Civic-minded leader of PNB and CoreStates

G. Morris Dorrance Jr.
G. Morris Dorrance Jr.
Posted: August 21, 2011

G. Morris Dorrance Jr., 88, of Villanova, retired chairman of CoreStates Financial Corp. and a civic activist, died of a stroke Thursday, Aug. 11, at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

In 1983, Mr. Dorrance became chairman of CoreStates, which was created that year when PNB Corp. and Hamilton Bank of Lancaster merged. Three years later, he received the Silver Award from the Wall Street Transcript, an investment newspaper, for his "definitive long-term strategic plan executed meticulously and decisively."

Bipin C. Shah, a bank executive who designed CoreStates' electronic-banking system in the 1980s, later told The Inquirer that Mr. Dorrance "was one of the finest CEOs, with a sixth sense to know that the world was changing. He let talented people do their thing."

Mr. Dorrance joined Philadelphia National Bank as an assistant cashier in 1951. By 1963, at 40, he was the bank's president, and in 1969 he became chairman of PNB.

Under his leadership, PNB implemented electronic banking with MAC (money access center) machines and worked with neighborhood leaders to finance affordable housing.

Mr. Dorrance had a personal touch, said his son, George. He sent cards to ill employees, and when he visited branches, he shook everyone's hand and remembered all the workers' names.

In 1988, Mr. Dorrance retired from CoreStates, now Wells Fargo, after naming Terrence A. Larsen his successor. "I'm very confident in our management team," he told The Inquirer. "They're bright, strong in their fields, and have worked together well. . . . Any organization is going to get refreshed by change."

Active in community affairs, Mr. Dorrance served on several boards, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Crime Commission of Delaware Valley, the United Way, and Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools.

In the 1970s, he was chairman of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. He told The Inquirer in 1973 that he had set a goal of doubling the city's tourist income.

"This is an extraordinary community, absolutely extraordinary. It has to marshal its resources and sell itself," he said. Tourism, he said, is free of the problems involved in bringing an industry into town, such as finding a site for a plant or persuading corporate executives to pay high city and state taxes.

In 1958, Mr. Dorrance became president of the board of American Oncologic Hospital, now Fox Chase Cancer Center. His father, George M., a physician and cancer researcher, had been the first medical director of the hospital.

Mr. Dorrance served on the Fox Chase board for more than 50 years and was chairman for more than 20. In 2002, the G. Morris Dorrance Jr. Endowed Chair in Medical Oncology was established at the center.

"He was one of the principal architects of Fox Chase Cancer Center," said Michael V. Seiden, president and chief executive officer, "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."

Mr. Dorrance was a nephew of John Dorrance, a chemist who developed condensed soup for Campbell Soup Co. He grew up in Center City on Delancey Street, attended Episcopal Academy, and graduated from Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn.

During World War II, Mr. Dorrance loaded armaments onto planes in England in the Army Air Forces. After his discharge, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He later was a Penn trustee.

In 1947, he married Mary Carter Rogers, who also lived on Delancey Street.

"I used to claim that we began to court when I was 5, but she would never put up with that," he told The Inquirer when she died in 2000.

In the early 1960s, he and his wife built a vacation home on Great Exuma Island in the outer Bahamas, where he enjoyed snorkeling and sailing.

"His love for his island lasted a lifetime despite the constant need for fixing everything from the water catchment system to his bright orange Volkswagen Thing," his son said, referring to a small, jeeplike vehicle sold in the 1970s.

Mr. Dorrance also enjoyed vacationing and boating in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

He was a member of Merion Cricket Club and the Gulph Mills and Pine Valley Golf Clubs. As governor emeritus of the Schuylkill Fishing Company, he continued to attend Wednesday gatherings of the historic social club, founded in 1732.

In addition to his son, he is survived by a daughter, Middy; a sister; and two granddaughters.

A memorial service will be held at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 230 Pennswood Rd., Bryn Mawr.

Memorial donations may be made to the Fox Chase Cancer Center, 333 Cottman Ave., Philadelphia 19111.


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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