Donald J. Payne — who as an Adelphi University basketball player broke its all-time career scoring record and later became a corporate executive — died March 2 from heart failure at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Lutherville resident was 90.
“Don had a love of life and took that enthusiasm to everything he did,” said Michael D. “Mike” Marvin, a longtime friend and business associate.
“He came from a huge business background like IBM and Brinks, and we were trying to build a Silicon Valley tech community in upstate New York through our various software companies. He ran his and I ran mine,” he said. “He was a salesman’s salesman, tall, good looking and an athlete who could spin yarns.
Don was a leader. He made things happen and helped build that region into the tech region it is today.”
Donald John Payne, son of Milford Floyd Payne, a salesman, and Alice Louise Bahrenburg, a homemaker, was born and raised in Queens, New York. He graduated in 1951 from the old Andrew Jackson High School, where he had been a talented varsity 6-foot-4 basketball player.
While earning a bachelor’s degree on a full scholarship to Adelphi College (now University) in Garden City, New York, and playing basketball, he broke the university’s all-time scoring record, amassing 1,503 total points during his four years there.
As a freshman, Mr. Payne was selected Most Valuable Player and was later twice winner of the Outstanding College Athlete of the Year award, culminating with All-Metropolitan basketball second team honors.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1955, he was the only Adelphi player to be drafted by the New York Knickerbockers.
Signed to a $4,000 contract, Mr. Payne only played in exhibition games. He gave up a professional basketball career after being lured away by IBM and the promise of a lucrative salary.
While working for IBM, he served as assistant basketball coach at Adelphi. He was inducted into the Adelphi Athletics Hall of Fame in 1961.
After moving to Westport, Connecticut, Mr. Payne subsequently worked for Savin Business Machines, SCM Corp., Schick Inc. and Brinks Inc.
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In 1983, he moved to Baltimore after being named president of Federal Armored Express Inc., an armored truck business in Dundalk.
Mr. Payne married the former Sandra Baldwin. In 1990 the couple moved to Clifton Park, New York, where he worked as the president and chief operating officer of Enable Software Inc.
They then moved to Columbia, and Mr. Payne regularly commuted to Saratoga, New York, where he was president from 1994 to 1998 of Bitwise Designs, a document management firm.
And he continued doing so from 1998 to 2001, when he was president of Flow Management Technologies, a health care company, which was also in Saratoga.
“He loved to ‘talk business’ and was a lifelong learner and advice-giver regarding marketing, operations, logistics and profiteering,” said a biographical profile of Mr. Payne.
“Among his favorite conversations were those centered around technology and what one could do or invent without boundaries. An entrepreneur at heart, Don always encouraged people he talked to love without limits — there was always a way to get your dream,” according to the profile.
Retiring in 2001, Mr. Payne never lost his love of basketball and was a devoted follower of March Madness, family members said.
Even though he had retired, Mr. Payne still sat on the boards of several tech companies in upstate New York, Mr. Marvin said.
He enjoyed managing his investments, social gatherings, cooking, listening to music and talk-radio.
“My father was the epitome of a people person. He had great success in both basketball and business — many achievements to be proud of; but from my perspective, his greatest gift was the ability to connect to people,” a daughter, Melissa Metzger, of Severna Park, said in her eulogy.
“My father could command any room he walked into, whether he knew the people or not,” Ms. Metzger said. “He could talk to anyone, anywhere, in any situation and find a connection.”
Services were held March 18 at Ruck Towson Funeral Home.
In addition to his wife of 33 years and Ms. Metzger, Mr. Payne is survived by two other daughters, Robin Calise of Westport, Connecticut, and Holly Bilcheck of Madison, Connecticut; a stepson, Tom Davidson of Hunt Valley; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Marilyn Pascal ended in divorce.