Harry W. “Hunk” Anderson ’49, LL.D. ’67, who cofounded the food service company Saga while studying at Hobart and William Smith and was renowned as a collector of modern art, passed away Feb. 7 at the age of 95.
Anderson was born in Corning, N.Y., and after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, enrolled at Hobart under the G.I. Bill. As a student, he met William F. Scandling ’49, LL.D. ’67 and W.P. “Bill” Laughlin ’49, LL.D.’67, and together they became commonly known as “The Corporation” around campus for their various moneymaking ventures. After the Hobart cafeteria closed in the spring of 1948, they developed a plan to take over operations that eventually made its way to President Alan Brown and the Board of Trustees. Working with local insurance salesman Max Henry, Hobart Class of 1917, the three young entrepreneurs reopened the cafeteria in the fall of 1948, and the fledgling Saga Corporation was born. The name of the Colleges’ dining hall – the Great Hall of Saga – is an homage to Anderson, Scandling and Laughlin.
At the yacht club in Geneva, Anderson met his future wife Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson, then a student at nearby D’Youville College. Hunk and Moo both graduated in 1949 and were married in 1950. By then, Saga was up and running at several colleges, and when the national headquarters opened in Menlo Park, Calif., in the early 1960s, the Andersons settled in the San Francisco Bay area. Saga continued to grow and in 1968 went public, selling 321,000 shares of common stock. By 1974, Saga was serving more than 400 million meals a year, held 587 food service accounts and owned 241 restaurants. In 1986, Saga was sold to the Marriot Corporation.
On a trip to Europe in 1964, the Andersons embarked on what would become a lifelong passion for painting and sculpture. When they returned to San Francisco, they initially sought out works of late 19th and early 20th century masters, but as they collected, studied and researched, they were increasingly drawn to abstract expressionism. With guidance from Stanford University faculty historians and artists, the Andersons enriched their artistic education and made inroads with key personalities in the New York art world. By 1975, the Anderson Collection was taking shape as what would become one of the world’s most substantial gatherings of modern and contemporary American art.
In 2014, the Anderson donated more than 120 works to Stanford. Embodying their attention to the vision and craft of the artists – “the head and the hands,” as Anderson put it in a 2015 Pulteney St. Survey interview – the collection features 86 artists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn and Willem de Kooning, and represents some of the most noteworthy movements in 20th century painting and sculpture.
In the past, pieces from the collection were loaned to museums and special exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. The Andersons also gifted significant portions of their collection to these museums, including their extensive Pop Art collection and their gift of seven Frank Stella paintings to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and more than 650 graphic works to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, establishing the Anderson Graphic Arts Collection at the de Young Museum.
That philanthropy, Anderson said, was “an overall philosophy that we’ve had about collecting. Moo and I have always liked the idea of leaving this good earth having made it a grain of salt better because we’ve been here.”
Hobart and William Smith Colleges awarded Anderson with an honorary degree in 1967. In 1997, he received the Hobart Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Hobart Medal of Excellence, awarded to an alumnus who, by reason of outstanding accomplishments in his particular business, profession or community service, has brought honor and distinction to his alma mater.
Anderson is survived by his wife Moo; their daughter, Mary Patricia “Putter” Anderson Pence, an art advisor in Los Angeles; and a granddaughter.