Carl B. Menges, the driving force behind the creation of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), passed away at his home in East Hampton, New York, on Wednesday September 8. “More than two decades ago,” observed AHI President Robert Paquette, “the idea of a center, inspired by the remarkable life of Alexander Hamilton and his seminal contributions to the founding of the United States, emerged from a lunchtime conversation in the historic building that now serves as AHI headquarters.” Carl’s vision became a concrete reality on Constitution Day, Carl’s 77th birthday, in 2007. “Take Carl Menges out of the equation,” Paquette added, “and AHI would simply not exist.”
Born in 1930 to Mr. and Mrs. Hermann Menges of Bronxville, New York, Carl Menges attended Hamilton College where he graduated cum laude in 1951. He earned an M.B.A two years later from the Harvard Business School. In 1965, he married Cordelia Sykes, a graduate of Vassar College. They have three sons.
In 1966, Carl joined the investment banking firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) where, before its purchase in 2000 by Credit Suisse, he rose to the position of Vice Chairman. He also served at DLJ as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Wood, Struthers & Winthrop Management Corp; Chairman, Financial Services Group; Managing Director of the Equities Division; Managing Director of the International Division; and Syndicate Manager for Banking and Institutional Sales Division.
Active in philanthropy, education, and public service, Carl served as trustee and chairman of the Planning Committee of Hamilton College; trustee of the Boys Club of New York; and treasurer and trustee of the Allen-Stevenson School in New York City. He sat on the boards of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City; the New-York Historical Society; and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in Washington, D.C. He was also a member of the Investment and Budget Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Carl treasured the traditional liberal arts education he received at Hamilton College in the 1950s. During his matriculation, the curriculum, designed in large part by President Robert W. McEwen, emphasized the “basic musts.” They consisted of mandatory courses, taken largely during the freshman and sophomore years, that would provide every student with the “intellectual and moral equipment” needed to live the good life as adults. In studying the life of Alexander Hamilton, Carl was able to pair his vocational interest in business and finance with his avocational passion for history. In April 2001, he sponsored “The Hamilton Conference at Hamilton College,” organized by AHI charter fellow Douglas Ambrose. Ambrose dedicated the volume derived from that conference, The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton (NYU Press, 2006), to Carl and it went through multiple printings.
In 2006, Carl committed almost four million dollars, at the time the largest individual donation in Hamilton College history, to establishing an Alexander Hamilton Center. Unfortunately, the original agreement was voided by the College, necessitating the move by the three professorial co-founders of the center (with the support of Hamilton College alumni) to the historic mansion in Clinton and independence as an institute with 501(c)3 non-profit status.
In 2015, Carl and Cordelia led the most successful fundraising drive in AHI history by planning a special event centered on the showing of the musical Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York City. In 2017, Robert Paquette and his co-author Douglas Egerton dedicated the award-winning The Denmark Vesey Affair: A Documentary History (University Press of Florida, 2017) to Carl. AHI programming has honored Carl Menges with an annual colloquium in his name, the most memorable of which, “Hamilton v, Jefferson: On History, Freedom, and Republican Government” took place at Monticello in November 2018. “The rapid evolution of AHI from embryo into a nationally recognized educational organization, whose work was lauded and whose design served as a model for others, became a great source of pride to Carl,” said Paquette. “He was thrilled by the knowledge that so many common folk ratified the work of AHI with contributions, which although modest proved large in proportion to their income. It is the intention of every major player in our organization to work energetically and imaginatively in Carl’s memory to ensure that AHI remains an enduring edifice of educational excellence.”
At the funeral of Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris remembered his close friend as an exemplar of a meritocratic age. “You know how well he performed the duties of a Citizen,” he recalled during his eulogy, “you know that he never courted your favour by adulation, or the sacrifice of his own judgment. . .. And you now feel and enjoy the benefits resulting from the firm energy of his conduct.” These words describe well the man Carl Menges was.
In response to news of Carl’s death, friends and supporters of AHI who had come to work with and know him have shared their remembrances. To honor Carl, AHI will use this page as a running log of their memories. Additions will be added as they come in to AHI.
