Before retiring as Chairman for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1990, Ivan Houston led the company to achieve $5 billion in insurance business across 22 states. He was named a Harvard Business School American Business Leader of the 20th Century and included on Ebony Magazine's "100 Most Influential Black Americans" for 14 consecutive years. A decorated veteran, Houston published a memoir in 2011. Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II, details his experiences as a member of that war's only black infantry division to fight in Europe.
He has served on many corporate boards, including First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo), Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation, Metromedia, and Pacific Telesis Group (now AT&T). He has also been a member of the Haas Advisory Board, president of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission, and chairman of the Los Angeles Urban League, among other volunteer roles.