William Charles “Bill” Hanson

Every game must come to an end and for Bill Hanson that was all a part of it. William Charles “Bill” Hanson passed away July 15, 2020, due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Bill led the quintessential American life. He was born in San Mateo, CA, on December 20, 1939, to Elmer and Elizabeth Hanson, joining his beloved older sister Karen. Bill grew up playing baseball and basketball and generally enjoying the outdoors in the San Francisco Bay area. He also spent his formative summers between 1948 and 1956 with his grandparents and cousins in the Seattle area and at his Hanson grandparents’ camp on Puget Sound. His cousins were like brothers and sisters to him. After graduating Menlo-Atherton High School, Bill first attended Willamette University in Oregon and later transferred to Stanford University School of Engineering, where he earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Industrial Engineering. Bill met the love of his life, Bette Benidt, in high school. The two married in June of 1961, forging a lifelong partnership.

Bill began his life with Bette in the Bay Area, becoming the proud father of daughter Susan in 1963 and son Richard in 1966, while he began his career. In 1967, Bill and Bette made the bold choice to leave warm and familiar California for snowy and foreign Massachusetts to join newly-started Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in Maynard. They settled in Acton, and the family was made complete by the arrival of their third child Carolyn in 1969.

DEC is where Bill made his name. Initially given the responsibility of opening new plants in places as diverse as Puerto Rico and Scotland, Bill ultimately rose to lead global manufacturing. Bill’s signature initiative at DEC, however, was instilling a culture of diversity, which came to be known as “Valuing Differences”. Recognizing that the next great idea could come from anywhere or anyone, Bill then went on to form cross-industry alliances in an attempt to extend learning and knowledge.

It was this spirit that led Bill to MIT, where the “Leaders for Manufacturing” program was started. Bill brought his industry experience and relationships together with academia to truly promote interdisciplinary education and life-long learning. Bill moved full-time from DEC to MIT in 1996, where his greatest joy was working directly with the students. In fact, Bill formed many deep and lasting bonds with colleagues at both DEC and MIT, which he truly cherished.

Though never sedentary, Bill retired in 2012 to Mashpee on Cape Cod, where he and Bette had lived since 1998. Walking, reading, golfing and traveling were Bill’s favorite pastimes, but Bill’s greatest accomplishment is also his legacy. He was most proud of the family that he and Bette created together. He was as involved and active as a father and grandfather could be and supported each of his children’s and grandchildren’s dreams and passions with great pride. Bill coached his son’s baseball team and daughter’s softball team (and – vocally, but unofficially – the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and any other team or player for which he felt passion). Bill delighted in being “Pops” to 11 grandchildren and 1 great-granddaughter. He lived by the belief that we should always work together, learn from one another, and do the right and kind thing. Bill will be remembered as being unfailingly kind, whip smart, and full of wonder.

Bill is survived by his wife of 59 years, Bette, his children: Susan (Simon) Wall of Mansfield, MA, Richard (Laura Wedemeyer) of Hopkinton, MA, and Carolyn (Bradley) Zolla of Loveland, OH, his grandchildren: Anna, Karina, and Celia Craft, Zachary, Kira, and Cyrus Hanson, Abby, Pippa, and Winnie Zolla, and Emily and Charlotte Wall, and his 3-year old great-granddaughter Bradleigh, as well as his sister-in-law Judy, brother-in-law Jim, dear cousins, nieces and nephews, and many friends who feel like family.

Services will be private at this time, but there will be a celebration of Bill’s life when appropriate. Though Bill would request no contributions, please feel free to contribute to a charity of your choice or the Alzheimer’s Association in his memory.

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