Dr. Alistair (Ali) Hanna, a U.S.-based Northern Ireland businessman behind plans to develop the new Bushmills Dunes golf resort, died Saturday in New York after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 69.
Work on the Bushmills Dunes golf course is due to begin later this year, following a marathon planning and legal process that ended up at the High Court in Belfast after fierce resistance by the National Trust who objected on the grounds of its close proximity to the Giants Causeway. The project was eventually granted formal approval.
As far back as 1994, Hanna spoke of his hopes to create a world-class course and hotel on the north coast. His wife Nancy, a retired priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States, said that, “The Bushmills complex was the culmination of a life’s dreams, combining Ali’s passions for golf and for Northern Ireland.”
She added, “Ali inspired and warmed almost everyone he met. His kindness and love of life, his Irish way and humor; his respect for people and his deep faith and humility were characteristics which, coupled with his brilliance and perseverance, made Ali one of a kind.”
Hanna, who was originally from Belfast, had been living in the United States for more than 40 years but returned regularly to Northern Ireland. With his wife, Hanna owned the Ardtara Country House Hotel, near Upperlands, Co Londonderry.
He had an apartment in Manhattan and a house in Lawrence, NY. A memorial service is to take place on July 22 at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan, the church where his wife ministered for eight years. A memorial service is also being planned in Northern Ireland later this year.
Before leaving for the States, Hanna was educated at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood and Queen’s University, Belfast where he graduated with honors in physics in 1968. He received a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1972 after doing his research at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment near Harwell, Oxfordshire, and two years later was awarded an MBA at the Harvard Business School.
Hanna worked with the international management consultancy firm, McKinsey & Company, for more than 25 years. He became a director in 1986 and served as managing partner of the Stamford office, leading the microelectronics and software practices as well as the telecommunications and aerospace groups. He retired from the firm in 1997.
He founded the nonprofit organization, Alpha North America, which offers help to churches, and in 2004 brought Alpha to Latin America. He also served on the boards of Fountain House in New York, Trinity Church in Wall St and the Queen’s Foundation. He was also president of the US Friends of Queen’s. Hanna was a member of Royal Portrush Golf Club, where every year he hosted business associates and friends from the United States, inviting many of them to the stretch of land outside Bushmills. During his school and student days he attended the Ulster Temple Elim church on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast, where he was a member of the Campaigners, an interdenominational Christian youth organization. At Sullivan he also distinguished himself in performance arts, especially drama, as well as rugby for Malone.
His is survived by his wife Nancy, their daughter Anne, his brother David, his nephew Paul and niece, Patricia. His father Matthew died in October 2003 and his mother Rachel in January the following year.