John A. Moran*

Class of 2012

  • Retired Chairman Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation

Never forget where you came from and be happy with what you are doing.

John Moran, an only child, was born in Los Angeles in 1932. His father, who never attended college, was a self-taught accountant for a company that manufactured, owned, and operated cigarette vending machines. The Morans lived in a building with four small apartments. When Moran was in elementary school, his father accepted an offer from that company's owners to move to Salt Lake City, Utah, where his father was to attempt a turnaround of its one ailing division.

To save money, Moran's father got rid of the warehouse and office and moved all the cigarette vending machines to the basement of the Moran home. Eventually, Moran's father bought the Salt Lake City business from the parent corporation by signing a long-term note.

In 1941, when he was nine years old, Moran got his first job selling Liberty magazine door to door in his neighborhood for 10 cents a copy. He received a penny for each magazine sold. When Moran turned 12, his father taught him the basics of accounting. He often helped his father by making entries into the business ledgers and by filling vending machines. "I had a terrific relationship with my father," says Moran. "He disciplined me when I needed it. He had a great influence on me. I learned a lot about business from him."

Moran's mother was a devout Christian. Rather than putting her son to bed with nursery rhymes, she read Bible stories to him. "She was very attentive to me," he says. "She took good care of me, and later in life, barely into adulthood, I returned the favor."

Moran's parents insisted he attend college. Following his high school graduation in 1949, he enrolled at the University of Utah, majoring in banking and finance. Each summer, he tried to find high-salary jobs that would help pay his tuition. Among other things, Moran was flag boy for the Salt Lake City road crew, and he spent one summer rewinding U.S. Army signal wire that had been used during World War II and the Korean War. He also worked as a waiter.

Shortly before Moran's college graduation, his father died of cancer. He was at his father's bedside when, with his last breath, his father asked Moran to take care of his mother. Moran left school and took over his father's business, merging it with another vending company. Moran's mother was able to live on the income she received from that enterprise. Moran, meanwhile, completed his degree by taking correspondence courses.

Moran graduated from college in 1954 and was about to be drafted for military service. Instead, he joined the U.S. Navy and was accepted into Officer Candidate School. While stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, on Narragansett Bay, Moran was shocked by the cold, damp East Coast winter. Despite the harsh conditions and difficult courses, he learned to appreciate the Navy's sharp discipline. "The Navy made a man of me," says Moran. "I didn't love all the studying and pressure, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me."

During his three-year Navy service, Moran worked mostly as an aerial photographic intelligence officer on the staff of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Shortly before his release, he began writing to Wall Street firms, looking for employment. He went to New York and began interviewing with several companies. He accepted an offer from Blyth & Company, Inc., an investment banking firm, which had an opening in its Los Angeles office. Moran spent one year in New York and was transferred to Los Angeles, where he worked his way up to a vice presidency, but he left in 1967 when Dyson-Kissner Corp. offered him a $1 million signing bonus.

Moran became executive vice president of Dyson-Kissner in 1974, and the following year he was promoted to president and CEO. He became chairman in 1984 and retired in 1998. Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp. is a private holding company whose international portfolio of companies includes businesses engaged in manufacturing, retailing, distribution, financial services, and real estate development.

Moran believes that success came his way because he liked what he was doing. "Of course, you have to work, and I did," he says. "I seemed to be in the right place at the right time, but I wouldn't have worked as hard if I'd been in a career that didn't satisfy me. I have never forgotten where I came from. Success hasn't changed me. I treat others the way I want to be treated, and it has all worked out well for me."

When talking with young people, Moran advises them to decide on a career as early in life as possible. "It gives you an advantage, I think, to be able to focus all your energy and drive on your career as soon as possible. I feel sorry for kids who complete college and still don't know what they want to do. It's better to figure out what you like to do and then pursue it to the best of your ability.

Moran served as national finance chairman of the Republican Party and later as finance chairman of the Dole for President campaign. He also served as co-chairman of John McCain's National Finance Committee in 2007 and 2008.

During his business career, Mr. Moran has served as a director of more than 30 corporations and philanthropic organizations. He has been a member of the Wynn Resorts Board and a member and former chairman of the National Advisory Council of the University of Utah.

When Moran was a child, one of his mother's Bible stories had a particular effect on him. "I have always remembered the story of the blind man on the side of the road who had his sight restored by the touch of Jesus," he says. "I have always thought that the loss of sight would be the worst sense to lose. That's why I have focused so much of my efforts and financial support on the John A. Moran Eye Center on the campus of the University of Utah. I want to have something to do with the victory of ending blindness. One of these days we will get there."

Besides his work with the eye center, Moran is a trustee of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the George and Barbara Bush Endowment for Innovation Cancer Research at the University of Texas's MD Anderson Cancer Center.

In 2008, the Woodrow Wilson International Center gave him its Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Award. Moran was also the 2011 Spencer Fox Eccles Convocation speaker at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business.