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William A. Schreyer, philanthropist; ex-Buffalonian headed Merrill Lynch ; Jan. 13, 1928 -- Jan. 22, 2011

William A. Schreyer, the former Buffalonian who headed the nation's largest stock brokerage, Merrill Lynch & Co., for eight years, died Saturday in his Princeton, N.J., home. He was 83.

Mr. Schreyer, who was in charge of Merrill Lynch's Buffalo office from 1965 to 1969, became chief executive officer of the brokerage in 1985 and served as chairman of the board until he retired in 1993.

He was praised for his leadership during the stock market crash of 1987, when he used television commercials to tell investors not to panic, famously signing off by saying, "At Merrill Lynch, we're still bullish on America."

Born in Williamsport, Pa., son of the manager of a local brokerage acquired by Merrill Lynch, he worked there part time during high school posting stock prices on a chalkboard in the front window.

A 1948 graduate of Penn State University, he joined Merrill Lynch as a junior executive trainee and was sent to Buffalo as an account executive. He spent two years in the Air Force as a lieutenant stationed in Germany, where he developed an interest in international finance.

In 1963, he began his management career as head of Merrill's office in Trenton, N.J., and headed a number of offices, including Buffalo, before he was named New York-area regional director in 1972. The following year, he moved to institutional investing as head of Merrill Lynch Government Securities and successfully pushed to make it a separate and increasingly profitable operation. He became president of Merrill in 1982.

Under his leadership, Merrill established itself in international finance. In 1986, it was among the first group of foreign firms to become members of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. In 1993, it was the first American investment bank to open an office in the People's Republic of China. During this time, Merrill also expanded its operations in London, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Mr. Schreyer reviewed his career and his investment philosophy in a memoir, "Still Bullish on America," published in 2009. He also was noted as a philanthropist.

In 1980, he started Merrill Lynch's Christmas Calls program, in which the brokerage's local offices invite senior citizens in to make long-distance calls to loved ones during the holidays.

In 1988, he launched Merrill's Scholarship Builder program in partnership with the Urban League, providing tutoring for inner-city youths and full scholarships for college or vocational training.

He and his wife pledged $30 million to Penn State in 1997 to endow a new honors college that supports international study. In 2006, they gave Penn State an additional $25 million.

In 2007, he bestowed $1.5 million on the University at Buffalo's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to endow a faculty position in neurosurgery.

Mr. Schreyer served on the Penn State board of trustees from 1986 to 1998, including two terms as president. He headed the university's first capital campaign, raising more than $350 million between 1984 and 1990.

He served on the boards of directors of numerous corporations, including Schering-Plough and Callaway Golf. He was a trustee and international councilor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He also served as a trustee of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation and consulted for the Vatican's Patrimony of the Apostolic See.

Surviving are his wife of 57 years, the former Joan Legg, and a daughter, DrueAnne.

A private service will be held in Princeton. A memorial service is planned for the spring.


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