Washington — He was an English major once, but he left that long ago and became a man like those described by novelist John Cheever -- New York rich, ruddy faced, silver haired, always cordial.
Donald T. Regan was educated at Harvard and toughened by the US Marine Corps. He joined Merrill Lynch in 1946 and found that he and Wall Street got along very well. In 1968 he became president of the company; by 1970 he was chairman.
Along the way he garnered $9 million worth of Merrill Lynch stock and a reputation as an innovative, quick-moving businessman. If confirmed as secretary of the Treasury, he will be a general in Ronald Regan's economic attack-force, shaping government tax and spending policies.
"Im will be the administration's spokesman on economic matters," he emphasized at his confirmation hearings.
Though affable in public, Mr. Regan is known for assidioulsy cultivating a private life. Many people have unlisted home phones; Regan has an unlisted home town (Merrill Lynch will not officially divulge which New Jersey suburb its chairman resides in). A golf and history buff, he tries to leave work at 5 p.m. every day -- a habit he may find hard to continue at the Treasury.
Colleagues give him high marks for making Merrill Lynch the biggest and best-known brokerage house in the country.
"I think he has the prestige needed for the [Treasury] job," says one Wall Street peer.
Not everyone agrees. Conservative groups have been angered by President-elect Ronald Reagan's selection of Regan. They fear the choice of a relatively pragmatic moderate for Treasury means the President-elect is retreating from his radical tax proposals.
Regan also has been criticized for some questionable tax avoidance procedures counseled by Merrill Lynch during his tenure. In his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, he denied havin g every personally advised the tax procedure.