“Arriving at my first board meeting at Hamilton [College], I was struck by how very warm and welcoming Carl was. And he radiated not only warmth but also gravitas at every meeting after that initial one. I felt privileged just to be in his company.” Jane Fraser
“He was a gentleman in the purest sense of the word. He loved the Hamilton College that he attended and worked hard to keep it on track. When the school lost its way, he directed his energy towards AHI in an effort to nudge Hamilton back towards its heritage as a premier liberal arts college. Although his beloved College has not found its way back to its roots as a Mecca for the study of Western Civilization, he did succeed in creating an independent academic powerhouse. His AHI has helped countless Hamilton Students learn from our nation’s founders and to understand the values that have underpinned its success. God Bless Carl.” Robert Hamill
“He was a great Alum and Life Trustee of Hamilton College until it went woke, and he is an icon for AHI and all of us. In addition, after his brother, Bud, died several years ago he was a wonderful supporter and mentor to all of his family. We will not forget him!! James Schoff
“Carl was a delight to work with—innovative, supportive, and affable. He will be missed by everyone that had the opportunity to work or interact with him.” Richard Erlanger
“I am deeply saddened by the news of Carl Menges’ death. In addition to his tremendous acumen in finance and his generous philanthropic spirit, he possessed intellectual depth and vision. He saw that the Alexander Hamilton Institute could be something more than a center on a single college campus: it could be a community for kindred spirits nationwide. The AHI has lost a titan, and he will be greatly missed. His vision, however, will live on for years to come.” Dean Ball
“What a great life lived!” Howard Morgan
“Carl was an urbane, softly spoken, jovial presence as a supporter of the AHI. His counsel and his very generous support for the Institute was essential to the progress that the Institute has made in establishing educational programs since our inception in 2007. He will be profoundly missed.” James Bradfield
“Carl was an honorable man and a gentleman in every sense of those words. He was a well-informed, nuanced thinker, and a superb colleague as a board member [of ACTA]. For many years he guided our financial progress. Carl also did outstanding work at the Alexander Hamilton Institute and Hamilton College. He will be greatly missed.” John Fonte
“I met Carl at the first AHI weekend and our relationship grew from there as we worked together for many years on the ACTA board and its finance committee. His signature smile, good humor, wisdom and confidence in the future will continue with those of us who knew him over the last decade and a half. His spirit, thoughtfulness and personality were great gifts to AHI and ACTA. He will be missed.” Robert Lewit
“What a loss! He was there from the start when you needed him. God bless him.” Bradford Wilson
“I met Carl for the first time as a first year Alumni Trustee on the Hamilton endowment investment committee. Joe Anderson and Carter Bacot had recruited me to help out on the committee, and of course, Carl was an active and indomitable force, and we quickly became friends. Carl was very instrumental in recommending to the committee that we add private equity and venture capital to the endowment because of his connections with Williams College board members. This early commitment to these two asset classes proved to be highly successful in adding to the good performance of the endowment in the 90’s. I remember major fun times with Carl on the golf courses at Pine Valley, Maidstone, Desert Mountain and my best golf round ever at National. I have the scorecard, signed by Carl, framed in my exercise room in Scottsdale, AZ. His contribution to Hamilton, the AHI, and my life bring nothing but smiles.” Lee Garcia ‘67
“Carl Menges was a gracious, caring man. His efforts allowed AHI to preserve and carry on the ideals of Western Civilization. We especially appreciated the annual colloquial gatherings.” Shirley Niebanck (Richard Niebanck, Hamilton’54)
“What very sad news!! We had the most delightful time with Carl when we visited his home two years ago. He shared with us his rise from modest beginnings, having started working at an early age just like Roger. He was humble, interested in everything and especially our own odysseys. He was the warmest, most genuine friend. We are terribly sad to have lost him.” Juliana and Roger Pilon
“Although I did not have the privilege of a personal or professional relationship with Carl, he stands for me as a symbol of the Hamilton College I attended as a Fulbright scholar from Germany in 1961-2. That year turned out to be profoundly determining for me, personally and professionally. I had heard of Carl long before the founding of AHI and was grateful finally to meet him at a Menges colloquium at Turning Stone. He was everything I had imagined him to be. May he sleep in peace beside Alex and the many other great Hamiltonians of times past.” Frank Bergmann
“Carl Menges cared deeply about Hamilton College, which he demonstrated as a volunteer doing the grunt work in the trenches in the 1970s and 1980s. Imagine a distinguished Wall Street executive attending events to call alumni to ask for money? He made calls with a huge smile on his face and in his voice, and his characteristic good cheer. He was effective and inspired everyone in attendance, especially alumni younger than he. He worked on capital campaigns and Class of 1951 efforts, too, earning the right to be a Trustee of Hamilton College. As a Trustee, he chaired the Committee on Planned Giving, improving the effort with his, dedication to Hamilton College, financial acumen, creative marketing instincts, and leadership as a solicitor and donor. Years later, he invited me to attend a program at the New-York Historical Society, where Carl Menges, the scholar and leader, was given his due by countless other academics and captains of industry. I will never forget his kindnesses to me and other ‘hired hands’ in the development office.” Ben Madonia
