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Holland America Line Mourns the Passing of Kirk Lanterman

Former Holland America Line Chairman and CEO A. Kirk Lanterman passed away last week. He was essential in building Holland America Line as a premium cruise leader, and we mourn his passing with the entire cruise industry.

Kirk began his career in the travel industry in 1970 as vice president of finance for a company then known as Westours Inc. In 1972, he was promoted to executive vice president of Westours Inc., the position he held when Westours was purchased by Holland America Line one year later. In 1983, Holland America Line consolidated its total operations in Seattle, and it was at that time that Kirk was named president of the combined cruise and tour company. He quickly turned the failing Holland America Line into one of the most profitable premium cruise companies. Carnival Corporation purchased Holland America Line-Westours Inc. in 1989, and Kirk became president and chief executive officer; he was named chairman and chief executive officer of Holland America Line in 1997. Kirk retired from Holland America Line in 2004.

Known for his generosity toward the shipboard officers and crew, when he and his wife, Janet, cruised, he would organize tours for large groups of crew members to show his appreciation.

Kirk served two terms as chairman of Cruise Lines International Association and as served president of the Alaska Visitors Association. He was a lifetime trustee and past vice-chairman and treasurer for the Institute of Certified Travel Agents, and also served as vice-chairman of International Council of Cruise Lines. Twice he was voted Travel Executive of the Year and chosen the Outstanding Travel Supplier of the year by ASTA.

Personally and through the Lanterman Foundation, Kirk contributed millions of dollars locally to non-profits. Most notably, his extraordinary gifts to education include a broad spectrum of programs ranging from the University of Washington and the University of North Dakota to personal, individual scholarships for those in most need.

In 2002, Kirk received the Sioux Award from the University of North Dakota, the highest award given by the university to any individual for outstanding achievement in their professional arena. Kirk was honored by Her Royal Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, in 2003 by being made an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, the Netherland’s highest civilian honor. In 2004, Kirk received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Mary in Leadership. The A.K. Lanterman School of Finance at the University of North Dakota was dedicated that same year, and in 2005 Kirk was inducted into the Bismarck High School Hall of Fame.

Kirk was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, and graduated from Bismarck High School. He attended both the University of North Dakota and the University of Washington, where he graduated with a degree in accounting. Kirk served for two years in the Korean War.

  • aaron samaroo

    A great man may he rest in peace

  • Natalie Drain

    As a former employee, I have watched the company grow and change over the last 35 years. I will always be grateful to Kirk and Janet for their kindness to my family. Kirk was tough, but truly led the Holland America Line team to greatness. He pushed us to be the best that we could be for ourselves and for our guests. Time changes all and it truly is an end of an era. An end of “The Tradition of Excellence”. RIP AKL

  • Gail Harrington

    To his family, I send my condolences.
    I worked for HAL for several years. I appreciate the opportunities that were placed in front of me. One thing I will always remember about him, he personally spoke with me at work and thanked me for a situation that our team helped to resolve. Although it may be common for employees to receive a letter or something, you don’t often find a CEO who seeks you out to say job well done. 30 years later I still remember that moment. It speaks not about me as an employee but about him as a human being.

  • Ken Hurst

    You managed a great cruise line. looking forward to Ryndams first voyage named in your honor some how

  • Steven Hatting

    Our hearts go out to Janet and all of Kirk’s loved ones. We’re proud and grateful to be part of his amazing legacy. Beyond the students helped as Lanterman Scholars and the faculty holding the Lanterman/Holland America Professorship, Kirk was among the very first executives to give his time and wisdom in meaningful ways. Leader that Kirk was, other CEOs and companies soon followed. Today, his alma mater’s success is built on the foundation of an engaged and involved Seattle business community. We’re years ahead because of Kirk’s generosity and example. He is forever remembered and respected at the University of Washington.

  • Andrew Franks Jr MD

    Thank you for your loving memory in the Wall Street Journal of Kirk Lanterman on Veteran’s Day, 2020. May you and your family carry on his wonderful legacy.

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