Harry F. Magnuson, 85, a 40-year member of Gonzaga University’s first modern Board of Trustees, who served five years as its chair, and whose legendary philanthropy saved Gonzaga from closing in the early 1970s, died Saturday night (Jan. 24) at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
Harry F. Magnuson
Magnuson, a native of Wallace, Idaho, whose long affiliation with Gonzaga began in 1967 as a member of the Board of Regents, died of cardiac arrest after being admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. The funeral was at 11 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 29 at St. Aloysius Church on the Gonzaga campus with reception to follow at Cataldo Hall, located across a courtyard, northeast from the church.
In a 2003 article in a Gonzaga University alumni publication, former Gonzaga President Rev. Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., wrote about the time Magnuson personally guaranteed Gonzaga’s credit. Gonzaga’s bank credit was exhausted and its doors would close at semester’s end. “You can’t do that to Gonzaga University,” Magnuson told the bank’s chair. And Magnuson proceeded to personally guarantee, with his own assets, the credit of the University and kept its doors open.
Magnuson graduated from the University of Idaho and earned an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He received many honors but two he especially cherished were an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Gonzaga University in 1984 and an honorary Doctor of Administrative Sciences degree from the University of Idaho in 1989.
Magnuson’s sharp investments in North Idaho mining operations placed him among Idaho’s titans of philanthropy and business. His longtime friend and former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus called Magnuson a “giant” who left an incredible legacy of giving back to the community, the state and the region.
"There would not be on the map today a city called Wallace, Idaho, if it wasn't for Harry Magnuson," Andrus told the Associated Press. "He made absolutely certain that city did not disappear."
In December, Gonzaga dedicated the Harry and Colleen Magnuson Theatre in gratitude for the couple’s gift to renovate the theater. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 and is survived by wife, Colleen, three sons, two daughters and nine grandchildren.