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Erivan Haub, Business Tycoon and Philanthropist

September 21, 2018
man and woman
Helga and Erivan Haub

Head of German grocery company Tengelmann, Erivan Haub fell in love with the American West.

By Tamara Linse

The generous philanthropy of Erivan and Helga Haub launched the study of the environment and natural resources at the University of Wyoming to new heights.

In 2004, the Haubs gave UW a gift of $3 million, which was doubled by state matching, and this program was renamed the Helga Otto Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources in their honor.

“The support of Erivan Haub and his wife Helga has meant the world to the University of Wyoming and its School of Environment and Natural Resources,” says UW President Laurie S. Nichols. “The study of the environment and natural resources plays a vital role in many disciplines across campus and in the future of our great state. The Haubs are a great example of what can be accomplished when you center your support on an issue that one cares deeply about.”

The mission of the Haub School is to advance the understanding and resolution of complex environmental and natural resources challenges. It supports students, stakeholders and decision makers by giving them the skills and tools they need to build durable, inclusive solutions to our most pressing environmental and natural resource issues.

“Erivan Haub and his family transformed the Haub School with their endowment gift,” says Melinda Harm Benson, dean of the Haub School. “Our international travel experiences, field courses and scholarships for students are all made possible by their generosity to the university and their vision for Wyoming.”

Originally from Germany, the Haubs own a ranch in Sublette County, where they summered for the past 30 years, and they were longtime members of the Haub School board of directors. Their family-owned company, the Tengelmann Group, encompasses retail operations in many categories, as well as real estate and venture capital activities in 20 countries. The Haubs have made sustainability a top priority in all their business ventures.

Their vision is for the Haub School to further environmental education, to create stronger awareness of the pressing issues related to the vast natural resources in Wyoming, and to support the development of guidelines to help decision making in local and state governments.

“Erivan is among the most gracious individuals I have known,” says Indy Burke, former director of the William D. Ruckelshaus Institute and Haub School. “He had a wonderful sense of humor and always had a twinkle in his eye. He loved his family, Western art and wildlife—and he loved Wyoming and all of their very close friends through the Ruckelshaus Institute and the Haub School. We will all miss him—he was an incredible model of humility, generosity and warmth.”

Erivan died March 6, 2018, at the age of 85 in Pinedale, Wyo.

“Erivan Haub was a most generous and committed friend of UW,” says Harold Bergman, former director of the Ruckelshaus Institute and Haub School. “His substantial endowment gift to the School of Environment and Natural Resources leading to the naming of the school to honor his equally committed wife, Helga Otto Haub, will live on to benefit Haub School students for many generations to come. Our heartfelt thanks to Erivan and his wonderful family!” 

The success of the Haub School is a testament to the vision of Erivan and Helga Haub and their support of our shared future.

From Germany to Wyoming

Erivan Haub was born in 1932 in Wiesbaden, Germany. He grew up reading novels about the American West. “In America, you feel immediately free,” he once said.

After graduating high school, he completed a retail apprenticeship and then a traineeship program in North America in the early 1950s. While working for commercial retailers in Chicago and Los Angeles, he fell in love with the United States and the American West. In fact, he became an avid collector of the art of the American Western—a love he developed during the time he spent on his ranch near Pinedale, Wyo., where he raised a herd of American bison.

He returned to Germany and studied at the University of Hamburg under famous economist Karl Schiller, graduating from the University of Mainz with a degree in economics. While at university, he met the love of his life, Helga. They married in 1958 and had three boys, Karl-Erivan, Georg and Christian. All three were born in Tacoma, Wash.

Erivan then set about building one of the most successful German businesses, the Tengelmann Group, into an international retail empire spanning Europe and North America, including the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, AKA the A&P. Erivan entered the family business in Germany in 1963, and when his uncle died in 1969, he assumed fourth-generation leadership. He immediately expanded the company, which was a German mid-sized food retail business. Under his leadership, the company grew quickly by acquiring key competitors and launching innovative new concepts, becoming Germany’s largest supermarket operator.

It was 1979 when Erivan fulfilled a lifelong dream of expanding to America. The Tengelmann Group invested in A&P, the U.S.’s oldest supermarket chain. He also expanded across Europe and invested in home improvement retail enterprise OBI in Germany and the clothing discount retailer KiK. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the company entered new markets in Eastern Europe, which fueled unprecedented growth that culminated in the Tengelmann Group becoming one of the largest privately owned retail companies in the world.

As evidenced by his support of the Haub School, Erivan was also was passionate about the environment. This was inspired by his mother Elisabeth, who was one of the first environmentalists in Germany in the late 1960s. As a result, his companies embraced sustainable business practices throughout his business enterprise long before they became mainstream and won numerous awards and recognition for its leadership in this area.

Philanthropic Achievements

Ever generous, Erivan and Helga supported those institutions of higher learning that aligned with their values. In addition to their support of UW, they previously established the Erivan K. Haub Program in Business and Sustainability at York University in Toronto, Canada, in 1991—one of the first programs of its kind in the world. They also supported the Erivan Karl Haub Executive Center and Haub School of Business at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, the George C. Marshall International Center in Leesburg, Va., Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and the Tacoma Art Museum.

In 2004, Erivan told the Casper-Star Tribune that he and his wife “feel honored that we can do something for the University of Wyoming because we were highly impressed by the work you do.”

“Erivan was a remarkable leader,” says Ben Blalock, president/CEO of the UW Foundation. “He and Helga’s life partnership was such a pleasure to witness. Erivan to me was far more than a major UW contributor. He was a friend. I miss him greatly.”

For his accomplishments in fostering the German-American friendship, Erivan was awarded the Dr. Leo M. Goodman Award by the American Chamber of Commerce in 1996. In 2004, the Federal Republic of Germany awarded him the Federal Cross of Merit, Germany’s highest civil award for his lifetime achievements and contributions in business, culture, and society and especially for the environment.

In 2000, Erivan transferred the leadership of the Tengelmann Group to his sons, Karl-Erivan and Christian, and served as chair of the company’s advisory board. After turning 80, he decided to retire to his Wyoming ranch, working on his stamp collection and overseeing his herd of bison. Shy of publicity, he stayed out of the public eye in his later years.

We cannot thank Erivan Haub enough for his generous support of the Haub School, not to mention his worldwide impact on philanthropy, education and business. He was ever the generous philanthropist, supporting the well-being of his vast army of employees and embracing many causes in the communities his company served. He will be sorely missed.

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