Giles E. Mosher, 80; banker stepped in to assist Boston College, his alma mater

Giles Mosher was chief executive at BayBank.
Giles Mosher was chief executive at BayBank.

Fresh from being honored by a business group as one of New England’s five outstanding young men, Giles E. Mosher Jr. explained in an interview how he expanded the loan portfolio at Newton-Waltham Bank and Trust, where he was a senior vice president.

Adding a personal touch to what often are formal, financial transactions, he made thousands of phone calls and visited scores of businesses.

“I’ve knocked on a lot of doors and I think I found the pulse,” he told the Globe in September 1966. “I think I gained a certain respect by going out and asking if we could help with a loan. Nobody enjoys asking for one. I’d go out and say, ‘I’d like the opportunity to lend you some money.’”

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Rarely did his approach have a longer lasting impact than when he became the key banker who helped Boston College, his alma mater, resolve its financial challenges in the early 1970s.

Mr. Giles, who was vice chairman emeritus of Bank of America and formerly chief executive of BayBank, died of heart failure Tuesday in his Wellesley home. He was 80 and kept a home in West Falmouth that he made sure was large enough to accommodate his large family and many friends.

“At the time of our greatest vulnerability, he was our chief banker,” said the Rev. J. Donald Monan, chancellor of Boston College.

Monan had just become BC’s president in 1972 and the institution was coping with what he called “an unbalanced balance sheet” when Mr. Mosher stepped in to help.

“I think without Giles’s understanding and support, Boston College would have had a very different future,” Monan said.

Though Mr. Mosher climbed the corporate ladder into bigger corporations as the banks he worked for merged with others, he remained at heart a community banker.

“He really understood the importance of relationships,” said Jack Connors, a founder of the Boston advertising firm Hill Holliday.

“He wasn’t a guy who saw lending money as a transaction,” said Connors, former chairman of the board at Boston College, where Mr. Mosher was a trustee for more than 40 years. “He saw it as part of a relationship that could go on for years. He was a first-class banker and a first-class human being.”

Chad Gifford, chairman emeritus Bank of America, recalled that when he led Bank of Boston during its mid-1990s merger with BayBank, Mr. Mosher smoothed the transition as the workforces combined.

“I never heard anybody say anything negative about this guy,” Gifford said. “He was so genuine in a world in which sometimes being genuine is a vanishing commodity. When you were with him, you’d just go up and smile because you knew you were with a person who was real and was good.”

Giles Edmund Mosher Jr. grew up in West Newton, the younger of two siblings, and graduated from Newton High School.

At Boston College, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Early on, Mr. Mosher considered becoming a stockbroker, but “it appeared too confining,” he told the Globe in 1966.

Beginning as a teller-trainee, he rose quickly through the ranks of Newton-Waltham Bank, becoming chairman of its board and president in about 15 years. He continued in his leadership roles after it merged with BayBank.

It was while working an earlier, less prestigious job, though, that he got to know Thelma Doyle, who had grown up not far from him in West Newton.

They didn’t meet until she was working part time at Newton-Waltham Bank during her senior year of high school. Often, she was sent to a nearby drug store to buy sodas for coworkers.

“So every afternoon I ended up at the drug store,” she recalled, “and guess who was behind the counter? While I was waiting for him to get what I needed, we would get a conversation going.”

They married in September 1956 and had six children.

Along with his work in banking and as a BC trustee, Mr. Mosher served on several boards, including the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Board of Trustees for St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center. He also was a member of Brae Burn Country Club in Newton and the Clover Club of Boston.

“He worked too hard,” his wife said. “He wore a lot of hats.”

Still, she added, family always came first, and “one of the most important things about him was his faith. He’s a very, very strong Catholic and believes in God and all the help that he’s gotten from the guy upstairs. And he was always willing to help anyone who was willing to help themselves.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Mosher leaves five daughters, Mary Beth Grimm and Caitlyn Ellis, both of Wellesley, Susan of Newton, Michelle Cibotti of Canton, and Alison Birmingham of Dover; a son, Giles III of Dover; and eight grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be said 11 a.m. Saturday in St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley.

“I’d say his affection for Boston College and banking was only exceeded by his love of his family,” Connors said. “If you went into his home, you would see literally hundreds of photographs of his children at various stages of their lives.”

Mr. Mosher’s daughter Susan said that despite his many work responsibilities, “he was involved in all of our lives and went way out of his way to make sure we had great experiences.”

Among the most important experiences were regular pilgrimages to the family’s West Falmouth house, Susan said.

“At any given weekend he might have 20 of us in the house,” she said. “He was never happier than when he had his family around him.”