The Acton Institute lost a great friend and staunch supporter on Sunday with the passing of Ralph Hauenstein at the age of 103 years. In a truly remarkable life, Hauenstein was by turns a journalist, a war hero, an entrepreneur, and a major philanthropist. I recall interviewing him at a sold out Acton Lecture Series in 2007 about his history-making espionage experiences as General Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of the Intelligence Branch. He had recently published Intelligence Was My Line: Inside Eisenhower’s Other Command, a book authored with Donald Markle. Hauenstein was one of the first Americans to enter Nazi concentration camps and other parts of liberated Europe in 1945. At that Acton lecture, he recounted his horrific firsthand encounter with the Dachau death camp, the crucial codebook he found at the site of a plane crash in Iceland, and various tactics Eisenhower’s intelligence operatives employed to win the war.
In 2009, I addressed the Hauenstein Center’s Peter Cook Leadership Fellows at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and started the talk this way:
I need to say right at the outset how honored I am to be participating in an event at the Hauenstein Center because of my very high regard for Ralph Hauenstein. He and his wife have been friends just about as long as I’ve been in Grand Rapids, and I don’t know if you’ve gotten to know him … but always something new pops up…. He is a discreet man, a very modest man. You have to kind of drag out of him these little events, and one of these that I found so fascinating is that he was actually at the Second Vatican Council in 1962 or 1963. I’ve forgotten which session he was at. But we were talking about his remembrances of that, for a Catholic that was the notable event in our lifetime…. So to speak under the banner of this Center is a particular honor, and to speak on this topic is a particular honor.
You can read much more about him at the Hauenstein Center site.
In a story on the MLive news site, Hauenstein summed up his life’s philosophy: “Those who are dedicated, who are courageous, who are visionary; those who hold fast to their ideals; those who don’t lose faith — these are the Americans who make a difference, who live good lives of leadership and service.”
If it’s possible to sum up in a single sentence such an exceptional life — one that spanned more than a century — that was Ralph Hauenstein. Requiescat in pace.