|John Doran Sr.|
John Doran Sr., 90, of Solomons, Md., passed away on Nov. 8, 2013. Doran was a pioneer member of the American Rental Association (ARA), serving on numerous committees promoting and helping the rental industry. He retired in 1998 when he merged his equipment rental business with United Rentals.
After graduating from Seton High School, he attended the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. He served as a power plant engineer aboard vessels during WWII, completing his service in 1945. After, he moved to Washington, D.C., and attended Georgetown University in the School of Foreign Service, graduating in 1949.
During his college years, he worked for the Washington Post and Garfield Hospital overseeing plant and facilities maintenance, but he also tired of loaning his tools and having to ask for them back, so he started to rent them to raise some spending money.
After graduating from Georgetown, he turned renting tools into a business and founded Rental Tools and Equipment Co. in 1950 out of a house in Silver Spring, Md. Later based in Bladensburg, Md., the company became a large supplier of construction equipment, employing 450 people in 26 locations stretching from Philadelphia to Houston.
Doran capitalized on the military surplus tools and machinery that could be purchased inexpensively, fixed them up and rented them to contractors during the post-war building explosion of communities and infastructure. He also admired catalog companies such as Sears Roebuck and made “rental catalogs” for his business, giving them to anyone who wanted one.
Doran married his wife, Jean, in 1951 and they raised 10 children together in Chevy Chase, Md., while also building the rental company.
Doran kept hearing about well-run, innovative rental companies out west and he made a point to join and participate in the very early meetings of the ARA. He welcomed new rental owners and operators that wanted to visit his company or to ask for advice. Equally, he always admired the young startup manufacturers of equipment, giving many an early order to help them get a start.
He also was an advocate of computers. He purchased his first NCR model in the mid-1960s for back office duties, but continued to learn how to benefit from them. His “charts,” as he called them, eventually became the spreadsheets and graphs many use to manage their businesses today.
Doran also founded EDCO — Equipment Development Co. because he was unable to buy specialized equipment that concrete customers asked for in his rental business. Leo Swan later became the owner of EDCO. Doran also started Automated Functions, a company that designed, built and installed computerized robotic rack retrieval systems.
He was elected ARA Region Two director in 1965, received the ARA Meritorious Service Award in 1974, the ARA Distinguished Service Award in 1991 and was inducted into the Rental Hall of Fame in 2004.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet John at his Rental Hall of Fame induction in 2004 and thanked him for his many contributions to the industry and the association,” said Christine Wehrman, ARA’s executive vice president and CEO.
“His foresight and vision advanced and propelled forward the momentum of the industry at a key time in its development. John made things happen and the results are indicative of his leadership,” Wehrman said.
After his retirement, he and his wife formed the Doran Family Foundation. The foundation makes grants to Catholic Churches and Schools in the Southern Maryland area. Grants are provided for the construction of parish centers for cultural and athletic activities for youth and families.
He is survived by his wife, daughters Catherine and Eileen of Huntingtown, Md., Sheila of Boston, Mary of Richmond, Va., Beatrice of Big Sky, Mont., Leah of Santa Cruz, Calif., Nancy of Brentwood, Calif., and son John of Shadyside, Md. He was preceded in death by his parents and his two sons, Charles and Daniel, who passed away in 1985.
Contributions may be made in Doran’s memory to Calvert Hospice, PO Box 838, 238 Merrimac Court, Prince Frederick, MD 20678. Donations may be made online at calverthospice.org.