“Generous benefactor and patron, loyal friend, seeker of truth and wisdom, consummate gentleman–Carl Menges was many things. His passion for and commitment to the history of the American founding, especially of Alexander Hamilton’s contributions to it, changed my professional life. The 2001-conference on Hamilton at Hamilton College was his brainchild, and his financial and emotional support proved indispensable. That conference resulted in the book The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton. My co-editor, Rob Martin, and I dedicated that volume to Carl “in gratitude.” Over the years at the AHI Carl displayed all those characteristics that made him such a welcome presence: his warmth, his curiosity, his penetrating insight, his honesty, his intellectual courage. But I’ll also always remember how Carl modeled the married life. His love for Cordelia, and hers for him, shone. Seeing their marriage reminded Sheila and me of the power and strength that lasting love can provide to those that share it. Carl changed my professional life with his interest in Alexander Hamilton, but we will remember him even more for his dedication to Cordelia and the life they built together.” Doug Ambrose
“Jefferson described Alexander Hamilton as honest and honorable in all private transactions and G. Morris said that Hamilton’s ‘generous hand and heart were open to all.’ They certainly could have been describing Carl Menges. What a great American he was, and what a great legacy from him the AHI is.” Robert Cady
“The trustees and staff of the New-York Historical Society mourn the passing of Carl Menges, New-York Historical trustee emeritus and longtime, devoted member of our Chairman’s Council. Carl’s great passion for history, abiding respect for the Constitution, and eager engagement in our work on Alexander Hamilton left its mark in our public programming and on our Palm Beach events. Our hearts go out to Cordelia and all of the family.” Pam Schafler, Chair Roger Hertog, Chairman Emeritus Louise Mirrer, President & CEO Dale Gregory, VP for Public Programs
“The unwillingness of America’s most successful people to take a serious interest in the degradation of higher learning is one of the chief explanations for our republic’s parlous state. Carl was one of the great exceptions to this rule, leading the fight to drag Hamilton College out of the morass of ignorance and fanaticism. if he didn’t entirely succeed, he did, through the Alexander Hamilton Institute, help light a different intellectual path for the college’s students to follow. He’ll be sorely missed, but his achievement lives on” Steve Balch
“What struck us the first time we met Carl was his down to earth, gentlemanly manner, mixed with great intelligence and wit. He was a person you could instantly embrace and admire as a friend. The fact that he and Cordelia loved to read Michael Connelly’s Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch detective novels was the icing on the cake!! Rodger & Christine Potocki
“ACTA is saddened by the news of the passing of our dear friend Carl Menges on Wednesday, September 8th, 2021. He led a life of significance that will continue to inspire those who had the privilege of knowing him.
Mr. Menges received his A.B. cum laude in 1951 from Hamilton College and his M.B.A. in 1953 from the Harvard Graduate School of Business.
In 1966, he joined the investment banking firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ), where, before its purchase in 2000 by Credit Suisse, he rose to the position of vice-chairman. Mr. Menges also served at DLJ as chairman and chief executive officer of Wood, Struthers & Winthrop Management Corp; chairman of the Financial Services Group; managing director of the Equities Division; managing director of the International Division; and a syndicate manager for the Banking and Institutional Sales Division. Before DLJ, Mr. Menges held the position of divisional marketing manager for Owens Corning Fiberglass Corporation. He also served as the director of Tiedemann Investment Group.
Mr. Menges’ extraordinary career in business and finance was rivaled by his deep commitment to civic, cultural, and educational institutions. He was a trustee and chairman of the Planning Committee of his alma mater, Hamilton College, trustee of the Boys Club of New York, and treasurer and trustee of Allen Stevenson School. He was a life trustee of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a trustee of the New-York Historical Society.
Mr. Menges was devoted to the study of history and to the understanding of the founding of the United States. In 2001, he sponsored a conference at Hamilton College on Alexander Hamilton. The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton (NYU Press, 2006) was an outgrowth of that conference and was dedicated to Mr. Menges. He was a founding board member of the Alexander Hamilton Institute, an independent center that offers intellectual diversity and deep exploration of Western Civilization, and is featured in ACTA’s Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving.
As a member of ACTA’s Board of Directors, Mr. Menges brought expertise and passion to our programs and operations. He was invariably good humored, positive, and insightful in helping our organization grow and flourish. Upon his retirement from the board in 2018, his colleagues awarded him emeritus status.
His was a life well led. We miss him profoundly but with gratitude for all he did for ACTA and for American civic life.” American Council of Trustee and Alumni (ACTA)
“I was very sad to learn of Carl Menges’s death. He was instrumental in the establishment of AHI — the right man just when he was most needed.” Jan Mahood