Walter Paepcke

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Walter Paepcke (1896–1960) was a U.S. industrialist and philanthropist prominent in the middle-20th century.


A longtime executive of the Chicago-based Container Corporation of America, Paepcke is best noted for his founding of the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Skiing Company in the early 1950s, both of which helped transform the town of Aspen, Colorado into an international resort destination and popularize the sport of skiing in the United States.

In 1949 Paepcke made Aspen the site for a celebration of the 200th birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Albert Schweitzer, Jose Ortega y Gasset, Thornton Wilder, and Artur Rubinstein all attended the celebration. The next year, Paepcke created what is now the Aspen Institute.

Paepcke hired Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer and brought him to Aspen to promote the project through poster design and other design work; Paepcke was also the patron of fellow Bauhaus figure László Moholy-Nagy by financing the rebirth of the American New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1939.The New Bauhaus also had links to the Armour Institute of Technology.

In 1951 he founded the seminal International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA) to provide a forum for discussion on design, “where the human spirit can flourish”. The primary IDCA objective was to connect culture with commerce by inviting both international business and industry leaders together with representatives from various commercial design fields such as industrial design, graphic design and architecture, as well as those in the fine arts and fields such as psychology, filmmaking and literature. The annual conference format included keynote speakers, workshops, panel discussions and informal, social gatherings. These activities naturally integrated those from commerce and culture into settings that stimulated dialogue, debate and insights. The existence of IDCA established a key collaborative forum on the topic on managing design within corporations for the benefit of society, as well as adding value to business. IDCA was held every June in Aspen from 1951 to 2004.

Paepcke's wife, Elizabeth Paepcke, was the sister of American diplomatic figure Paul Nitze. Walter and Elizabeth founded the Aspen Music Festival and School in 1949, and Walter served as the festival's director until 1954 when he appointed baritone Mack Harrell to take over.[1]

Mr. Paepcke was a 1913 graduate of the Latin School of Chicago.


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