Morris Cheston, Jr.—an accomplished corporate and securities lawyer and Navy veteran who excelled at gardening, sailing, and ice hockey and who left an indelible mark on Philadelphia through decades of civic leadership—died June 5 at age 78 at his home in Spring House, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Cheston built his reputation representing clients in securities, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate law, particularly in the life sciences, health care, and paper industries, and nonprofit law. His representation of one of the first large, successful biotechnology companies, Centocor, Inc., from its formation in 1979 through its IPO in 1982 and for many years afterward, established Mr. Cheston as one of the premier biotech lawyers in the region. His extensive involvement in the paper industry included representing P.H. Glatfelter Company for many years and serving as a director of Paper Manufacturers Company.

"He was an incredible lawyer and teacher to so many of us in the legal community," partner Mary Mullany said. "And he was a leader at the firm and in Philadelphia in mentoring women."

"We were trained in the 'Cheston method,'" said partner Brian Doerner, who, as an associate, worked closely with Mr. Cheston. "He taught us attention to detail and thoroughness and he pushed us to always ask questions."

Jennifer Miller, a former Ballard partner who now is chief legal officer at Renmatix, Inc., said of Mr. Cheston: “Morris was a mentor in every sense of the word, providing guidance and friendship professionally and personally from my first year as an associate through partnership and for years after leaving the firm. He will be missed by me and so many others.”

At the time of his death, Mr. Cheston was senior counsel at the firm, a warm and elegant fixture in horn-rimmed spectacles, perfectly tailored suits, and colorful ties, many of them reflecting his love of horticulture.

A lifelong gardener, Mr. Cheston was a board member and past chair of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and past chair of its marquee event, the Philadelphia Flower Show. He served on the board of the Garden Conservancy, co-chairing its $15 million Campaign to Save America's Exceptional Gardens and sharing his own garden with the public through the Conservancy's Open Days program.

Mr. Cheston’s father, Morris Sr., and uncle, E. Calvert Cheston, were Ballard Spahr partners before him. In keeping with family tradition, he dedicated himself to excellence in law as well as to civic improvement. Among his notable contributions was his service as a member and chair of the Board of Managers of historic Pennsylvania Hospital, where his and his father's portraits hang among those of the important figures in the hospital's history.

"Morris represented the best of Ballard," firm Chair Mark Stewart said. "He was smart, civic-minded, admired by his colleagues, and widely respected for his legal skills both inside and outside the firm." Mr. Cheston joined the firm in the early 1960s, was made a partner in 1971, and became senior counsel in 2009.

At the Wissahickon Skating Club in Philadelphia, where Mr. Cheston was known as Mo, he was admired both for his skill on the ice and his enduring support of the club. Mr. Cheston learned to play ice hockey on his family's farm outside Philadelphia and went on to play at Princeton University, where he was captain of the hockey team his senior year.

While serving in the Navy, Mr. Cheston tried out for the U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team in 1960. He just missed making the cut but traveled with the team to Squaw Valley, California, for the games and watched as the U.S. underdogs won the gold medal. A ferocious defenseman, he went on to compete on club teams in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and stopped playing only recently—one of the oldest ice hockey players ever to play in the Princeton University alumni game.

His athleticism also extended to golf and sailing. Mr. Cheston and his wife, Cynthia, had a second home in North Haven, Maine, and spent Memorial Day weekend there. Mr. and Mrs. Cheston were married for nearly 50 years.

Mr. Cheston served as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, the First Hospital Foundation, the Chestnut Hill-Springside Foundation, the Les Quatre Vents Foundation, the New Jersey State Aquarium, King’s College, and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. In addition, he was chairman of the board of Chestnut Hill Academy, a trustee of Springside School, chairman of the board of the Philadelphia Zoo, and served as director and major gifts chairman of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

He was a director of Orthovita, Inc., a publicly held biomaterials company, and The Mutual Assurance Company, in addition to Paper Manufacturers Company.

A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Mr. Cheston was an active member of both the American Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Services for Mr. Cheston will be held on Monday, June 13, at 3 p.m. at St. Thomas’ Church, Bethlehem Pike and Camp Hill Road, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his wife, Cynthia, their children, Melinda, Morris III, and James II, and four grandchildren.

Donations in Mr. Cheston's memory may be made to Pennsylvania Hospital.