John J. Horan, Former Merck Chairman and CEO Dies of Natural Causes at 90 Years of Age


January 25, 2011 4:23 pm ET

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–John J. Horan, of Sea Girt, N.J. died on Saturday, January 22, of natural causes. He was 90 years old. Mr. Horan served as chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of Merck & Co., Inc., from 1976 to 1985. By the end of his tenure, Merck had grown into the largest pharmaceutical company in the world and would soon become the most admired company in America on Fortune magazine’s well-known list.

Horan was instrumental in supporting Merck research that led to the development of ivermectin, a medicine to help prevent and treat the devastating tropical disease known as river blindness, and a long running partnership with the Carter Center that serves as the pioneering model for governmental and business cooperation in humanitarian efforts in developing nations.

Upon his retirement as Merck’s CEO, Horan continued to serve as a member of the Board of Directors and as its vice chairman until 1993. He earlier served as the company’s president and chief operating officer.

Mr. Horan received an A.B. degree from Manhattan College in 1940 and a J.D. degree from Columbia University Law School in 1946. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the 127th Commencement of Manhattan College in 1978. Horan was an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946, serving with the U.S. Navy Amphibious Forces during World War II. He saw heavy action in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy, France. His was among the lead ships as part of the allied invasion onto the Salerno, Italy beachhead. Later, as communications officer on the staff of Admiral John Wilkes, Horan helped deliver the orders that led to the launch of the Normandy invasion, the largest amphibious operation in history. After the war, he was associated with the law firm of Nims, Verdi and Martin in New York.

In 1952, Horan joined the Legal Department of Merck & Co., Inc. and rose steadily serving successively as general counsel, director of Public Relations, director of Research Administration, director of Corporate Planning and president of Merck Sharp and Dohme.

Following his retirement from management at Merck, Horan played an active role in the development of the biotechnology industry, serving as chairman of the Board of Myriad Genetics Inc., chairman of Atrix Laboratories and director of Celgene Corporation.

Horan’s corporate directorships included: General Motors Corporation, J.P. Morgan & Co. Inc., and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York, NCR Corporation and the Burlington Industries, Inc. While at Merck, he also served as chairman of the Board for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and a member of the Business Roundtable.

His civic work included serving as a trustee for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and as a board member of the United Negro College Fund. Horan did volunteer work on President Reagan’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, where he was chairman of the Task Force on the Army, and the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Efficiency in the Operation of the Courts, where he was chairman of the Committee on Surrogates. His awards for public service include: The George Champion Award from Dr. Leon Sullivan’s Opportunities Industrialization Center of America, the De La Salle Medal from Manhattan College, and the Distinguished Service Award from the United Negro College Fund.

Horan is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Julia Fitzgerald, and his four children: daughter Mary Alice Ryan and husband John Ryan of Spring Lake, N.J.; son Thomas and wife Katharine Jacobs of Hoboken, N.J.; son John Horan Jr. and wife Patricia, of Sea Girt, N.J.; son David and wife Michele, of Armonk, N.Y.; nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren; sister Mary Smith of Lakewood, N.J.; brother Eugene Horan of Monroe, N.J. and sister Florence and husband Tom Keating of Wall, N.J.

A viewing will be held at O’Brien’s Funeral Home, 2028 Hwy 35 at New Bedford Rd., Wall, NJ 07719 from 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM on Thursday, January 27. A Mass will be offered at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, 215 Crescent Parkway, Sea Girt, N.J., 08750, on Friday, January 28 at 9:30 AM. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, charitable donations may be made to Johns Hopkins University, c/o Fund for John Hopkins Medicine, 100 North Charles Street, Suite 436, Baltimore, Md. 21201, with a note indicating that the donation is in memory of John J. Horan for the support of Dr. Jack Richford’s research in the treatment and cure of Multiple Sclerosis.

About Merck

Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit

Ron Rogers, 908-423-6449
Joe Romanelli, 908-423-5088

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