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Iconic Imperial Sugar Company CEO Robert Hanna passes away

By Elsa Maxey

Sugar Land’s Robert (Bob) Hanna, 84, passed away on Friday, January 25. Accounts indicate that he had been in the hospital with health issues.

Hanna, who served in the U.S. Army after graduating from Millikin University in Illinois, accepted a sales position with the Imperial Sugar Company in 1955, which began his career with the sugar factory followed by a series of promotions and selection as President and CEO in 1979. He served in that role for 14 years until his retirement.

Hanna is credited with leadership that helped Imperial Sugar emerge as one of the top sugar companies in the U.S. It was during Hanna’s tenure that Imperial Sugar effected a merger with Holly Sugar which included that company’s beet sugar processing facilities in California, Wyoming, Montana and Texas creating the Imperial Holly Corporation.

Hanna, who was born during the onset of the Great Depression when the sugar company was operating in the red and experienced workforce cutbacks, would in his prime take the helm of what the Texas State Historical Commission refers to as the oldest business in Texas, and position the sugar company towards a much sweeter future long before the refinery’s closure in 2003.

Imperial, founded in 1843 and documented to have given the city of Sugar Land its name, is closely associated with Hanna. He received the sweetener industry’s most prestigious award, the Dyer Memorial Award, recognizing him as “Sugar Man of the Year in 1993.

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