Maurice H. Stans, a Shakopee philanthropist, enjoyed a successful career in both the public and private sector. Born in Shakopee, Minnesota in 1908, he received his primary education at St. Mark’s School and graduated from Shakopee High School in 1925 with highest honors. He studied accounting at Northwestern University, in Chicago, and at Columbia in New York.
In the early years of the Great Depression, Stans worked at the firm’s New York office investigating insurance claims. Stans became a junior partner after obtaining his Certified Public Accounting certificate in 1931. At Grant’s request, Stans transferred back to Chicago to rebuild the struggling company.
He spent more than twenty-five years in public accounting. In 1928 Stans became a junior partner in the CPA firm of Alexander Grant and Co., by 1940 he was an Executive Partner, a position he held until 1955. When Stans started working at Alexander Grant it was a small accounting firm with only five partners and a dozen employees working out of small offices in Chicago and New York. When he left in 1955, Alexander Grant and Company had grown into a national organization with offices in twenty cities and approximately five hundred employees.
Stans actively supported the creation of nationwide accounting standards, speaking widely on the issue. He chaired the production of the first CPA (Certified Public Accounting) Handbook by the American Institutes of Accountants in 1950. In 1955 Stans was elected President of the American Institute of CPA’s and received its annual Gold Medal Award for distinguished public service.
Maurice Stans served during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential administration as Deputy Postmaster General, Deputy Director, and Director of the Bureau of the Budget. After returning to the private sector as a business consultant in the 1960’s, Maurice Stans was named by Richard Nixon to be Secretary of Commerce (January 21, 1969 – February 15, 1972), the first accountant to achieve a cabinet position.
In 1969, the Office of Minority Business Enterprise was created by Executive Order. As Secretary of Commerce, Stans oversaw the development and implementation of this program. Other achievements and legislation while serving as Secretary of Commerce include the creation of the Office of Telecommunications, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Technical Information Service. Perhaps the most significant of these achievements was the Office of Minority Business Enterprise. The purpose of this Federal program was to increase the number of minority owned businesses in the United States. During the three years Stans served as Secretary of Commerce, there was a nineteen percent increase in minority owned businesses.
Stans resigned his post as Secretary of Commerce in 1972 to serve as Chairman of the Finance Committee for President Nixon’s re-election campaign. The campaign had two committees; the fund-raising committee, responsible for soliciting donations, and the campaign committee, responsible for strategy and determining when, where, and how to expend the money raised by the fundraising committee. Maurice Stans was entangled in the Watergate scandal while serving as Finance Chairman for President Nixon’s re-election campaign.
The scandal started when five men were caught breaking in to the Democratic Party’s national headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington D.C with the intent to place surveillance devices in the office. During the investigation of these men, it was discovered that one of the men had deposited a check in their personal account intended as a campaign contribution for Nixon. The money and trail lead back to the some of the men working on the campaign end of Nixon’s re-election bid. A failed cover-up ensued. These and other suspicious incidents led to the General Accounting Office’s investigations, Senate hearings, an independent council, and eventual trials.
Stans, in a series of Senate hearings in June of 1972 denied any involvement in the scandal and pleaded ignorant about campaign activities. This is what he told the committee: ‘I had no knowledge of the Watergate break-in or any other espionage efforts before I read about them in the press, or the efforts to cover up after the event. I had no knowledge of any sabotage program to disrupt the campaign…To the best of my knowledge, there was no intentional violation of the laws relating to campaign financing by the finance committee for which I had responsibility.’
Maurice Stans was not convicted in any active role in the Watergate affair, although several men were indicted for their illegal activities. The scandal forced President Nixon to resign. For Stans, the investigations turned up some minor fund-raising offences, and he ultimately plead guilty to five misdemeanor counts, two for non-willful receipt of corporate funds, and three counts for reporting violations. After more than a year of federal harassment, hearings and trials, Stans was cleared of having any knowledge whatsoever of Watergate and fined only for unintentional violations in his scrupulous handling of millions of dollars of campaign funds. Yet his good name was not easily restored. Ultimately, he won total vindication in a 1992 article in the Washington Post.
For his success in the field of accounting, and his role as a national figure serving both president’s Eisenhower and Nixon, Stans is a nationally significant figure. That being said, Maurice Stans primary significance to Shakopee is based on the role he has played in the philanthropy of the Shakopee community. Maurice Stans’ successful career in the private sector led to the establishment of the Stans Foundation; a private foundation established in 1935 by Maurice and his wife Kathleen.
The Stans Foundation, with Maurice serving as President, created the Opportunity Grant in 1965 by providing a guaranty on student loans from a local bank. The Opportunity Grant offered assistance to Shakopee high school graduates seeking post high school study. In addition, the Stans Foundation purchased the J. Hubert Stans house in 1988 and restored the exterior and interior of the house. In 1995, the house was part of a $1 million donation to the Scott County Historical Society that included the Stans Museum, which serves as home to the Scott County Historical Society. Other contributions include over $1 million to Murphy’s Landing, establishing two annual Dollars for Scholars scholarships, ten Stans Awards at St. Mark’s Catholic School, landscaping and equipment at Stans Park, and donations to St. Frances Regional Medical Center and the Shakopee baseball stadium.
Maurice Stans died April 14, 1998 as is buried at the Shakopee Catholic Cemetery.