G. Morris Dorrance Jr., 88, former CoreStates CEO
G. Morris Dorrance Jr., circa 1998.
Philadelphia (August 16, 2011) – G. Morris Dorrance Jr., who led CoreStates Financial Corporation into one of the nation's top banking organizations, died at Bryn Mawr Hospital on August 11 following a stroke. He was 88.
Scion of one of the first families of Philadelphia, Dorrance cut his own path apart from the family business (Campbell's Soup Company) or his father's field (medicine), and became a banker. Dorrance led CoreStates Financial Corp. for 18 years after starting at its Philadelphia National Bank subsidiary in 1951 as an assistant cashier. Within 12 years, he had moved up to become president of PNB—making him, at 40, one of the youngest bank presidents in the country. He became chairman and CEO in 1969.
From 1969 to 1987, he oversaw growth from a single bank (PNB) with $2.5 billion in assets to an interstate multi-bank holding company with $15 billion in assets (CoreStates), noted the 1987 annual report. "Mr. Dorrance never lost sight of the fundamental principals of sound banking," it stated. "His emphasis on high credit quality and careful management of risks guided CoreStates safely through many challenges to the industry."
In 1986, the year before his retirement, CoreStates had ranked fourth in Salomon Bros.' annual ranking of 35 of America's major banking companies. "Morrie has done a superb job; he's run a solid, conservative organization that's had a spectacular record," said Roger S. Hillas, then chairman of competitor PNC.
As noted by Wikipedia, on occasion the bank made headlines for quiet innovations, such as when during the late 1960s it led all the nation's banks in ending the practice of "redlining" poorer neighborhoods so that personal and small business loans could not be extended to residents of poorer city district, or when, during the middle 1970s, the bank helped universalize ATM banking by building one of the nation's first and largest network of banking machines, known by their acronym, "MAC," for Money Access Center.
His son George Dorrance recalls that his leadership was also characterized by the personal touch. "He cared so much about all of his employees," he says. "If he knew they were sick, he'd send cards. When he became president of PNB, he would make the rounds to every branch to shake every employee's hand. And he remembered their names."
Also under Dorrance's leadership, in 1985 CoreStates first sponsored an annual bike race that has since become America's top international cycling classic. Snaking 156 miles through the city, the CoreStates Cycling Championship was one of the longest single-day races in the U.S.
"Cycling was one of the cleanest sports of the day, and Dad saw it as a novel way to brand the name of CoreStates in the region," explains his daughter Middy Dorrance.
In more recent years, he was busy with many civic commitments, serving on the boards of multiple organizations.
His most enduring board position was with Fox Chase Cancer Center, where he served on the board for more than 50 years; and as chairman for more than 20. His father, surgeon George M. Dorrance, MD, became the first medical director of American Oncologic Hospital, Fox Chase's clinical arm, when Dorrance was a child. Dorrance remembered going on patient rounds with his father as a teenager.
"Fox Chase and indeed the entire region has lost one of its most dedicated citizens," says Michael V. Seiden, M.D., PhD, Fox Chase's President and CEO. "The Dorrance name is part of the Fox Chase firmament. He was one of the principal architects of Fox Chase Cancer Center and for decades held fast to our mission of prevailing over cancer—always focused on improving care and research for patients and creating the most vibrant environment for our caregivers and scientists. All of us owe so much to the vision, persistence, and purposeful advocacy of Morrie Dorrance."
He also served as a trustee of his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania (class of 1949), the Eisenhower Fellowship, the Agnes Irwin School, Business Leaders Organized for Catholic Schools, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, the Exuma Foundation, and served as chair of the Philadelphia Visitors and Convention Center. His social organizations included the Gulph Mills Golf Club, the Pine Valley Golf Club, the Merion Cricket Club, The Rabbit, The Racquet Club, The Philadelphia Club, and he was governor of the State in Schuylkill, also known as the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania and the oldest social club in the country.
He also served on many corporate boards, including those of R.R. Donnelley & Co, Rohm & Haas, Kewanee Oil Co., Philadelphia Contributionship, Provident Mutual Insurance Co., Penn Virginia Corp., the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.
In addition to his involvement in the region, he maintained a home in Exuma, one of the remote islands of the Bahamas. "His love for this island lasted a lifetime despite constant need for fixing everything from the water catchment system to his bright orange Volkswagen Thing," says his son George. He enjoyed snorkeling and sailing in the crystal blue water. He also enjoyed vacationing and boating in Northeast Harbor, Maine.
He served in the U.S. Air Force in England during the last two years of World War II. Stationed in Norfolk, England, he loaded armaments for the Allied air campaign.
A resident of Villanova, PA, he grew up on Delancey Street in Center City Philadelphia—a few doors down from his future wife. He and Mary Carter Dorrance, who shared a birthday (December 28) and were married for 53 years, are survived by their two children, George Morris Dorrance III and Middy Dorrance, daughter-in-law Suzy Dorrance, Middy's partner Tim Boylan, and granddaughters Mary Carter Dorrance and Anastasia T. Dorrance.
Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase also was among the first institutions to receive the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious comprehensive cancer center designation in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has achieved Magnet status for excellence three consecutive times. Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research and oversees programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. For more information, call 1-888-FOX-CHASE (1-888-369-2427).