WILMINGTON — Past Josiah Marvel Cup winner, high school friend to this year’s awardee and President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden sent a recorded message to congratulate …
WILMINGTON — Past Josiah Marvel Cup winner, high school friend to this year’s awardee and President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden sent a recorded message to congratulate Fred Sears II as the 2022 recipient of the coveted award at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s 185th Annual Dinner on Monday.
“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 message. “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.”
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were honored with the Marvel Cup at the state chamber’s 181st annual dinner in 2018.
“You wear the heart of Delaware on your sleeve — everyone sees it,” President Biden added.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce awards the Josiah Marvel Cup annually during its dinner celebrating the group’s accomplishments and recognizing those that have helped Delaware businesses advance during the previous year.
The event is usually held in January, but concerns about a surge in COVID-19 cases at the start of the year forced chamber officials to reschedule for April. The event was held Monday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.
As a tradition, the recipient of the Marvel Cup is kept secret until the night of the dinner. Unfortunately, due to the rescheduling, Mr. Sears was unable to attend the dinner. He is currently in California, so chamber leaders had to tell him in advance.
His sons and their families were on hand to accept the award.
Following the announcement of his win, chamber officials played a pre-recorded acceptance speech by Mr. Sears.
The 2022 Marvel Cup winner said he was humbled and honored to be this year’s recipient, adding that it was probably the biggest surprise of his life.
“I have served on the Marvel Cup selection committee and as its co-chair for a number of years. I know the process. We had a meeting back in December where we elected this year’s honoree, and I was in the meeting,” he said in his recorded message which drew laughter from the crowd Monday night.
Mr. Sears said he was proud to be now included on the list of honorees.
“I know the list of previous years’ winners. I knew at least 25 of them. Most of them I consider friends. Four of them were mentors that helped me do what I was able to do in success in my career,” Mr. Sears said.
Michael J. Quaranta, president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, said keeping this year’s winner a secret was challenging.
“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,” he said. “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.”
A Delaware native, Mr. 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.
Mr. 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, of which he was instrumental in bringing to the state and served as its president.
Early in his banking career, Mr. 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.
Mr. Sears also served the city of Wilmington as a councilman from 1976 to 1984. He stayed active politically by serving on the transition team for former Mayor James Sills Jr., co-chairing transition teams for former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and then New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, and chairing the Budget and Finance subcommittee for former Gov. Jack Markell. Mr. Sears also chaired the Wilmington Economic and Financial Advisory Council.
In 2002, Mr. Sears became the president and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation. He stayed in that role 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 organization’s long-term charitable funds, building its assets to $285 million, and creating The Next Generation board to inspire future leaders to become involved in the community.
Mr. 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 of 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. He has also served as a committee member on numerous fundraising projects for more than 25 different nonprofit organizations throughout Delaware, including the state chamber’s annual dinner planning committee.
The Josiah Marvel Cup was established in 1951. The award honors a Delawarean who has made an outstanding contribution to the state, community or society. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s highest honor is named in memory of the Honorable Josiah Marvel, who reorganized and served as the first president of the state chamber in 1913.