Leon's Story

Chairman Emeritus, L.L.Bean, Inc.

YARMOUTH - Leon A. Gorman, who loved the state of Maine and shared its values and spirit with the world through the company his grandfather founded in 1912, died on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015, in Yarmouth, Maine.

Although Leon always considered himself a Mainer, he was born in Nashua, NH, on December 20, 1934 to Barbara Bean and John Gorman. He was raised in Yarmouth, Maine, attended Cheverus High School, and graduated from Bowdoin College in the Class of 1956. Following graduation, he served for six years in the U.S. Navy before returning home in 1960 to join his grandfather, Leon Leonwood Bean, at L.L.Bean, Inc. He was appointed President of the Company in 1967 following the death of L.L. Bean and served in that capacity for over 35 years. He was named Chairman of the Board in 2001 and Chairman Emeritus in 2013.

Beginning in the 1960s, Leon and the people of L.L.Bean began the work of transforming his grandfather's 2.25 million dollar company into the 1.61 billion dollar enterprise that is today known across the world for its commitment to quality, integrity, and service. His proudest accomplishment he once said was "growing my grandfather's company from employing less than 100 people in 1960 to tens of thousands of good people over the generations, a company based on solid Maine values of integrity, customer service, respect for people, a love of the outdoors, and perseverance." It was a particular point of pride for Leon that during his tenure the company employed multiple generations of numerous Maine families.

A quiet man with a heart of gold, Leon personified the values of his company. He was honest, practical and economical, hardworking, unpretentious, and reliable. He was widely regarded for his keen business acumen and he led the dramatic growth of the Company through decades of enormous change and challenge, a journey he chronicled in 2006 in L.L.Bean: The Making of an American Icon, published by the Harvard Business School Press.

An outdoor enthusiast, Leon frequently tested the Company's products on hiking, hunting, and fishing trips. He was most comfortable beside a trout stream or bird hunting in the Maine woods with his beloved Springer Spaniels. For 30 years Leon fished the trout ponds of the Megantic Fish & Game Club with his dear "Fishing Buddies." With his intrepid friend, Lloyd Holmes, he climbed Mt. Rainier, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and ascended to Camp Three during the 1990 Mount Everest International Peace Climb, an expedition sponsored by L.L.Bean.

His wife, Lisa, joined him in his love of these outdoor adventures. They hiked, biked, fished, and cross-country skied throughout Maine and the world. Their children joined them on many of these trips and shared many happy times skiing in Jackson, NH, fishing, hiking, and playing a good game of cribbage back at camp. In December of 2014, Leon gathered with his family in Florida for a memorable 80th birthday party celebration.

Leon's deep love of the people and places of Maine led him to invest throughout his life in efforts designed to protect and strengthen the state's natural and human resources. Together with Lisa, his philanthropy helped protect thousands of pristine acres along the St. John River, the 100-Mile Wilderness, and Katahdin Lake. They provided lead gifts to establish and support the Coastal Studies Center at Bowdoin, The Foundation for Maine's Community Colleges, the Casco Bay YMCA, Pine Tree Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Maine Huts & Trails, the Cancer Community Center, Preble Street, the United Way of Greater Portland, The Student Conservation Association, the Appalachian Mountain Club, The Nature Conservancy of Maine, the Yarmouth Historical Society, Yarmouth Merrill Library, and numerous other organizations.

Leon's contributions went well beyond the financial. He gave his time and energy to numerous organizations and for this he was awarded honorary degrees from the Maine Community College System and from Bowdoin, Bates, Wheaton, and Thomas Colleges.

In addition, he was inducted into the Halls of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association, the Maine Chamber of Commerce, and Junior Achievement of Maine. The Greater Portland Chambers of Commerce presented him with the Henri Benoit Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Private Sector; Babson College named him to its Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs; the Maine Warden Service presented him with its Award of Merit; The Nature Conservancy honored him with the President's Conservation Achievement Award; and the Pine Tree Council of Boy Scouts of America presented him with its Silver Beaver Award. In 2001, he received the Bean's Best Award, L.L.Bean's highest form of employee recognition. It is awarded to recipients who live the L.L.Bean values, instill them in others, and get results through hard work and dedication. This award was particularly meaningful to him because it is awarded through an employee led nomination and selection process.

Leon cared deeply for those in need and those who struggled. For twelve years, every Wednesday morning, he volunteered at the Preble Street Resource Center, preparing and serving breakfast to hundreds who walked through the door. In 2009, Preble Street recognized him as its Volunteer of the Year. In accepting the award, Leon said, "For twelve years my job was to scramble eggs or cook French toast for several hundred people. I learned firsthand the compelling needs of our homeless population."

The following year, in recognition of his enormous contributions to American business, Bowdoin bestowed upon him its highest honor, The Bowdoin Prize, awarded every five years "to the graduate who shall have made during the period the most distinctive contribution in any field of human endeavor".

It was these two honorsrepresenting his contributions to the economy of his state and nation and his very quiet and personal efforts to build a better Mainethat meant the most to him.

Leon's greatest personal pride was reserved for his family. He gave them all unconditional love, his wisdom, and his humor.

He is survived by his loving wife, Lisa Gorman; son Jeffrey Gorman and his wife, Sonya; daughters Ainslie Boroff and her husband, Todd; and Jennifer Wilson and her husband, Bennett; stepson Shimon Cohen and his wife, Rossy; stepdaughter Nancy Cohen; and seven sweet and loving grandchildren.

Leon is also survived by his brother, James Gorman, Sr., and his wife, Maureen; cousins Linda Bean and Diana Bean; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his father and mother, John and Barbara Gorman and his brother, John Gorman, Jr.

Visiting hours will be held Friday September 11th and Saturday September 12th from 3:00-8:00 p.m. at the Conroy-Tully Crawford South Portland Chapel, 1024 Broadway, South Portland, Maine. A Memorial Service will be held Sunday, September 13th at 10:00 a.m. at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater Street, Westbrook, Maine. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to: Preble Street, c/o Mark Swann, P.O. Box 1459, Portland, ME 04104 or The Leon A. Gorman Scholarship Fund, The Foundation for Maine's Community Colleges, 54 Lighthouse Circle, South Portland, ME 04106
Published in Bangor Daily News
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