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Walter A. Haas Sr. (May 11, 1889 – December 7, 1979), son of the founder of Hellman-Haas Grocery (which became Smart & Final), was the president and chairman of Levi Strauss & Co. Haas was credited with saving the once struggling company.

Walter A. Haas Sr.
BornMay 11, 1889
DiedDecember 7, 1979(1979-12-07) (aged 90)
San Francisco, California
NationalityUnited States
EducationB.S. University of California-Berkeley
Known forPresident of Levi Strauss & Co.
Spouse(s)Elise Stern
ChildrenRhoda Haas Goldman
Peter E. Haas
Walter A. Haas Jr.
Parent(s)Fanny Koshland
Abraham Haas
FamilyJohn D. Goldman (grandson)
Douglas E. Goldman (grandson)
Susie Gelman (granddaughter)
Peter E. Haas Jr. (grandson)
Bob Haas (grandson)
Simon Koshland (grandfather)

Early life and educationEdit

Haas was born to a Jewish family, one of four children of Abraham Haas and Fanny Koshland.[1] His father was an immigrant from Bavaria who founded the Hellman, Hass and Company which eventually became the Smart & Final grocery store chain.[1] His mother was the daughter of Simon Koshland, one of the most successful wool merchants in San Francisco.[2] His siblings were Charles, Ruth (1891), and Eleanor (1900).[3] In 1910, Haas graduated with a BS degree from the University of California, Berkeley College of Commerce.[4] Haas served in the U.S. Army Field Artillery during World War I.[4]


Upon his return to the United States in 1919, he worked at the Levi Strauss & Company, then a small drygoods wholesaler and maker of work clothing, owned by the family of his wife. In 1928, he became president and served in that position until 1955; thereafter, he served as chairman until 1970 and remained active in company affairs until his death in 1979.[4] Haas' tenure and dedication at Levi Strauss – along with that of his business partner and brother-in-law Daniel E. Koshland Sr., father of biochemist Daniel E. Koshland Jr.[5] – is widely credited with saving the company leading it through the Great Depression, racial integration at its factories, the global popularization of the Levi brand, and the creation of the Levi Strauss Foundation.[6]

Politics and philanthropyEdit

A Republican, he was an alternate delegate to the 1952 Republican National Convention. He was Jewish, and served as president of the San Francisco Jewish Welfare Federation.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1914, Haas married Elise Stern, daughter of Sigmund Stern, the son of David Stern and the nephew of Levi Strauss[4][7] (Strauss had died unmarried and without children and deeded his company to his four nephews).[8] Haas had three children: Rhoda Haas Goldman, Peter E. Haas, and Walter A. Haas Jr.[9] In 1989, the University of California, Berkeley Regents voted to rename the business school the Haas School of Business in his honor, after a large gift from the Haas family.[4]