In Memoriam: Barry Sullivan, 85

Former EVP at Chase Manhattan

Barry Sullivan, who ended his 23-year tenure at Chase Manhattan as executive vice president and member of the management committee, died on August 11, 2016 at the age of 85. He had struggled with Parkinson's Disease for 11 years.

His prodigious climb at Chase was only the beginning of an exceptional career in business and public service.


Born in New York City on December 21, 1930, he grew up in the Bronx and attended Regis High School in Manhattan, where he excelled in academics, earning a spot in the Virgil Academy of Regis. Sullivan was one of the core members of the two New York City Catholic basketball championship teams in his junior and senior years.


From September 1949 to May 1952, Sullivan attended Georgetown University on an academic scholarship and played basketball for the Hoyas during his three years there. He still holds the 10th highest career scoring average for the Georgetown Hoyas, and his play there earned him an invitation from the New York Knicks.


After his junior year, he enlisted in the Army and served in Korea. In 1954 he returned to New York where he attended Columbia University, graduating in 1955. Sullivan was awarded the John Jay Award for distinguished alumni from Columbia University in 1996.


He moved to South Chicago, Indiana, in 1955, working at Inland Steel while attending the University Of Chicago Graduate School of Business at night. He was awarded an MBA in 1957. He was also awarded an honorary LLD from the University of Chicago in 1994.


Sullivan joined Chase Manhattan Bank in 1957.  By 1972, he had been appointed senior vice president of the bank, the youngest person ever to hold the position.


In 1980, Barry became the Chairman and Chief Executive of the First Chicago Corporation. During his 11 years at First Chicago, he helped place First Chicago on a firm foundation by growing its credit card business into one of the world's largest portfolios. Barry's commitments to civic duties provided many responsibilities beyond banking as he became one of the key financial advisors for the Archdiocese of Chicago. He received much civic recognition while living in Chicago, and he always considered Chicago his adopted home. In 1988 he led an effort to organize a citizens' coalition to decentralize the Chicago public school system.


Sullivan retired from a 34-year career in banking and returned to the New York in 1992, serving as Deputy Mayor for Finance and Economic Development for Mayor David Dinkins. He was instrumental in retaining key financial institutions from leaving the city. In 1994 he became chief operating officer of the New York City Board of Education. He also ran the NYC Partnership.


Sullivan then spent 10 years as vice chairman of Sithe Energy after his service to New York City.


Education, however, was where his heart was. While his children attended the Bronxville schools, Sullivan served a term as President of the Bronxville Board of Education. He served on the Board of Trustees of Regis High School for many years, working with Fr. James Carney, S.J. to organize and build the alumni fundraising program. In Chicago he served as an active member of the University of Chicago Board of Trustees for 16 years, and as Chairman of that Board from 1988 to 1992. During this time he worked with University President Hannah Gray to build University's new downtown center, which houses the Graduate School of Business evening, weekend and executive programs, as well as the University's Center for Continuing Studies. He also served as a member of the Georgetown University Board of Directors during this time.


Barry was a member of the Knights of Malta and a recipient of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great. While in New York, he worked closely with the Archdiocese of New York, specifically helping as a financial advisor to the Saint Joseph's Seminary and College, the major seminary of the Archdiocese.


He leaves four sons and a daughter and 17 grandchildren. His wife of 53 years, Audrey, passed away in June 2009.


Memorial contributions should be given in Sullivan's name to Regis High School, 55 E. 84th Street, New York, NY 10028.




Please send remembrances to:

See this tribute in the newsletter of Regis High School.


From Ed Moran: As an entering freshman at Regis in 1952, I quickly became aware of the Barry Sullivan name even though he had graduated three years before I arrived. They were still talking about his basketball exploits and scholastic achievement. He made quite a mark at that school.

     On a related sad note, I called Greg Brennan to tell him the news if he hadn’t heard it. I ended up speaking to Greg’s son Mark, who told me that Greg had died on July 20th in Quoque of a heart attack after a series of illnesses. Greg, who was 84, had worked for Barry for several years.


