In the 1980s Alvin Shoemaker helped build First Boston into what Fortune called “the archetypal deal factory.” A decisive but courtly leader, as chairman Shoemaker brought balance to a firm known for its aggressiveness and its tactical innovation in takeover battles. After graduating from Wharton, Shoemaker earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1963. He landed jobs with the U.S. Treasury and the Investment Bankers Association before joining First Boston as vice president in 1969.

He departed First Boston in 1978 to become president and CEO of Blyth Eastman Paine Webber, returning to First Boston in 1981, becoming board chairman in 1983. During the 1980s, First Boston earned $200 million in fees by orchestrating the leveraged buyout of Federated Stores. The firm also was involved with Texaco’s hostile takeover of Getty Oil in 1985—a year when the firm handled $60 billion in merger and acquisition deals.

In 1986 First Boston put up nearly $2 billion to help its client Campeau Corp., a Canadian real estate developer, win control of Allied Stores Corp.—“the first time an investment banking firm has agreed to put up billions of dollars to help its client win a hostile takeover fight … [producing] some of the biggest merger fees ever earned in a single deal,” wrote David Vise, W’82, WG’83 in a Washington Post article.

By 1987, First Boston’s M & A group, did more deals than any other Wall Street house, but the company’s aggressive stance put it into jeopardy. Shoemaker helped lead the deal to merge First Boston with Credit Suisse First Boston, its European affiliate, and to take the combined entity private. He retired as chairman of the board in 1989. Shoemaker also led the University of Pennsylvania’s ascension in the 1990s by helping Penn raise more than $1 billion in capital funds as chairman of the Board of Trustees. A recipient of an honorary doctorate from Penn in 1995 and founder of his own investment firm, he is also a Wharton Overseer.