Margie H. Muller, 71, banking commissioner for Md. until 1996

July 26, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Margie H. Muller, who served three governors as Maryland's bank commissioner and was the wife of a former Johns Hopkins University president, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital yesterday after a long struggle with emphysema. She was 71.

Mrs. Muller presided over the state's banking industry from the early 1980s until the turbulent mid-1990s, when some of the nation's biggest banks were lobbying to move into Maryland so they could take over local institutions.

She was appointed bank commissioner in 1983, a post that meant supervising a staff of 30 regulators and monitoring 80 state-chartered banks, 20 credit unions and mortgage brokers.

"She was a very effective administrator," said Anthony H. Zelaznicki, a former assistant bank commissioner. He said her foresight and skills helped the state make a smooth transition into interstate banking.

A sharp executive, Mrs. Muller was highly regarded among bank officials and was known for having a firm grasp of the problems and issues affecting banking.

In interviews, Mrs. Muller described herself as a "serious person," who was always "task oriented."

"I suppose another word for it would be orderly. I like things put together and tied up," she told an interviewer in 1983.

Born in Los Angeles, Mrs. Muller graduated from Los Angeles High School and the University of California, Los Angeles.

At UCLA, she majored in English, was student council vice president and met and became engaged to her future husband, Steven Muller, president emeritus of Hopkins.

She moved to England, where she did sales promotion work for a California-based fashion company.

In 1951, she married Mr. Muller in a chapel at Oxford University. When the Mullers returned to the United States that year, they settled in Ithaca, N.Y.

Mrs. Muller worked in advertising in Ithaca and New York City before she began a career in banking.

In 1960, she joined Thompkins County Trust Co., working in public relations and marketing for 11 years.

In 1971, the couple moved to Baltimore when Dr. Muller was named provost at Hopkins. Mrs. Muller worked for Maryland National Bank until 1977, rising from a public relations staffer to vice president.

She began working for Union Trust Co. of Maryland in 1977, first as a vice president for marketing. She was a senior vice president for corporate affairs when she was tapped by Gov. Harry R. Hughes for the bank commissioner's post in 1983. She remained in the job during the administration of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Mrs. Muller was fired in 1996 after she attacked Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to cut costs by merging her office with the consumer credit commissioner's office, a move that she felt would hamper efforts to regulate the banks.

Dr. Muller said yesterday that his wife's penchant for honesty might have cost her the job.

"Margie was bright and absolutely dead honest," he said. "She was the opposite of a politician. She did what she thought was right, regardless."

With her involvement in several professional organizations, Mrs. Muller was active in community affairs.

She was president of the Health and Welfare Council, the Baltimore Promotion Council and the Baltimore Public Relations Council, and was a founding director of the Leadership Program of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

She was a trustee of McDonogh School and advisory committee chairman of the Community Resource Bank.

She enjoyed surf fishing near her summer home in Bethany Beach, Del., dancing, cooking and winter trips to the Caribbean.

Plans for a memorial service were pending.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her mother, Marjorie U. Hellman of Beverly Hills, Calif.; two daughters, Julie Muller Mitchell of San Francisco and Elizabeth Muller Casparian of Princeton, N.J.; a sister, Janet Mountjoy of Hayfork, Calif.; and five grandchildren.

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