From Roger Griffin: Barry was GM of Chase in London in the old Mitsubishi Bank building when I interviewed to join the bank in 1968. I had an interview with Citibank at the same time and had two reasons for the choice I made. First was the exciting prospect of the credit programme in New York (this must have been about the time of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and who could resist the thought of living in the city at that time as an additional incentive) and the second was Barry – pace Tony Walton who orchestrated it all. How brief can the interview have been, but he made a huge impression on me as someone outstanding to work for and with. I have no idea what we talked about but he just seemed enormously smart and had this wonderfully cheerful and optimistic persona demonstrated well, I think, in the photo shown on the In Memorium page. Unfortunately that was as close as I got, because I’m pretty sure he’d returned to New York and into what seemed like the stratosphere as it seemed at the time before I returned to London. The City was a much smaller place in those days, but Barry was known as a leader among the foreign bankers and, while I’m sure the Eurodollar market has many parents, there are those who held that Barry had created it. I’m more than happy to accept that he did, and, judging by the comments of others already, there are others who would too.


From Joe Murphy: An extraordinary leader through extraordinary times. Recall his tales of jogging from Grand Central to 1 CMP during the transit strike? So many accomplishments in banking and his communities.
Requiescat at in Pace.


From Tony Terracciano: Barry ran the Credit Department when I joined the Chase. His performance standards were quite high, and he found it difficult to understand why the rest of us had to work so hard to meet them. I told him once that he just had to accept the fact that most of us had ordinary minds. He loved Theology and, being Barry, was quite willing to debate even the most complex aspects of the subject. If Saint Peter decides to delegate the entrance exam to Barry, we’re all in trouble. Rest in peace, good friend.


From Ted Klingos: Barry Sullivan was an exceptional leader who connected with the people around him and led by example. I want to add another view of who was Barry and what he meant to Chase.
     One of the more memorable events in my interaction with him was a lesson in relationship building. Chase had a great relationship with The Equitable Life and my contact and I felt that we could build upon our business relationship by adding a team sport to enhance it. We decided to have a challenge basketball game between the two companies. During the planning process, I received a call from Barry’s office, and they wanted information on the event. I thought it was only for the aftergame activity, but no, he wanted to know the details of where we were playing and what time he needed to be there. I notified Bruce Crocco and Neal Howland, of blessed memory, and they were thrilled. He not only came and played, but made sure as the “elected" captain of the team we were playing to win.
   He connected with us as fellow team members, and we connected with him the same way. What a memory!
      May his memory be eternal.


From Carl Gustavson: Rest in Peace, Barry. 

I think Chase history would be very different if Barry stayed the course with Chase.  Good man and real leader. 


From John Vaughey: During the heat of the NYC and NY State financial crisis of 1975 and 1976, I reported daily to Barry in my role as head of the government banking division where responsibility for that multi-billion dollar mess was lodged.  At one early point in that crisis, I had scheduled 200 people to work over the weekend on a critical project to reduce our operating risk, which was much greater than our holding in NYC debt. On the Friday before that weekend, Barry offered me 200 more people than I had scheduled.  I declined on the basis that I could not effectively deploy another 200 people. Then Barry very nicely said, “John, sometimes if you make a mistake you stub your toe. At other times, if you make a mistake, you lose your head. Are you really sure you don’t want more people?”  At first I was startled, and then I realized he was making sure, for my benefit and his, that I was not thinking too small. I thanked him and said I would go with the 200 people I had scheduled.  I always regarded that exchange as a lovely way for him to help a more junior person keep himself out of deep trouble. He was helping me help myself.     There was no bullying in it. Great!


From Louise McNulty: Barry Sullivan was a leader before his time. He was aggressive in supporting women and minorities. He created a culture of performance for the good of the bank and the world. While I'm certain he did good things for First Chicago, I believe he might have done even better had he had the opportunity to chair Chase. My sincere condolences to his family. He was an awesome person.