations.
He was born in Rochester, N.Y., on Oct. 7, 1920, eldest of two children. His father died when George was a teen. An Eagle Scout, George trekked to the Boy Scouts’ World Jamboree in the Netherlands in 1937.
He graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1942. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the European theater, including the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he graduated from Harvard Business School.
In Boston, Dixon worked for Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. investment and securities firm. He moved on to a stock firm in Providence, R.I., and later, Sperry and Hutchinson, creators of S&H Green Stamps.
While in Providence, Dixon met Marjorie “Peggy” Freeman, to whom he was married for 63 years. They reared twin sons and a daughter.
The First National Bank of Minneapolis recruited Dixon as president in the mid-1960s. He worked for 35 years in Minnesota, with homes in Minneapolis and Long Lake. He loved hiking, canoeing and sleeping under the stars.
When Gerald Ford became president in 1974, he nominated Dixon to be deputy secretary of the Treasury. After Ford left office, Dixon returned to Minnesota as president and chairman of First Bank System.