The Families of Adam Keith
“Once upon a time ...”, family facts and tales
George Keith Funston [1910-1992]
Ancestry: Adam Keith1>Johann Jacob Keith2>Jacob Keith3>Samuel Edward Keith4>Genevieve [Keith] m. [George Edward] Funston5>George Keith Funston6
Keith Funston, Head of Big Board Through '50s Revival, Dies at 81
By BARNABY J. FEDER
Published: May 16, 1992
George Keith Funston, who proclaimed himself a "salesman of shares in America" while leading the New York Stock Exchange through a period of rapid expansion and revival of influence in the 1950's, died in his sleep yesterday morning at his summer home in Greenwich, Conn. He was 81 years old and lived most of the year in Sanibel, Fla.
He died of a heart attack, his wife said.
Mr. Funston, who did not use his first name, preferring to be called Keith, was a tall man with a powerful voice and a flair for public relations. When he left the presidency of Trinity College, Hartford, to become president of the New York Stock Exchange in 1951, just over six million Americans were investors in corporate stocks. During his 16 years at the Big Board, that figure tripled and trading volumes soared.
Mr. Funston had little knowledge of the exchange's operations when he arrived, but he came armed with many contacts throughout the corporate world and in Washington after serving on the War Production Board in World War II. With a keen sense of the climate of the times, he preached that investments in American companies were a means of battling Communism during the cold war and set up a program that allowed small investors to buy stock by putting up as little as $40 a quarter. He called it people's capitalism. Exchange Chairman's Tribute
In 1961 Mr. Funston warned the public against excessive speculation and then played a leading role in restoring confidence after a crash in the price of stock the next year. He also won praise for backing measures to discipline specialists who failed to follow trading rules in the panic after President John F. Kennedy's assassination and for helping to raise $12 million in 1963 to cover the debts of Ira Haupt & Company, an exchange company caught up in speculation on vegetable oil futures. The actions helped stave off calls for much stricter regulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
William H. Donaldson, chairman of the exchange, said yesterday, "Keith Funston came to Wall Street as an outsider, but quickly established himself as one of the New York Stock Exchange's most effective leaders."
Mr. Funston was born Oct. 12, 1910, in Waterloo, Iowa, but spent most of his youth in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was valedictorian of the Class of 1932 at Trinity College. Two years later he received an M.B.A. degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He then spent a year at the school as a researcher.
He began his business career in 1935 as a sales executive of the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation and moved to the treasurer's office in 1938. He joined Sylvania Electric Products as director of sales planning in 1940 and was soon promoted to director of purchasing. He took a leave of absence from Sylvania in late 1941 to serve as special assistant to Sidney J. Weinberg, deputy chairman of the War Production Board, and later to Donald M. Nelson, the board's chairman.
Mr. Funston left the board in early 1944 to become assistant director, with the rank of lieutenant commander, at the United States Navy's Industrial Readjustment Branch. In June 1944, while in that post, he was named president of Trinity, although he did not assume the post until November 1945. He maintained close ties to the college long after his move to Wall Street in 1951.
After leaving the exchange in 1967, Mr. Funston became part-time chairman of the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. He held that post until 1972, along with many other corporate directorships.
Mr. Funston's survivors, in addition to his wife, the former Elizabeth Kennedy, include two daughters, Marguerite Thatcher of Greenwich and Elizabeth Gail Wasson of Lebanon, N.H.; a son, G. Keith Funston Jr. of Sudbury, Mass., and eight grandchildren.