Eileen Kraus

Eileen Kraus
"Leadership is having a vision which is communicated clearly and concisely throughout the organization so that people want to buy in and follow to achieve the vision."
- Eileen S. Kraus

Induction Category:
Business & Labor

Born: 1938

Died: 2017

Inducted: 2002

Town: West Hartford

When Eileen Kraus entered the banking business in 1979, banking was on the cusp of being deregulated.  Geographic, product, and pricing deregulation over the next several years fundamentally changed the industry leading to a more competitive environment and the need for new skills and backgrounds, especially sales and marketing skills. While Kraus joined the bank as a human resources executive, she had gained sales and marketing experience during the prior five years when she ran two of her own businesses. So when the bank's need for higher level marketing and selling capabilities became critical, Kraus was made head of marketing in 1983, and from there over the next decade she moved up the ladder, and in the early 1990s was named President of the bank.

Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Eileen Shanley Kraus graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College in 1960 and then moved to Connecticut following her marriage to Hal Kraus. Her first job was as a part-time assistant to then Secretary of the State Ella T. Grasso, a fellow Mount Holyoke College alumna. Grasso as Governor would later appoint Kraus to Chairman of the Governor’s Council on Voluntary Action. Before beginning her meteoric career in banking, Kraus completed an M.A. in political science at Trinity College where she also worked in the development office. With the birth of her daughter, she turned to volunteer work including The Junior League of Hartford (President from 1973-1975); Chairman, Governor’s Council on Voluntary Action; Founder, Hartford School Volunteer Program; Board of Directors, Child & Family Services; Board of Directors, Voluntary Action Center of Capitol Region; Trustee and Member of Finance Committee, University of Connecticut Foundation; and a panelist on Comment, a weekly public affairs television program on Channel 3.

In 1975, she founded her own company, Career Search Resources.

In 1979, Kraus was recruited to be Vice President of Human Resources Planning and Development at Hartford National Bank. After numerous promotions, in 1990 she was promoted to Vice Chairman of Shawmut National Corporation with responsibility for consumer banking and marketing for the corporation. Her 1992 appointment as President of Connecticut National Bank, Connecticut’s largest bank and a subsidiary of Shawmut National Corporation (where she remained Vice Chairman), was widely hailed as a milestone in the history of America’s women in financial services. (Connecticut National Bank became Shawmut Bank-Connecticut in 1993).

While at the bank, Kraus was active in civic affairs. She served as Chairman of the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce, Trustee of Trinity College, Trustee of Kingswood-Oxford School, Chairman of the Community Economic Development Foundation, and as board member of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Yale New Haven Hospital, The Capitol Region Growth Council, Jobs for the Future, and Drugs Don’t Work.

Kraus credited her success to several factors: her fine education and a love of learning; a good mix of ambition, energy, and humor; a sincere interest in other people; a high degree of concentration and focus; and the willingness to take risks in order to capitalize on opportunities which present themselves. Often recognized as a model for other chief executives, Kraus defined leadership as the “art of working with others so they want to follow.” She was a feminist who believes that talent is genderless and that a diverse workforce serves the best interests of stakeholders.

After retiring from banking, Kraus continued to serve on numerous community and corporate boards, including Vice Chairman of the Capitol City Economic Development Authority, Vice President of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and Chairman of ConnectiCare Holding company and ConnectiCare, Inc., the Board of Directors of the Stanley Works Corporation, Kaman Corporation, and Rogers Corporation. Among her many honors are being named Business Leader of the Year by the Hartford Courant (1990), a Woman of Merit by the Connecticut Valley Girl Scout Council (1994), and Laura A. Johnson Woman of the Year by the Hartford College for Women (1998). Kraus was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2002. She also held honorary doctorates from the University of Hartford and Charter Oak State College.

Eileen Kraus passed away on July 1, 2017, at the age of 78.

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1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice