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George Vincent McGowan, the retired chief executive officer of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. whose civic roles included the chairmanship of the University of Maryland Board of Regents, died of heart failure Thursday at the Hospice of Queen Anne's County. The Queenstown resident was 81.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Hunting Ridge, he was a 1946 Polytechnic Institute graduate. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Maryland in 1951. He served in the Army Reserves and was called to active service during the Cold War. He retired as a major.

He spent his entire career at the Baltimore utility company. Family members said he began as an engineer and ascended to chief project engineer of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant after realizing the utility needed a new power source in the 1960s. Colleagues said that he considered the nuclear plant's construction a high point of his career.

"George was a very competent engineer, and he was also good with people," said a retired colleague, George Creel, who lives in Davidsonville. "He was excellent in public relations."

Mr. McGowan rose through the utility's ranks and served as president and chief operating officer from 1980 through 1987. He was then board chairman and CEO from 1988 to 1992. He remained on the board until 2000.

A 1989 Baltimore Sun profile called him a "model chief executive officer."

Friends said that Mr. McGowan enjoyed public service and sat on the boards of McCormick & Co., Baltimore Life Insurance Co., the old Equitable Bank, Duratek and nuclear power organizations.

For a decade, he was the Center Club's president and was a founding board member of Caves Valley Country Club. He sat on the University of Maryland's Board of Regents for 10 years and spent five years as its chairman.

He also sat on the boards of the United Way of Central Maryland, the College Bound Foundation, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Walters Art Museum, the Maryland Communication Center, the National Flag Day Foundation, the Preakness Celebration, Pride of Baltimore, the Queen Anne's County Department of Business and Tourism, University of Maryland Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and was a member of the Polytechnic Institute's board of overseers and foundation.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Westminster Hall, 519 W. Fayette St.

Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Carol Murray McGowan; four sons, Gregg McGowan of Catonsville, Brad McGowan of Pittsfield, N.H., Fred Munn III of Churchville and Robert Munn of San Diego; and a granddaughter. His marriage to Jeanne Stewart McGowan ended in divorce.

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