Life After Chase: Gene Marshall
Tampa's Ne Plus Ultra Volunteer
Gene Marshall hasn’t exactly been sitting still in the Florida sun since his 2004 retirement from a 35-year Chase career that culminated in his running the Tampa credit card operations center for JPMorgan Chase.
He currently serves as:
Board Chair, Council for Educational Change, which, among other programs, finds business mentors for K-12 principals;
Board Chair, Foundation of Tampa Bay, a community foundation;
Vice Chair, Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa;
Member, Hillsborough Education Foundation (in support of the country's eighth largest school district), and
Director (and original chair and founder) of NorthStar Bank, Tampa, a community bank.
Marshall regularly fields invitations to sit on other boards, and there’s even a YouTube video in which he talks about his volunteerism.
His wife has been known to ask him, "When did you say you were going to retire?"
Then again, when Marshall retired at the age of 56, his wife told him, "You'd better figure out what you want to do. I don’t do lunch, I won’t change my schedule and I don’t want you following me around."
He figured it out to many people's benefit. His volunteer involvements "give back" in the fields that mean so much to him – education and the arts.
"When I first joined Chase in 1969, I was 'off the boat' just a year from Jamaica. I didn’t know anything about banking," reminisced Marshall. He'd emigrated to New York at the age of 17. "I had some odd jobs on Seventh Avenue. I worked for a mail order vitamin company, and I was one of the kids who worked in the warehouse racking and stacking for Barney’s when they were on 17th Street.
"There was no future in any of those jobs. I wanted to go to college," he continued. "I tried to volunteer for the armed forces, but they wouldn’t take me because I was married. I kept wondering, 'Where am I going to get money to go to college?'"
One day on a subway ride to his home in the Bronx, Marshall picked up a copy of the New York Post that the fellow sitting next to him had left behind. He was drawn to a help wanted ad for Chase that mentioned the bank's "excellent education program". Marshall soonafter went for an interview at Chase Manhattan and can still recall thinking, "You will pay me for working here and you will also pay for college?" He got the job and started in International – eventually earning a BBA at Baruch College and an MBA from New York University, courtesy of Chase.
Chase not only gave him an education, but a lesson in community involvement, and his mentor was none other than David Rockefeller.
"David Rockefeller used to come down to IB at Chase Plaza and have lunch with 'us' – all the people," recalled Marshall. "I happened to be sitting at a table where he was one lunch time, and he talked about corporate social responsibility. I was so new at Chase, I didn’t even know who he was! His conversation stuck in my mind. When I went back and spoke with my supervisor, he suggested I get involved with the United Way. That was my introduction to volunteering."
At 63, Marshall is interested in being involved in board governance rather than the day-to-day operations of the charities in which he's involved. He's careful about overlapping interests among the boards. "I have to manage it carefully," he said, noting that one group might provide resources and others might use those resources.
He and his wife have one biological child – a son, who works for JPMorgan Chase – and a niece and nephew they raised. The children were educated primarily in Tampa public schools, which contributes in part to Marshall's interest in educational policy in the area.
As for his involvement in the performing arts center, Marshall explained, "I’m Caribbean and so love Reggae and Calypso, but I'm also a huge jazz fan. Shortly after I started at Baruch College, there was a free concert on campus: Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald at our campus on 23rd Street! I almost fell off my chair. That was my introduction to jazz and scat, and I fell in love with it. I would sneak into the Blue Note, and I loved hearing Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center.
"Chase was a huge supporter of the Sraz Center back in the late 1980s and 1990s, and as the senior guy down here, I was expected to be part of it. And then I got brought into the Center's effort to build a conservatory," he said. "Arts should be a huge part of any kid’s education. We now have a functioning conservatory with about 600 kids and a huge outreach program.”
Interestingly, as a resident of Palm Harbor, FL, Marshall said he tried to volunteer in Panellas County, across the bridge from Tampa, but he "couldn’t break into the organization over there." In Hillsborough County, his was a well-known name, as he had been active in the Chamber of Commerce. "I had about 5,000 employees who worked in Hillsborough County, and the Chamber was glad to have someone representing the Chase name."
Marshall retired right after the Banc One acquisition. "I'd already gone through four or five integration things, and the hint was that I should go to Chicago, but I’d had enough,"
He didn't leave banking altogether, though, as he is involved with NorthStar Bank. Many of those Chamber business people – some of them clients of Chase – approached him after he retired. Marshall notes that the bank does not have a "minority" focus but is meant to reflect "the local environment we’re in," with large Latino, African-American, Indian and Caucasian communities.
Not surprisingly, Marshall's wife also has the volunteerism bug. "She’s very involved in church activities," he said, "and building an orphanage in Cancun."