Charles W. Shaeffer, 94, co-founder and president of T. Rowe Price

December 21, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Charles Wayne Shaeffer, a founder and former president of the T. Rowe Price financial firm who believed that small investors should have a safe way to put their money in the stock market, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at Brightwood Center in Lutherville. He was 94.

Born in the York County community of Bridgeton, Pa., he learned lessons in economics when his father, who owned farms and had a cigar-making business, was ruined financially in the Depression of the 1930s.

Mr. Shaeffer tried his hand at farming but abandoned the idea after hail destroyed his first tobacco crop. He enrolled at Pennsylvania State University to earn his bachelor's degree, working as a waiter to pay tuition. He also played varsity tennis there.

He moved to Baltimore in the mid-1930s, then earned a master's degree from the Harvard Business School with financial help from its Maryland alumni.

Mr. Shaeffer said he became attracted to investment banking as a result of the 1929 stock market crash.

"He would say the Depression made a hell of an impression on him," said his son, Charles W. "Pete" Shaeffer Jr. of Gibson Island. "That was the way he talked. There was something John Wayne-ish about him. He didn't mince words. He could be diplomatic, but he frequently cut to the chase."

In 1935, he met Thomas Rowe Price when both were managers at the Baltimore brokerage firm of Mackubin, Legg & Co. - now Legg Mason.

Within three years, Mr. Price, along with Mr. Shaeffer and Walter Kidd, founded T. Rowe Price and Associates. They shared an investment philosophy of buying steadily producing growth stocks for clients. Today the firm manages more than $200 billion in assets.

"It seemed that there should be some way to invest money in securities more intelligently and with greater prudence," Mr. Shaeffer said in a speech he frequently gave over the years.

Family members said Mr. Shaeffer often used his salary to purchase shares of T. Rowe Price stock. To support them in the company's early years, he taught evening and weekend classes at the old Baltimore College of Commerce and the Johns Hopkins University night school.

"He was a frugal guy up to his last days," said his son. "Until the mid-1950s, he drove a beat-up old Chevrolet. It was bolted together. He later drove Buicks."

"He had this dream that the firm would be a big success," said George A. Roche, T. Rowe Price chairman. "He was always an optimist."

Mr. Shaeffer was named president of T. Rowe Price in 1963. Three years later, when Mr. Price retired, he also became board chairman and headed the T. Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund, then the nation's largest no-load mutual fund.

On Feb. 12, 1971, Mr. Shaeffer said on the television program Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser, "I believe that the period of the 1970s will go down as the worst period of inflation this country has ever had." This proved prophetic, as rates climbed to double-digit figures - and made stock investments less attractive.

The same month he told a Sun reporter, "You've got to be a contrary thinker to make money. This is the time you should be buying."

In 1973, Loyola College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. That year, he also was inducted into the Society of Distinguished Alumni at Penn State, where he was a benefactor.

He also led the mutual fund industry's three associations, the Investment Company Institute, Investment Counsel Association of America and Mutual Fund Education Alliance.

Mr. Shaeffer, a former Poplar Hill resident, retired in 1975. Late into his life, he enjoyed fishing in Muddy Creek, alongside the old Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad tracks near his boyhood home.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Trinity Episcopal Church, 120 Allegheny Ave. in Towson, where he was a communicant.

In addition to his son, survivors include two daughters, Anne Shaeffer MacKenzie of Cockeysville and Julia Parker Shaeffer of West Chester, Pa; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, the former Ruth Smyser, died in 1999.

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