Obituary: John Marous Jr. | Westinghouse chairman, head of Pitt trustees
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John C. Marous Jr., a former chairman of Westinghouse Electric and of the University of Pittsburgh board of trustees who expressed his love for his city and church through philanthropy, died Saturday at 87.
Mr. Marous "exemplified the best in Pittsburgh, from the period where you had dominant civic and corporate leaders who would identify issues facing the city and get together to address it," said Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, who worked closely with Mr. Marous for 25 years.
Mr. Marous grew up on the North Side, where his parents bequeathed him a work ethic and sense of self-respect.
During World War II he served with the Army Corps of Engineers, landing in Normandy five days after D-Day. After the war he enrolled at Pitt, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering.
In 1949 he joined Westinghouse's graduate student training program and, over the next four decades, earned his way to chairman and chief executive officer. He and his wife, Lucine, a North Carolina native, raised three children in Fox Chapel.
"He told me several times that the most significant thing he did in his life was marry Lucine and bring that Southern lady up north," said Renny Clark, a longtime colleague at Westinghouse, now vice-chancellor for community initiatives at Pitt. "He loved his family, and he was definitely a man of faith."
When he became chairman of Westinghouse, it was the city's largest employer, with 21,000 workers in Pittsburgh and another 100,000 across 40 nations.
He came to the top office with a creed he had developed about what produced excellence: pride, desire, teamwork, attention to detail and follow-through.
Mr. Marous had worked internationally for many years and believed American companies needed to change their culture if they were to continue to compete globally.
He set a goal to boost profits by 10 percent a year. He achieved his goals, though critics later accused him of setting the stage for the corporation's demise a decade later by making risky loans through its credit division, and then signing an agreement that the parent company would cover any losses. At the time, it was a statement of his confidence in the strength and integrity of Westinghouse. When he retired in June 1990, its stock was at what would remain an all-time high.
He was eager to use corporate profits to better the communities, including Pittsburgh, where Westinghouse had a presence. He also gave generously from a salary that was listed among the highest in the nation for top executives.
He worked closely on that with Mr. Clark, Westinghouse's director of community affairs.
One day Mr. Marous called Mr. Clark to his office to announce that he and his counterpart at U.S. Steel were heading an initiative to get 100 people to give $10,000 a year to the United Way. Mr. Clark was silently dubious "but I knew his passion. I knew he wouldn't take something on if he didn't believe it could be done. And by golly, that first year they had 108 people," he said.
His term as CEO fell amid his 1987-92 tenure as chairman of the board of trustees at Pitt.
He spent most of the rest of his life helping impoverished children in Pittsburgh receive the kind of Catholic education he had.
In the 1980s many Catholic dioceses were closing inner city schools because the Catholic population had moved away, leaving behind black children who weren't Catholic and couldn't afford the tuition.
But then-Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh didn't think it was right for the church to abandon those children. He recruited Mr. Marous to co-chair a new Extra Mile Foundation that would heavily subsidize K-8 tuition for low-income students in several inner city schools. When Mr. Marous stepped down as chairman about five years ago, the foundation had raised $44 million.
One of the beneficiaries is Janard Pendleton, 32, who works for a pre-college mentoring program at Pitt while completing his doctorate in education administration.
He was a 12-year-old student at St. Benedict the Moor in the Hill District when he met Mr. Marous at an Extra Mile fundraiser.
"He never told me who he was. I didn't know he was the co-founder of this organization. He just came off as a person who was interested in my well-being," Mr. Pendleton said. After their conversation, Mr. Marous stayed in touch and would check with school administrators on his progress as he attended Central Catholic and St. Vincent College on scholarship.
"He would tell me, 'You can do it. You are a shining star.' It was more than enough to motivate me to go on," Mr. Pendleton said.
Visitation will be today from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. in John A. Freyvogel Sons, 4900 Centre Ave., Shadyside. Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. in St. Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
Contributions may be made to the Extra Mile Foundation, 111 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or to St. Vincent Seminary, 300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe 15650.
First Published October 3, 2012 12:00 am