Harry Doherty

Harry P. Doherty

5/12/42 – 2/16/08

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Harry Patrick Doherty, founding Chairman and President of The Staten Island Foundation, retired Chairman and CEO of SI Bank & Trust, a father of three, and father figure to thousands, died February 16, 2008 at his Todt Hill home of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 65.

The lifelong Staten Islander had professed that a bank’s role was to support its home community, and he was said to have considered all of Staten Island to be his own extended family. His support of scores of Island charities and institutions brought the borough sustenance, prosperity and flavor.

Mr. Doherty was a bear of a man whose consistent thick, dark mustache turned into a thick gray one during his career of nearly 40 years. The recently retired chairman and CEO of the former Staten Island Savings Bank – now SI Bank & Trust, a division of Sovereign Bank – was chairman and president of the Staten Island Foundation and a member of Sovereign Bank’s advisory board.

The New Dorp native was one of five children born to Harry and Nora Gallagher Doherty, Irish immigrants who together opened the former Doherty’s Bar on New Dorp Lane.

After graduating from St. Peter’s High School in 1959, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served as a cook in Vietnam, attaining the rank of lance corporal.

In 1967, Mr. Doherty wed the former Roberta Lee Barnes, whom he met on a blind date.

Over the six years that followed, he began his career at the former Staten Island Savings Bank, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pace University, and celebrated the birth of his three children.

The family lived in Great Kills until about 1996, when they settled in Todt Hill.

Mr. Doherty began working at the bank as an auditor in 1969 and rose through the ranks over the next three decades, serving as cashier, security officer, vice president, senior vice president, president and COO. He was named chairman and CEO of the bank in 1990. He became vice chairman of Independence Community Bank upon its merger with Staten Island Bancorp in 2004.

Mr. Doherty retired in June 2006.

“He felt very strongly about community banks being for and about the community,” said his son, Brian Patrick. “Above all, he was dedicated to his family – and I don’t just mean our family. The groups he supported became part of his family. His heart drove all that. He knew the right thing to do and he followed it, pushed it and made it work all the time.”

Mr. Doherty was a devoted member of the American Community Bankers Association, as well as Community Bankers of New York State. He had served as director of the Federal Home Loan Bank, Savings Bank Life Insurance and Institutional Investors Mutual Fund.

The Staten Island Foundation

His work helped establish the Island’s largest philanthropy, which has contributed to more than $38 million to help local institutions thrive.

The Foundation was created when Staten Island Savings Bank became publicly owned, and originally bore the name SISB Community Foundation, and later the SI Bank & Trust Foundation.

The philanthropist and volunteer dedicated himself generously to scores of Island organizations, including the College of Staten Island (CSI), the Rotary Club of Staten Island, the March of Dimes, Boy Scouts of America, the Visiting Nurse Association and the YMCA. He was also a long-time supporter of the local chapters of the Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association, Staten Island Friends for Hospice Care, the Eden II programs, the Staten Island Children’s Museum, the Crisis Pregnancy Center, the Seamen’s Society for Children and Families, the Staten Island Zoo, A Very Special Place and the Advance’s Newspapers in Education Program. He served as a Trustee of Bayley Seton Hospital.

He had served on the St. Vincent’s Medical Centers of New York audit and compliance committee, and had been a treasurer and board member with the CSI Foundation. He also served on the CSI Board of Advisors and had been a director of the Primary Care Development Corp. from 1995 to 2000.

Mr. Doherty had agreed to match the money raised at last year’s inaugural Richmond County Country Club Pro-Am Tennis Tournament. The event raised funds for the ALS Association of Greater New York – the charity that raises money to combat the disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – to which the family is directing memorial gifts in Mr. Doherty’s honor.

Mr. Doherty received Snug Harbor’s Neptune Award for Community Service, Project Hospitality’s Richard E. Diamond Memorial Award for Exemplary Commitment to People in Need, and the Les Trautmann Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to the People of Staten Island. He was also honored by the myriad of other institutions he supported. At a recent event of recognition held by the Richmond University Medical Center, Mr. Doherty made a point of marking the anniversary of the Marine Corps, asking the guests to make a habit of buying lunch for soldiers dressed in uniform. In 2006, St. Peter’s High School opened the Harry P. Doherty Athletic Complex, named in his honor.

As one of the founders of the powerhouse St. Clare’s soccer program, he was among the first inductees of the Staten Island Soccer League Hall of Fame.

Outside of banking and philanthropy, Mr. Doherty’s great passion was golf. He played as often as possible, sometimes daily, as a getaway from his responsibilities and an ongoing challenge.

Mr. Doherty was a member of the Richmond County Country Club, and had served on its board. He was known among family, friends and colleagues for his wit, his storytelling and his practical jokes.

In addition to his son, Brian, surviving Mr. Doherty, are his son, Christopher; his daughter Erin Ekelund; three sisters, Maureen Doherty, Kathleen Dougherty and Beatrice Borghard; a brother, Kevin Doherty; and five grandchildren. He had been looking forward to the birth of his sixth grandchild.

*From the Staten Island Advance Obituary of 2/17/08 by Tevah Platt, edited by Betsy Dubovsky, 3/14/09