Born in 1913, native Angeleno William H. Hannon dedicated his life to giving back to his community. His father, a rancher, and his mother, a homemaker, instilled in him a love of the history of the region. Upon graduation from Loyola High School in 1933, Hannon had his heart set on attending Loyola University of Los Angeles, which had just opened their campus in 1930 in a remote rural area of the City of Los Angeles, which would become Westchester.
However, the money for such a college education was not something Hannon’s parents could afford. That did not dissuade him. With the support of his mother, he proposed an arrangement to the President of Loyola University. Hannon promised that if he was accepted by the university for his undergraduate studies, upon graduation and finding employment, he would pay his debt back in full. That promise, which began with a handshake, was the beginning of a lifelong dedication to, and support of, his alma mater.
Upon graduation from Loyola University, Hannon served as an intelligence officer in the army. Shortly thereafter in 1937, he was offered a job by Fritz B. Burns on the sales team of Marlow-Burns & Company. He had met Burns at the beach in Playa del Rey while he was a student. That friendship and business relationship would last for more than 40 years. He quickly became the Sales Manager for the commercial and residential properties for the Westchester and Playa del Rey communities.
Together, they subdivided thousands of acres in Westchester, then built and sold homes to veterans returning from World War II. He served on the board of directors of the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, both as an officer and a director, as well as president, from 1978 until 1994.
Hannon also became a major partner in the development of several other industrial parks, hotels and shopping centers in the Los Angeles region. Hannon continued in the real estate business independently and had an office in Playa del Rey. He was known as an innovator for his creative thinking and constantly dictating and/or notating his ideas.
In 1983, Hannon forged his own philanthropy by founding the William H. Hannon Foundation. Over the years, the Hannon Foundation has supported many Catholic schools, missions and hospitals, as well as numerous other public and private nonprofit organizations in Southern California. The foundation continues to generously support community projects and organizations within the Westchester and Playa del Rey area. Hannon was also very proud to be named a Knight of St. Gregory and to receive the 1994 Cardinal’s Award from the leader of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
As he had promised, Hannon became a major benefactor of his alma mater, which would be renamed Loyola Marymount University in 1973. In addition to donations, he also served as an Honorary Trustee and a Regent Emeritus. His contributions and generosity are memorialized in the campus’ Hannon Apartments named after his mother, Eugenie B. Hannon, Hannon Field and the William H. Hannon Library.
I am proud to say I had the opportunity to meet Hannon, joining him for lunch at the old Carl’s Jr. in Playa del Rey, to discuss a community project. He was truly a gentleman. His passing in 1999 left a memorable legacy, now carried on by his niece Kathleen Hannon Aikenhead, President of the William H. Hannon Foundation.
This is the second article in a series about Westchester Pioneers.
By Cozette Vergari
Cozette is an attorney and lifelong resident of Westchester. She is the President of the Westchester/Playa Historical Society. Together with a group of dedicated volunteers, the organization is working on creating new programming and events to celebrate the history of the area and engage the community in preserving it for future generations.
Posted February 2021.