Gregory H. Barnhill, a career investment banker who embraced and promoted hundreds of civic projects and charities, ended his life Friday evening in Baltimore County. He was 59 and lived in Stevenson.
"Greg was a very good citizen who always believed in giving back," said former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a friend. "He was always one of the businessmen to be counted upon in any activity beneficial to Baltimore or to the state."
Mr. Barnhill spent much of his early career with the old Alex. Brown & Sons. After its purchase by Bankers Trust and Deutsche Bank, where he was an official, he joined Baltimore-based Brown Advisory, where he was a partner.
"He was very successful at both firms and adapted well to the changing needs of the many private and institutional clients he served across the U.S. and in Europe and the Middle East," said Michael D. Hankin, Brown Advisory president and CEO. "Greg was often at the center of activities at Brown Advisory and in the community, and people sought his advice and input regularly."
Mr. Hankin recalled his colleague for his "intelligence, charitable and caring nature, and diligent work ethic." He called him a "dear friend [and] colleague who well understood the meaning of partner and mentor."
Friends recalled Mr. Barnhill for his breezy personality, ready smile — and as a troubadour for Baltimore and Maryland.
He lobbied for and brought the around-the-world sailing regatta, now known as the Volvo Ocean Race, to Maryland. A philanthropist, he also served on the boards of the Maryland Historical Society, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Harbor Hospital, among many other institutions and causes.
"He was my younger brother, and he was my hero," said his brother, Robert B. Barnhill of Baltimore. "He was incredibly successful, and he gave tremendous love. His energy was boundless and he was always pushing the envelope. He always had the deal of the day. Even as a little guy, he lived life to the fullest."
His brother said Mr. Barnhill had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had undergone surgery. "He was battling aggressive cancer that had metastasized. Then he contracted Lyme's disease and with that treatment, he became terribly sick. He just wasn't himself," he said.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Timonium, he was a 1971 graduate of McDonogh School, where he played lacrosse. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics at Brown University in 1975.
He returned to Baltimore in the 1970s. Friends said he heard of the city's dollar-house program and renovated a dilapidated dwelling in the Ridgely's Delight neighborhood.
He joined downtown Baltimore investment firm Alex. Brown & Sons in 1975, where he worked for many years. In the late 1980s and 1990s, he was a senior member of Brown's international-equity sales team. In 1999, after Brown was initially purchased by Bankers Trust, and then bought by Deutsche Bank AG, he was named head of the Baltimore-based institution's sales team.
He retired as a managing director of institutional equity sales at Deutsche Bank in 2003. He then rejoined many of his former colleagues at Brown Advisory. A 2003 Baltimore Sun article said he managed about $4.5 billion of investors' money. He had been a board member of a retail brokerage business, Brown Advisory Securities LLC.
He also served on the boards of Pure Bioscience, Osiris Therapeutics and Flavorx.
Mr. Barnhill, who had homes in Nantucket, Key Largo, Fla., and Henlopen Acres, Del., worked to make Maryland a stop in the around-the-world Whitbread race, now known as the Volvo Ocean Race.
"Greg was unfailingly optimistic and he loved Baltimore," said J. Stanley Heuisler, former director of the Columbus Center. "I worked with him and others laying the groundwork for the group which successfully lobbied for and then brought the Whitbread race to Baltimore. The event was, of course, a home run. Greg deserves a lion's share of the credit. He will be missed."
Friends said Mr. Barnhill often worked behind the scenes.
"Greg held the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Maryland Defense Force," said Courtney B. Wilson, director of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum and a former commander of the defense organization. "He served in the finance corps and spent countless hours using his considerable knowledge counseling deploying and returning Maryland National Guard members and their families on personal financial matters."
Family members said Mr. Barnhill served so many organizations that he kept a stack of invitations to their events. He often attended functions, if only for a few minutes. He called his appearances a "fly-by," his brother said.
"He had a saying: 'You're not late if you're there before it's over,' " his brother recalled.
Friends called his brief appearances "Barnhill moments."