Leon A. Gorman, 80: L.L. Bean chairman transformed company, Maine and Mainers' lives

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YARMOUTH — Leon A. Gorman, 80, chairman emeritus of L.L. Bean Inc., the company his grandfather founded in 1912, died of cancer Sept. 3 at home in Yarmouth.

Although Gorman always considered himself a Mainer, he was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Dec. 20, 1934, to Barbara Bean and John Gorman. He was raised in Yarmouth, attended Cheverus High School, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1956.

Following graduation, he served for six years in the U.S. Navy, and then returned to Maine in 1960 to work with his grandfather, Leon Leonwood Bean. Following the death of “L.L.,” Gorman was appointed president of the company in 1967. He served in that capacity for over 35 years, was named chairman of the board in 2001, and became chairman emeritus in 2013.

Beginning in the 1960s, Gorman led the transformation of the $2.25 million dollar company into the $1.61 billion dollar enterprise that it is today. 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.”

A quiet man, Gorman personified the values of his company, known for being honest, practical, economical, hardworking, unpretentious and reliable. He was widely regarded for his business acumen, and he chronicled the growth of his company in a 2006 book, “L.L.Bean: The Making of an American Icon.”

An outdoor enthusiast, Gorman frequently tested Bean 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, Gorman fished the trout ponds of the Megantic Fish & Game Club with his “fishing buddies.” With his friend, Lloyd Holmes, he climbed Mount Rainier and Mount Kilimanjaro, and ascended to Camp Three during the 1990 Mount Everest International Peace Climb, an expedition sponsored by Bean.

His wife, Lisa, joined him in his love of these outdoor adventures. They hiked, biked, fished and skied throughout Maine and the world. Their children joined them on many of these trips.

Gorman’s 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. The couple 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.

Gorman also 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.

Gorman cared deeply for those in need. For 12 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.

The following year, in recognition of his 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.”

Gorman was predeceased by his father and mother, John and Barbara Gorman, and his brother, John Gorman Jr.

He is survived by his 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 grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, James Gorman Sr., and his wife, Maureen; cousins, Linda Bean and Diana Bean; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Visiting hours and a memorial service were to be scheduled.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Preble Street
, c/o Mark Swann
, P.O. Box 1459
, Portland, ME 04104, or to The Leon A. Gorman Scholarship Fund
, c/o The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges, 
54 Lighthouse Circle, South Portland, ME 04106.