Richard M. Morrow, Trustee Emeritus, 1926-2013

University of Chicago Trustee Emeritus and former chairman and chief executive officer of Amoco Corporation Richard M. Morrow, died on Jan. 21 at the age of 86.

Morrow was born Feb. 27, 1926, in Wheeling, W.Va. He attended John Carroll University in Cleveland. Following three and a half years in the U.S. Navy during World War II he received a B.S. in mining and petroleum engineering from Ohio State University.

He began his career with the Amoco Production Company in 1948, when the domestic oil-producing subsidiary was known as Standard Oil Company (Indiana). Morrow became chief engineer of Amoco Production’s producing department in 1962. He became vice president and manager of the company’s Denver region in 1965. Morrow next served as executive vice president of Amoco International Oil Company, the Amoco subsidiary in charge of all overseas oil operations, from 1966 until 1970. 

Morrow moved to corporate headquarters in Chicago in 1970 as executive vice president of Amoco Chemicals Corp., the Amoco subsidiary focused on the manufacture and sale of chemical products. He became its president in 1974. During this period, Fortune Magazine reported in 1987, Morrow “won a reputation as a good listener and delegator who never made mistakes.”

He became president of Amoco Corporation in 1978, and its chairman and chief executive officer in 1983. Under his leadership, the company, which changed its name to Amoco Corporation in 1985, successfully expanded overseas and restructured costs at a time when many U.S. oil companies were deeply troubled.

Amoco and Morrow often made headlines during his CEO tenure. In 1985 John Swearingen, whom Morrow had succeeded as CEO, told the Chicago Sun-Times that “Dick is the best kind of oil executive: intelligent, efficient, and very, very competent.”

Morrow retired from Amoco in 1991. Amoco was then second in size only to Sears Roebuck among Chicago-based corporations, employing 53,000 employees worldwide and enjoying annual revenues of nearly $32 billion. Although he liked to hunt, fish, ski, golf and play gin rummy in his off hours, after retirement Morrow immediately became chairman of Leadership for Quality Education to help address a crisis in Chicago’s public schools. He continued to work out of his 79th floor office in what today is called the Aon Center, sometimes arriving as early as 7 a.m. to address a variety of civic matters, especially Chicago’s public education problems.

“Something has to be done and done right now,” Morrow told the Chicago Tribune in 1991. “If not, we won’t have a labor force to compete in the 21st century. And it’s not just Chicago. Everywhere you look, they are restructuring the schools.”

Morrow joined the University Board in 1979. For more than 10 years, he served on the Executive, Investment, and Nominating committees. He was elected Life Trustee in 1992 and Trustee Emeritus in 2007.

In 1985 he served on the ad hoc Committee on University/Industry Relations, whose recommendations led to the establishment of the ARCH Development Corporation, a not-for-profit affiliate of the University that formerly oversaw the development of commercial ventures based on research at the University and Argonne National Laboratory. He served on the board of ARCH from 1985 to 2000 (as chair from 1989 to 1991). In 1983-1984 Morrow served as Chair of the Corporate Gifts Committee for the Campaign for the Arts and Sciences. He was also a member of the Booth Council and Social Sciences Visiting Committee.

In 1986 Morrow was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 1990 the Civic Federation awarded Morrow the Lyman J. Gage Founder’s Medallion for outstanding civic achievement. In 1991, Amoco Foundation contributed $1.5 million to Ohio State University to create a faculty chair in Morrow’s honor. He also received honorary degrees from American University in Cairo, Ohio State University, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Roosevelt University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Morrow was a director of First Chicago Corp., First National Bank of Chicago, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, R.R. Donnelly and Sons Co., and other corporations. He served on the board of the American Petroleum Institute and of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. He also had been a trustee of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, chairman of the Civic Committee of Chicago, and an executive committee member of the Chicago Community Trust.

Morrow is survived by a daughter and two granddaughters. In keeping with tradition, a memorial resolution in Morrow’s honor will be presented at the board’s March meeting.