The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce awarded its prestigious Josiah Marvel Cup to Fred C. Sears II. The award was given at the State Chamber’s 185th Annual Dinner.
Established in 1951, the Marvel Cup honors a Delawarean who has made an outstanding contribution to the state, community or society. The state chamber’s highest honor is named in memory of the Hon. Josiah Marvel, who reorganized and served as the first president of the state chamber in 1913. As a tradition, the recipient of the Marvel Cup is kept secret until the night of the dinner.
A Delaware native, Sears is a community leader and passionate advocate for improving the state. Giving back to the community around him has always been at the core of his mission.
"I like to be involved in the community," he said in a 2015 interview with DelawareOnline, "because it still requires change."
Sears spent nearly 40 years in the banking industry with ties to Delaware Trust Co., Wilmington Trust, Beneficial National Bank, Applied Bank, TD Bank, and most notably, Commerce Bank Delaware, which he was instrumental in bringing to the state and served as its president. Early in his banking career, Sears took time out to serve as finance director and economic development director for the City of Wilmington and director of the Port of Wilmington, where he is credited with signing the port’s first banana contract with Dole Fresh Fruit, now one of the port’s largest customers.
Politically, he was elected to Wilmington City Council from 1976 through 1984 and has continued to be active over the years by serving on the transition team for Mayor James Sills Jr., co-chairing transition teams for Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and then New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, and chairing the budget and finance subcommittee for Gov. Jack Markell. Sears also chaired the Wilmington Economic and Financial Advisory Council.
Sears also served as president and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation from 2002 until his retirement in 2015. Through his work with the foundation, he encouraged individuals, businesses and organizations to engage in long-term charitable giving to improve the statewide community, now and in the future. During his tenure, he was credited with tripling the foundation’s long-term charitable funds, building its assets to $285 million, and creating The Next Generation board to inspire the future leaders to become involved in the community.
Sears has been a member of the board of directors of more than 40 community nonprofit organizations, including the Beau Biden Foundation, ChristianaCare, Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, Diamond State Port Corporation, Leadership Delaware, REACH Riverside, Rodel, Wilmington Housing Partnership and the United Way of Delaware, to name a few. Sears has also served as a committee member on numerous fundraising activities for more than 25 different nonprofit organizations throughout Delaware, including the State Chamber’s Annual Dinner planning committee.
“Interestingly, Fred serves on our Marvel Cup Nominating Committee. Getting him to attend meetings and ‘fix’ this so that he remained unaware of the fact that he was our recipient was quite a feat,” said Michael J. Quaranta, president of the state chamber.
“Fred is a friend to all. Will Rogers said, ‘I never met a man I didn’t like…’ and I never met a man or woman that didn’t like Fred Sears.”
As an additional surprise, President Joe Biden sent his words of congratulations to his high school friend in a video that was aired during the dinner. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were honored with the Marvel Cup at the State Chamber’s 181st Annual Dinner in 2018.
“Fred, you’ve stood by me in some of the most important moments in my life – the good and the bad moments. I’m honored to call you a friend and I’m grateful for all you’ve done for the state of Delaware as well,” said President Biden in the video. “And I can’t thank you enough for your role in helping make the Beau Biden Foundation a reality and all you’ve done to help carry Beau’s legacy forward.”
Biden reflected on Sears’ mission to leave Delaware a better place than he found it: “You wear the heart of Delaware on your sleeve - everyone sees it.”