The Daily Iowegian
---- — Noted philanthropist, entrepreneur, advertising executive and real estate preservationist Morgan E. Cline, 81, of Middletown Township, N.J. passed away unexpectedly on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014, at his home. He was surrounded by the love and comfort of close friends at the time of his passing. Morgan was predeceased by his beloved partner of 52 years, Benjamin R. D’Onofrio, in 2009.
Born on Aug. 26, 1932, in Exline, Morgan Evan Cline graduated from Exline High School as valedictorian in 1949 and received a scholarship to attend Centerville Junior College, which he did for one year before moving on to Drake University to study pharmacy. He graduated with honors from Drake University in 1953, at the age of 20. Morgan attended two years of medical school at Iowa University and then enlisted in the Army, where he was assigned as a pharmacist and stationed at Fort Dix, N.J. and later at Fort Jay in New York City. After spending two years in the Army, followed by three years as a drugstore pharmacist, Morgan entered the world of advertising, where he leveraged his medical expertise and focused on the healthcare industry.
Morgan began his advertising career at Dean Burdick Associates, later moving on to Robert A. Becker Inc., before making his way to Klemtner Advertising in New York, where he rose to become president in 16 years, at the age of 50. After great success with Klemtner, he founded his own agency, Cline, Davis & Mann, with two creative partners, Fred Mann and Clyde Davis. In just 17 years Morgan and his partners took the organization from a kitchen-table boutique to a dominant force in the advertising community, with more than 130 employees. Morgan set the tone at the company by living an extraordinary and principled business life, based on the simple values of hard work, demanding standards, loyalty and generosity. He was responsible for the advertising launch of both Viagra and Lipitor, two of the most successful pharmaceutical product launches of all time. Much sought after as an acquisition target, the agency was eventually acquired by Omnicom Group, the second-largest communications company in the world.
In addition to his success in advertising, Morgan had a magic touch for real estate and helped save many an old building and estate, even communities, from the wrecking ball. With a keen eye for undervalued properties with strong historic bones, he was a key force in the real estate renaissance of Hoboken in the 1970s and 1980s – where he was responsible for more than 125 real estate projects – helping to transform that city into a sought-after address for young families and people working in New York City. He then renovated several historic estates in Monmouth County, N.J., and later focused significant effort in restoring the small, rural communities of his youth.
Morgan’s generosity and restoration helped return two small Iowa towns, Exline and Centerville, to places of civic vitality and pride from the edge of struggle and decline, which is often the fate of many rural communities.
Community and business development efforts include Porter Hall, Spurgeon Building, Maytag, JC Penny Building, Bradley Hall, The Columns, The Continental, The Majestic, The Beck Mansion, Continental Mews, Curtis Buildings, State Street Building, Bradley Bank Building, Morgan’s ICP, Continental Care Center at Seymour, The Continental at St. Joseph’s, Continental Home Care, Ponds and Prairies, Exline Country Store & Antique Exchange, Exline Community Betterment, Coal Miner’s Commons, Exline Hose Co. No. 1, Leslie School House, Malin Lots - Exline Lots Program and the E.E. Withrow Building.
Morgan’s success in advertising and real estate gave him a springboard for generosity and philanthropy on a significant scale in both Iowa and New Jersey. Among his most significant philanthropic contributions in Iowa are his $5 million scholarship-endowment fund for pharmacy students at Drake University, a gift of $3 million to Drake University for construction of the Morgan E. Cline Atrium for Pharmacy and Science and a $1 million donation to Mercy Medical Center in Centerville for a new wing that will be named in his honor. This is in addition to the Mercy Hospital Legacies Foundation, The Morgan E. Cline Family Sports Complex, The Cline Family Dialysis Center, Hero’s Park in Exline, Appanoose County Coalition for the Arts, Exline Hose Company No. 1, Indian Hills Community College Sustainable Agriculture Green House Project, the Drake University Morgan E. Cline School of Pharmacy Science & Cline Atrium, State Street Station, First United Methodist Church, Exline Christian Church, Historic Preservation, Exline Cemetery and Potter’s Field, along with restoring and donating other key buildings.
In New Jersey Morgan and Ben made a $3 million donation to the Monmouth Medical Center in 2007 to benefit the emergency department, which was then named the Cline-D’Onofrio Emergency Services Pavilion of Monmouth Medical Center. Morgan made another gift to the emergency department a few years later in Ben’s honor. He joined the hospital’s Board of Trustees in 2010 and was most recently serving as Honorary Chair of the Capital Campaign.
Morgan and Ben generously shared their lovingly restored home and stunning riverfront property, Riverwind, as a prime location for large-scale philanthropic events, frequently hosting the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association galas, among several others. It was also home to their spectacularly festive annual Christmas party, celebrated with beautiful live performances of classical music, followed by a holiday feast.
Morgan’s generosity was always front and center, with his humble beginnings never far behind. A hamburger and a glass of sweet iced tea was always preferred over anything pretentious or overdone. He lived a modern life of great success but was always driven by simple rural values and the desire to help create opportunity for others.
Morgan was preceded in death by his mother and father, Ogle and Lucile Cline, and his partner Benjamin R. D’Onofrio. He is survived by his sister, Barbara Eddy, her sons, Patrick and Mark, and her daughter, Rebecca McGuire, and his brother, Gary, and his daughters, Terri Zimmerman, Missy Buchanan and Annie Cline.
An open house time of reflection and remembrance at Riverwind will be held today and Friday, April 25. A celebration of Morgan E. Cline’s life will follow four to eight weeks from now in New Jersey and in Iowa. Flowers may be sent at that time. Memorials for the Exline Cemetery may be sent to the Morgan E. Cline Memorial, The Cline Companies, 307 N. 13th St., Centerville, IA 52544.