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Typical obituaries end with a recitation of loved ones left behind by the departed: “He or she is survived by…”
In the case of Tom Moran, who left this earth on Sunday, August 12, such a listing would be impossible, because Tom is not only survived by a vast community of loving family, friends, and colleagues, but by countless men, women and children around the world who have been — and will continue to be — touched directly by his love, generosity, and boundless belief in the humanity and dignity of all.
Tom was a Concern Worldwide US Board member for more than two decades, and Board Chair from 2001—2017. His relentless commitment to our mission from day one allowed Ireland’s leading humanitarian organization to establish roots in the US. His personal generosity and dauntless evangelism on behalf of the organization set a tone and an example followed by hundreds of others, a community of loyal supporters that has provided a rock solid foundation for innovation, influence, and impact in transforming the lives of the world’s poorest people.
Tom recently recalled how it all began. After the tragic and premature death of Concern’s first US Chair, legendary public relations executive, John Scanlon, Fr. Aengus Finucane and Executive Director Siobhan Walsh approached him to take up the mantle.
“Being double-teamed by the two of them, I couldn’t say ‘no.’ Of course, I still would not have agreed without [fellow Mutual of America executive and Concern US board member] Ed Kenney, who assured me that together we could make it happen.
“Aengus took the lead and Siobhan explained exactly what was needed from each of us. There was no escaping.”
“And, so it was that we recruited an incredible group of talent. Once we identified the right person, Aengus took the lead and Siobhan explained exactly what was needed from each of us. There was no escaping. Of course, we knew we had the support incredible group of professionals working in Dublin and in the field, so we could deliver results in return for support.”
It’s a typically humble re-telling that deflects credit and attention onto others, and indeed Tom’s efforts were buttressed by many others, but his drive and leadership were essential.
An incredible Chairman
Siobhan Walsh, who served as Executive Director from 1994—2013, recalls: “I remember when he offered to help Concern US, when we were almost invisible. He was an incredible Chairman. He was a teacher, a coach, and a leader who showed us the power of action, building an incredibly strong and resilient Concern US family.
Some time ago, Tom was presented with a very special piece of bog oak from Ireland with the caption: ‘From little acorns, great oak trees grow.’ I don’t think he ever realized what he created but Concern US is a living tribute to Tom, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for his humanity, and for truly making the world a better place.”
Tom’s unique contribution to Concern Worldwide US can be traced to his truly unique life story.
Son of New York
Tom was first and foremost a son of New York, with proud immigrant lineage — a son specifically of Staten Island, one of three children of an Irish-Italian-American mother and an Irish-American father, with roots in Counties Fermanagh and Tipperary. His healthy head of red hair marked him unmistakably as a “Moran,” but he was always quick to add that he was thoroughly Italian as well.
Tom was a relentlessly hard worker. At 14, he took his first job as a janitor at his high school. While pursuing a mathematics degree at Manhattan College, he was a night shift cab driver, which provided a wealth of stories he readily shared along with a photo from that time of a younger, thinner Tom, his red hair in a wild, unkempt mane. Along with the colorful tales came life lessons about the goodness of people and the virtue of hard work that Tom carried through his life.
Concern Worldwide US CEO Colleen Kelly has witnessed his passion in person, on the ground. “He cared so much for those living in extreme poverty and had an incredible connection to them. He fought for Concern and did whatever he could to move the cause forward, doing so much for so many people — mostly without anyone knowing about it. Kind, witty, and passionate, he loved to tell a good story. Tom made a huge impact in the world — and because of that, he will never be forgotten.”
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Tom was a leader. After college, he began working at Mutual of America in 1975. He started at the very bottom of the corporate ladder, in an administrative role where his responsibilities included “paperclipping anything that needed to be signed” whenever a pension had been sold. In less than two decades, he would be appointed President and CEO, succeeding Bill Flynn, who had established the company as a leader in providing a wide variety of retirement products to clients in the non-profit human service and social welfare sectors.
Tom took the baton and led the organization for the next 22 years, through a period of steady exponential growth into a company with now more than $20 billion in assets.
Tom’s success at Mutual of America can hardly be defined in numbers alone. It was there that he met his wife, Joan, in 1976. They married in 1983, and for 35 years their shared love of family and friends and passion for philanthropy and volunteerism produced a vast network of generosity and impact that spans well beyond Concern to institutions such as the American Cancer Society Foundation, United Way of New York, Medical Information Bureau, University College Dublin Smurfit School of Business, Thirteen WNET, Irish Hunger Memorial NYC, and many others.
Tom was a peacemaker. In the years leading up to the Good Friday Peace Accord of 1998 — and in the decades since — Tom tapped into his finely honed negotiating skills, his charm, and his love for Ireland in a campaign of quiet shuttle diplomacy that has helped secure and preserve peace in that country. In 2015, he was presented with the prestigious Irish Presidential Distinguished Services Award, which recognizes “those who have served Ireland with distinction and actively contributed to the country in a sustained manner.” That same year, he became Chancellor of Queen’s University in Belfast.
Tom was a humanitarian. If events in his life had taken a different turn here or there, Tom could have found himself as a frontline aid worker rather than a chief executive. He eagerly traveled with Concern to some of the most challenging and hard-to-reach places on earth, to witness extreme poverty firsthand, and to personally know the communities benefiting from his efforts.
He traveled to Haiti, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan — most more than once.
Tom visited Somalia in 2011, as the country was in the grips of a famine that would take some 250,000 lives. There he met a Concern staffer named Hawa Wehliye. She recently recalled the experience:
“I started to cry and he cried with me”
“I met Tom at the Peace Hotel in 2011… we cried together. We were working at Korsan IDP camp near the airport — there were 15 people dying there every day. Just in that one place. I met one woman who lost four children in one day. When Tom asked me what I was seeing, I couldn’t talk. I just started to cry. And he sat and cried with me. He has a big heart.”
Beacon of goodness
Tom’s successor as Chair of the Concern Board, Joanna Geraghty, remarked:
“For all of his life, Tom Moran was a beacon of goodness in so many parts of the world where both hope and generosity had not been seen for generations. Tom demanded that we see not what was, but what could be. What should be. What ought to be.”
“Tom was not born to interpret this world, but to change it. And change it he did. For men and women who were given little or nothing, he gave his all. Millions of children across the world have never had a better friend whose name they may never know.”
Donate in memory of Tom Moran
We invite you to lend your support to the ongoing work of Concern Worldwide, in memory of Tom Moran. 90 cents out of every dollar goes to our work in 25 of the world’s poorest countries.