Alan W. Ott Retires from Leadership Roles at Two Midland Foundations

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January 09, 2020
Alan W. Ott Retires from Leadership Roles at Two Midland Foundations
Business, Philanthropic Leader Helped Shape Community for Nearly Six Decades
Midland, Michigan, January 9, 2020 – After more than 34 years of service, Alan W. Ott announced his retirement from leadership positions at two key Midland-based foundations, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation and the Elsa U. Pardee Foundation.
The longtime president and CEO of Chemical Bank, Ott joined the board of the Gerstacker Foundation as a trustee in 1985, becoming treasurer a decade later. He later joined the board of the Pardee Foundation as a trustee.
In these roles, he partnered with other Midland foundations and civic and business leaders to benefit the community and the larger Great Lakes Bay Region. Community projects supported by the Gerstacker Foundation include the Tridge, Midland County Courthouse, Washington Woods, rail-trail projects and others.
“For decades, Alan Ott provided financial brilliance and community commitment in guiding our philanthropic efforts,” said Gail Lanphear, chair of the Gerstacker Foundation and the Pardee Foundation. “We have all learned from him, and we will miss him.”
This sentiment was echoed by Gerstacker Foundation executives Lisa Gerstacker, president, and Bill Schuette, executive vice president, who shared a joint statement: “Alan Ott has been ‘Mr. Midland’ and set an example of how to give wisely and build bridges to help communities grow and prosper. While he may have retired, we can guarantee Alan’s advice and presence will continue to shape the community he loves and the region he calls home.”
The Elsa U. Pardee Foundation was established in 1944 by Ms. Pardee with a $1 million trust fund for the promotion of the control and cure of cancer. Since that time, the Foundation has granted more than $105 million to 300-plus research institutions across the United States and another $35 million to meet the immediate financial needs of cancer patients.
Today, the Foundation evaluates more than 300 proposals annually. About one-third of its grants are made to the Pardee Cancer Treatment Funds, which provide much-needed financial assistance to patients with cancer in Midland, surrounding counties and other select locations.
The Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation was established in 1957 by Eda U. Gerstacker in memory of her husband, Rollin. Since that time, the Foundation has given more than $250 million to help make Midland a wonderful place to live and to visit, and to make the surrounding community strong and vibrant.
The Gerstacker Foundation has worked with other foundations, leaders and volunteers to create progressive senior housing, a thriving downtown and riverfront, excellent public schools and youth services, superior higher education, wonderful parks and recreation, a thriving music and arts culture, a prestigious regional hospital, diverse community centers and much more.
“My good friend Carl Gerstacker built these two foundations, and it has been an honor and a privilege to carry on his vision to benefit our community and our neighbors,” Ott said. “For me, the real reward has been to partner with other foundations and businesses in Midland for the common good of our community.
“It is gratifying to see the lasting effect and impact of these projects – and to see them flourishing five and 10 years later.”
A native of Manistique, Ott moved down state to Clare in 1956 to begin his banking career as a cashier and vice president for what was then Citizens State Bank. He met and married Jean Magnus, who also worked at the bank, in 1958.
The couple moved to Midland in 1962 so Ott could join what was then Chemical Bank & Trust Co. as a cashier. He was promoted to vice president two years later and named the bank’s fifth president in 1972 at the age of 41. He became chief executive officer of the Midland-based community bank the following year and would spend the next 29 years growing Chemical Bank and investing in the community of Midland.
Under Ott’s leadership, Chemical Bank acquired 17 thriving community banks across the state, growing total assets from $137.55 million in 1973 to $3.49 billion in 2002. During his tenure, Chemical Bank expanded from 9 branches in three counties to 128 branches and two loan production centers in 32 counties.
“As a community banker, Alan understood the inter-relationship between economic development and community development,” Schuette said. “His office was the center of commerce and commercial development in Midland, and he demonstrated the importance of giving back to the community.
“Alan was laser-focused on building for the future, whether that was the bank, its employees, the customers or the Midland community as a whole.”
During the late 1970s, Ott forged strong and trusted relationships with several business leaders and philanthropists, including Herb Dow, Ted Doan and Carl Gerstacker. After Gerstacker retired as chair of the board of The Dow Chemical Company, he travelled the state with Ott to visit bank customers and research possible bank acquisitions. 
Over the years and miles as Ott and Gerstacker drove around Mid-Michigan, they talked, cementing a strong bond based on their similar financial and philanthropic perspectives. Ott first joined the Gerstacker Foundation, then the Pardee Foundation, serving both boards for more than three decades with sound financial advice, unwavering integrity and a strong commitment to community.
Ott served Chemical Bank for 39 years, becoming treasurer, chair of the board and the holding company and finally director emeritus of Chemical Financial Corp. upon his retirement in 2001.
Active in the community, Ott volunteered with other organizations to benefit Midland over the years, including the 4-H Foundation, Midland Community Center, Midland County Economic Development Corp., Saginaw Valley State University Foundation, Delta College and others. He also served on the Albion College Board of Trustees.
Alan and Jean Ott continue to make their home in Midland.