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Remembering Arthur Pancoe

Alumni Medalist helped make Northwestern a modern powerhouse.

Pancoe Obit
Arthur Pancoe

February 28, 2023

Dedicated philanthropist, investment executive and scholar Arthur Pancoe ’51 MS passed away on Jan. 16. He was 97.

After enlisting in the U.S. Navy and serving in the Pacific theater during World War II, Pancoe began his career as a junior executive for a mail-order company before earning his master’s degree in mathematics at Northwestern. He later served as vice president of his family’s business, Standard Stationery Supply, and taught mathematics to fellow veterans. Additionally, he was involved in real estate development, also a family business. Pancoe became a stockbroker when the family’s companies were sold in 1973.

Most recently he was executive director of investments at the Pancoe Nakovich Vishnubhakat Group at Morgan Stanley. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Pancoe was a senior managing partner with Bear Stearns & Co. and vice president for sales with the stock brokerage firm Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.

Pancoe began investing in pharmaceutical firms because of his family’s history of heart disease. He also specialized in the stocks of oil and life insurance companies. Pancoe noted that his success at discovering profitable drugs before they were fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was due to his ability to read clinical test reports, an ability he attributed to his graduate mathematics education from Northwestern.

In the 1960s and ’70s Pancoe was a leader and scholar on national environmental and weapons issues. He took highly public stands against the construction of nuclear power plants in the Chicago area and the Sentinel antiballistic missile system. He was also a strong advocate for the use of now-standard catalytic converters in cars.

A recipient of the “Big Pi” award from Pi Lambda Phi fraternity for accomplishments in social action and philanthropy, Pancoe was named one of the 10 best stockbrokers in the U.S. by Town & Country and Financial World magazines.

A Northwestern Alumni Medal recipient, Pancoe was deeply involved in the Northwestern community, serving as a member of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors and several other advisory boards, including for the Center for Life Processes Institute and the Kellogg School of Management’s Center for Biotechnology.

“Art Pancoe was a wonderful supporter of Northwestern, and a great friend to me as president and personally over 27 years,” says former Northwestern President Henry Bienen 09 H, who spoke with Pancoe weekly for decades. “Art was a mathematician and a great biotech investor. He and his late wife, Hap, were driven to support causes and institutions they cared about ... Leigh and I were lucky to have him in our lives, and we mourn his passing.”

Pancoe made significant gifts to support creation of the Arthur and Gladys Pancoe–NorthShore University Health System Life Sciences Pavilion at Northwestern and establish the Arthur and Gladys Pancoe Professorship in Mathematics at the Weinberg College, currently held by Zhihong Jeff Xia. A generous gift from Pancoe created the Gladys “Hap” Pancoe Memorial Garden near the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, home of the Bienen School of Music. He also contributed to the Bienen School of Music, the McCormick School of Engineering and Northwestern Athletics, in addition to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.  

“Arthur Pancoe’s legacy will live on through his generosity toward and love for Northwestern,” says Northwestern President Michael Schill. “From the Memorial Garden to the Pancoe Pavilion, Arthur and his family have made an indelible impact on the University and campus community. We extend our deepest condolences to his loved ones, and we cherish his memory.”

Pancoe received a Merit Award in 1998 and the Northwestern Alumni Medal, the Northwestern Alumni Association’s highest honor, in 2003.

At the ceremony, Pancoe acknowledged the professors who introduced him to the methods and theories that served as the basis for his life’s work. He also recalled how uncalculated events, like being chosen during World War II by New Trier High School to skip his senior year to attend what is now the McCormick School of Engineering (he later earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics at the University of Wisconsin), influenced his personal development on campus and later in life. “Serendipity has played a major role in my good fortune,” he told the audience. “I know it’s not scientific, but I’m a great believer in it.”

Beyond Northwestern, Pancoe made charitable contributions to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and NorthShore University HealthSystem. A former member of the visiting committee to the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, Pancoe was also a former secretary of the New Trier Educational Foundation, a former trustee of North Shore Congregation Israel and past president of the South Deere Park Association. Pancoe was active with the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and involved with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In addition to his extensive philanthropic service, Pancoe enjoyed fishing on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin and skiing in Vail, Colo.

Born Oct. 23, 1925, to Morris and Florence Pancoe, Arthur Pancoe was one of five children. Arthur and his wife, the late Gladys L. “Hap” Freed Pancoe, had two children, Mariann and Michael, and four grandchildren, Beth, Julia, Hannah Pancoe 13 and Alexander. Alex Pancoe, Mariann Pancoe’s son, is a Northwestern graduate and associate vice president, financial adviser and portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley.

Arthur Pancoe’s late granddaughter, Beth Elise Pancoe, the daughter of Michael and his wife, Eleanor, died of acute myelogenous leukemia in 1999 after completing two years of study at Northwestern. The Arthur and Gladys Pancoe–NorthShore University HealthSystem Life Sciences Pavilion at Northwestern is dedicated in her memory.

“Art Pancoe was a longtime friend to Northwestern University,” said former University President Morton Schapiro, “and he will be missed by his Northwestern family.”


A memorial service is planned for June 17 at Northwestern. Please reach out to Alex Pancoe for more information.

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