OC native Gregory, prominent business leader, dies

Vincent Gregory Jr.

An Oil City native who became a major force in the international chemical industry has died of respiratory illness in Hampshire, England.

Vincent Gregory Jr., president and chief executive officer of Rohm and Haas Co. of Philadelphia until his retirement in 1988, was considered one of the most powerful corporate executives in the U.S.

Under his leadership, Rohm and Haas became the largest chemical company in the world composed entirely of specialty products. In 2009, the company was purchased for more than $15 billion in a mega-deal with rival Dow Chemical Co.

Gregory, who was born June 10, 1923, in Oil City, died June 3. He would have turned 96 today.

He grew up at 131 Plum St. in the Siverly neighborhood. He was the oldest in a family of nine children.

Gregory, who served as president of the class of 1941 at Oil City High School and was named valedictorian that year, won a competitive scholarship to Princeton University.

In a newspaper interview later, Gregory, who chopped firewood to earn money to help his family and had initially considered going into the priesthood, said, "The pall of the Great Depression still hung over Oil City so to the 16-year-old eldest son in a family of nine children, the opportunity to go to Princeton seemed like a miracle."

Enrolled at Princeton, his studies were interrupted after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Gregory joined the Army Air Corps and served four years as a fighter pilot with the 374th Fighter Group, U.S. 8th Army Air Corps, in Europe.

While stationed in England, he met Marjorie Gladys Scott and they were married in 1946. According to a 1995 interview with the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Gregory said his wife's bridal gown was fashioned from his parachute material.

The couple moved to the U.S. and Gregory resumed his studies at Princeton. In 1949, he earned a bachelor's degree in economics and soon after earned a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University. That same year, he began his career with Rohm and Haas as a junior accountant.

Over the next 20 years, he held various positions in the chemical company, including serving as director of European operations.

The family moved back to Philadelphia in 1968 and two years later, Gregory was named the first non-family head of Rohm and Haas.

During his years as chief executive, the company sales grew from $465 million to $2.5 billion annually.

When he retired in 1988, Gregory was named among Corporate America's Most Powerful People in the Forbes business magazine, ranking 159th among the 800 executives on the list.

The Oil City native was also singled out for numerous industry and leadership awards during his career. In addition, the Harvard School of Public Health established the Vincent L. Gregory Jr. Professorship of Cancer Prevention. The Gregory family continues his philanthropic efforts in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

During his career with Rohm and Haas, Gregory and his family were frequent visitors to the Oil City area, according to press accounts. In a 1958 newspaper story, the couple and their young son, who were living in England, traveled to the U.S.for a lengthy visit and stayed in the Gregory homestead in Siverly.

A highlight of their trip was the 14th annual reunion of the George Gregory family which was held at St. Mary Church hall in Crown. It was attended by 98 persons. The English visitors were given the prize for traveling the longest distance to the reunion. The elder Vincent Gregory was re-elected president of the reunion and a cousin, Mrs. James Roess of Oil City, was named secretary.

The retired company executive and his wife lived many years in Philadelphia, but in 2017 they moved to England to be closer to their family members.

Surviving in addition to his wife, are a son, Vincent Gregory III,; two granddaughters; and numerous great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Funeral services and interment will be held later this month in England.