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HEC Honors Memory of Gentleman Giant Francis Gautier

HEC Paris paid homage to recently-deceased Foundation testator, Francis Gautier (H44), by dedicating one of the campus’ Remarkable Trees to his memory. An open-air ceremony brought together his son, friends and former colleagues, as a plaque was unveiled beside a towering Douglas fir tree near the campus sports fields and lake.

HEC Paris - Hommage à Francis Gautier

Before passing away last December, Francis Gautier designated HEC Foundation among his legatees by particular title, thus becoming one of the school’s Major Donors. “Francis had one of the most colorful lives in French business,” confided Jean-François Iché (H70), a former colleague at Colgate who made the trip up from Biarritz to be at the October 2 ceremony. Spanning almost a century – Gautier passed away on December 7, 2017, aged 94 –he had followed up his HEC graduation in 1944 by joining the ranks of General George Patton’s intelligence service. Soon after he embarked on a glittering business career, first at Colgate and then, between 1971 and 1984, at BSN. As Director General, Gautier helped transform this glass company into what was later to become one of the world’s biggest dairy companies, Danone.

Georges Lecallier, the man to succeed Gautier at the helm of BSN in 1984, was clearly moved by a colleague who had accompanied him throughout his professional life: “One word sums up Francis: elegance. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, and it didn’t matter what social background you were from, he always treated you with deference.”

HEC Paris - Hommage à Francis Gautier - Plaque

Lakeside Tree Homage

At the afternoon ceremony, HEC Dean Peter Todd underlined his visionary qualities: “Francis Gautier symbolized HEC’s international spirit as a business champion, not only in France, but throughout the world.”

For those gathered on a windy autumnal day, the choice of a Douglas fir tree to honor his memory was appropriate: “We chose this tree because it symbolizes the upright character my father had,” noted his son Benoît Gautier. He added that the family had planted several to mark their attachment to a tree that is iconic on the west coast of North America. “His spirit will live on here.” Pointing to the rugby players practicing on the adjoining sports field, he concluded: “My father was a towering athlete, almost two meters tall, who loved sports, so the tree’s perfectly placed.”

Francis Gautier became the third HEC Alumnus whose memory is being honored by one of the school’s rarest trees. In 2015, Pierre Ledoux (H35) was designated as the first Alumnus the school paid homage with a bald cypress. A year later, Jean Laverré (H49) was attributed a catalpa, also known in its native United States as the Indian bean tree. Next year, HEC will dedicate a tree to the memory of another recently-departed Alumnus, Yves Blin, who graduated in 1954.