Walter B. Wriston was born on August 3, 1919 in Middletown, Connecticut, to Dr. Henry Merritt Wriston and Ruth Colton Bigelow. Wriston had an older sister, Barbara. He attended primary, elementary, and high school in Appleton, Wisconsin, where from 1925 to 1937 his father served as president of Lawrence University.
From 1937 to 1941, Wriston attended Wesleyan University and he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. While at Wesleyan, he met Barbara Brengle, whom he married on October 24, 1942, in Scarsdale, New York. He and Barbara had one daughter, Catherine, born in 1947. Barbara died in 1966. Wriston married Kathryn Ann Dineen on March 14, 1968, in New York City.
After graduating from Wesleyan, Wriston attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and received a Masters of Arts in International Law and Diplomacy in 1942.
He served in World War II as a Lieutenant in the US Army. Upon his discharge in 1946 he became a junior inspector in the Comptroller's Division at Citibank. Wriston steadily progressed through the ranks of the bank, and in 1967, he was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Citibank. Two years later he was appointed Chairman of Citibank/Citicorp. During his tenure as Chairman, he instituted a number of banking innovations such as the negotiable certificate of deposit, automatic teller machines (ATMs), and credit cards. In addition, he served on presidential commissions, committees, and task forces for Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan. He retired from Citibank/Citicorp on September 1, 1984.
President George W. Bush honored Mr. Wriston with the Medal of Freedom on June 23, 2004. Mr. Wriston passed away on January 19, 2005 in New York City.
Mr. Wriston was awarded honorary degrees from Brown University, Columbia University, and Hamilton College and many others. While at Citibank and after his retirement, he lectured at business schools and in other academic institutions. He spoke avidly on economics and the impact of information technology on the banking industry. He testified before U.S. Senate Committees representing Citibank and other banks.
Mr. Wriston was also a writer. A collection of his essays were assembled into two books "Risk and Other Four-Letter Words" published by Harper & Row, and "The Twilight of Sovereignty" published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Prior to Mr. Wriston's death, he worked on a third book, "Bits, Bytes, and Balance Sheets: The New Economic Rules of Engagement In a Wireless World," which appeared posthumously in November 2007.