In memoriam: Notre Dame Trustee Alfred C. DeCrane Jr.

Author: Dennis Brown

Candles in the Grotto

When the oil company Texaco Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following a multibillion-dollar legal battle in the late 1980s, Texaco’s board chairman, Alfred C. DeCrane Jr., and president, James Kinnear, put into motion a restructuring plan that was credited with rescuing the nation’s third-largest oil company.

In a review of Texaco’s operations in the succeeding years, the investment bank Salomon Brothers described DeCrane and Kinnear “as among the ablest executive[s] in the international oil industry.”

DeCrane, a member of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees for nearly three decades, died Wednesday (Sept. 22) in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 90.

“Al’s wisdom, generosity and devotion to Notre Dame’s Catholic mission made him a trusted adviser and cherished friend,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “We mourn his passing and give thanks for his many contributions as a leader. May he rest in peace.”

A native of Cleveland, DeCrane graduated magna cum laude in 1953 from Notre Dame, where he was named national singles debate champion as a junior. He served in the Marine Corps, worked as a speechwriter for Joseph P. Kennedy — father of the future president — and then earned a law degree from Georgetown University in 1959. He joined Texaco that year as an attorney, working in the company’s Houston and New York offices.

Rising through the ranks, DeCrane worked in various capacities with the board of directors and was elected senior vice president and general counsel in 1976 and to the board a year later. In 1978, he became executive vice president in charge of large parts of Texaco’s international operations, including its interactions with OPEC. He was elected president in 1983, became chairman of the board in 1987 and succeeded Kinnear as chief executive officer in 1993. He retired in 1996.

DeCrane was elected to Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees in 1992 and also served for a time as a Fellow of the University, its ultimate governing body.

With his wife, Joan, DeCrane was a generous benefactor to Notre Dame. Their gifts included the creation of a scholarship for excellence in Joan’s name and a chaired professorship in international economics in Al’s name. He was a past chairman of Notre Dame’s Edward Frederick Sorin Society and, prior to his election to the Board, he served for 19 years on the College of Arts and Letters Advisory Council. The University bestowed an honorary degree on him in 2002.

In addition to his service to Notre Dame, DeCrane served on the board of directors of the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council, American University of Beirut, Bestfoods, Birmingham Steel, CIGNA Corp., Corn Products International, Dean Witter/Discover, Harris Corp., U.S. Global Leaders Growth Fund and the Morgan Stanley International Advisory Board. He also was an international adviser for The Conference Board.

DeCrane is survived by Joan, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­his wife of 67 years, as well as a brother and sister, five children, 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was preceded in death by a daughter.

Arrangements are pending.