Obituary: John C. Whitehead

John C. Whitehead, a Wall Street banker who led Goldman, Sachs & Co.'s international expansion in the 1970s and '80s and later was founding chairman of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, died Saturday. Mr. Whitehead, 92, was the step father of a New Canaan resident.

Mr. Whitehead was raised in Montclair, N.J., where he learned to play the violin and became an Eagle Scout. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Haverford College in 1943 where he served on the Board of Managers for more than 30 years and was its chairman for 10 years. After his graduation, Mr. Whitehead served in the U.S. Navy where he was involved in the first wave of the invasion of Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He earned an MBA from Harvard University graduating with distinction in 1947. Whitehead then joined Goldman Sachs where he was named partner in 1956. In 1976, he became senior partner and co-chairman and helped take the company global.

Mr. Whitehead served on the board of numerous companies and as director of the New York Stock exchange as well as chairman of the Securities Industry Association.  He was appointed U.S. Deputy Secretary of State under George Schultz. For his service to his country he was awarded The Presidential Citizens Medal by President Ronald Reagan.

After the 9/11 attacks, then-Governor George Pataki asked Mr. Whitehead to lead the board of the Manhattan Lower Development Corporation. A news release from the 9/11 Memorial stated: “In the wake of 9/11, amidst devastation and loss, our great city and nation needed a true leader to help guide the recovery and revitalization of lower Manhattan.” The Memorial Center has declared that the lights be shining up through the World Trade Center tridents until Mr. Whitehead’s funeral.

Whitehead has received numerous honorary degrees, from Haverford College, Amherst College and Harvard University to name just a few.  Additionally, Mr. Whitehead was an active member of educational, civic and charitable organizations including Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the United Nations Association, the International Rescue Committee, the New York Councils of the Boy Scouts, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Harvard Board of Overseers, and the Asia Society. He also served as director of the Nature Conservancy, Lincoln Center Theatre, The EastWest Institute and the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships and was also a former director of Rockefeller University, the J. Paul Getty Trust, Outward Bound, and the National Humanities Center. Whitehead was chairman emeritus of the Brooking Institution and the Trustees Council of the National Gallery of Art.  He was part owner of the NJ Devils for almost 20 years and enjoyed collecting Impressionist art.

Mr. Whitehead is survived by his wife, Cynthia Matthews Whitehead, three children from a previous marriage, seven stepchildren including New Canaan resident Kim Matthews, and eighteen step-grandchildren including Ms. Matthews’ children, William, Henry and Anne Greer.

Ms. Matthews and her children said how fortunate they were to be a part of this great man’s life, especially on a personal level as he shared his kindness, humility and great sense of humor. “He was beloved and we will miss him terribly”.

In the spirit of his philanthropy, any donations — no matter how small — would be greatly appreciated to: The Whitehead Mindfulness Initiative at Haverford College, c/o Institutional Advancement, 370 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, PA 19041, or visit

—by The Darien Times