Austin H. George, founder and longtime head of T. Rowe Price’s Equity Trading Department and an avid collector of Asian art, died Jan. 11 from congestive heart failure at Roland Park Place. The former Guilford resident was 87.
“Austin was an amazing person in so many ways. I worked for him and then succeeded him,” said Andrew M. “Andy” Brooks, who joined T. Rowe Price in 1980 and took over as head of the equity trading desk when Mr. George retired in 1992.
“He was one of the deans of the institutional trading business in the U.S. and one of the leaders on the buy side,” said Mr. Brooks, a North Roland Park resident, who retired from the firm in 2019.
“He had a real love of the business and people that was simply infectious. He was tough, had a booming voice, and demanded excellence,” he said. “He protected the interests of our clients and long-term investors who always came first. He was a big, bold presence and did a marvelous job representing T. Rowe Price.”
Austin Herbert George, son of Herbert Arthur George, a Connecticut Railway and Lighting Co. executive, and his wife, Emilee Franck George, a civic activist, was born in Philadelphia and moved in 1937 with his family to Fairfield, Connecticut.
He was a 1951 graduate of Robert Ludlowe High School, now Fairfield Ludlowe High School, in Fairfield and attended Princeton University, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1955 in chemical engineering.
Mr. George began working as an engineer with E. I. du Point de Nemours in Niagara Falls, New York, and while working for Dupont he met a secretary, Darlene Ann Hughes, who worked there. The couple fell in love and married in 1958.
They spent their first year of marriage in Memphis, Tennessee, when Mr. George came to the realization that he wasn’t “a very good engineer” and decided to make a career change.
He moved to Baltimore in 1959 and went to work at T. Rowe Price as administrator of the T. Rowe Price Growth Fund, which in those days was a $50 million fund, small in comparison to today’s multibillion-dollar funds.
Mr. George liked to tell the story, family members said, that he was the 17th employee hired by the company, and on paydays reported to Mr. Price’s office, where the founder of the company personally handed him his paycheck.
In 1969, Mr. George established the equity trading desk and liked to tell colleagues that he was the “chief cook and bottle washer for the Growth Stock Fund,” Mr. Brooks said.
“Austin brought his intelligence, Princeton pedigree and integrity to equity trading to what had been a haphazard system,” Mr. Brooks said. “He was a real pioneer, yet remained understated in this matter. It is his legacy to the company to this day.”
Mr. George testified before Congress and always “tried to represent the interests of both the trading community and investor,” Mr. Brooks wrote in a tribute to colleagues. “He taught us all that a healthy trading ecosystem, where all could prosper, was essential for our collective success. He brought intellectual curiosity and great integrity to the craft we practiced.”
He was promoted to vice president and eventually to head of the equity trading department. He later served as chair of the Institutional Traders Advisory Committee and in 1988 was named president of the National Securities Traders Association, a position he held for a year.
Mr. George didn’t like driving to work and was a regular commuter on the old No. 61 Mass Transit Administration bus that coursed downtown by way of Roland Avenue and St. Paul Street.
He was a lunchtime regular at the old Burke’s on Light Street, where he enjoyed a Reuben with onion rings, or lunching at the Center Club or Merchants Club, and he enjoyed conducting business dinners at the Prime Rib, Marconi’s or Martick’s.
“Austin had a warm smile and handshake and just a zest for life,” Mr. Brooks said. “He was like the title of Frank Beirne’s book, an ‘Amiable Baltimorean.’ ”
In 1975, Mr. George and his wife moved to a home on Overhill Road in Guilford, where they lived for 43 years before moving three years ago to Roland Park Place.
Mr. George served on the board of Roland Park County School for nine years and was a member of its finance committee for 26 years. He served on the board of the German Children’s Home in Catonsville and was a supporter of Habitat for Humanity, the Maryland Fuel Fund, the Maryland Food Bank, GEDCO, Living Classrooms and the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust.
Mr. George and his wife were inveterate world travelers, and after retiring the couple spent two decades on a “travel splurge that covered most of the world,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family.
Favorite destinations, to which they returned many times, were the British isles and France, where Mr. George preferred visiting small cities and towns rather than capital cities, and staying in intimate bed-and-breakfasts as opposed to hotels.
Mr. Brooks said that Mr. George maintained extensive travel files that meant you checked with him before embarking on a trip because he had lists of all the restaurants, gardens, museums, cafes and “undiscovered places of wonder” that would enhance a trip abroad.
A lover of the sea since boyhood and an accomplished sailor, Mr. George enjoyed cruises, preferring small ships rather than the mega-liners of today.
A gourmand who enjoyed fine food and wine, Mr. Gorge served as president of the Baltimore Wine and Food Society.
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Cleveland D. Miller, a lawyer who is of counsel to the Baltimore law firm of Semmes, Bowen and Semmes, is a friend of 40 years and also a member of the wine and food society.
“Austin led eight or nine wonderful trips to Europe that lasted two or three weeks,” said Mr. Miller, a Charlesbrooke resident. “We would see all the sights and visit wineries, and it was just wonderful. He was a great tour guide and could have had a second career as one if he wanted.”
A purchase of a small antique bowl in the 1970s for a Christmas present for his wife sparked a nearly 50-year interest in Asian art. He had a special interest in Japanese woodblock prints, Samurai warrior dolls and bronze Buddha sculptures. Both he and his wife were devoted supporters of the Walters Art Museum and active members of its Friends of the Asian Collection.
Mr. George was an active member and was a trustee of Roland Park Presbyterian Church and a member of the session.
Because of the pandemic, plans for a memorial service are incomplete.