Merle E. Gilliand, chief executive officer of PNC Bank Corp. and a predecessor company from 1970 to 1985, died of cancer Tuesday in a hospital here. He was 76.

Mr. Gilliand was chairman and chief executive officer of Pittsburgh National Corp. in 1983 when it merged with Provident National Corp. of Philadelphia, creating PNC.

At the time, it was the biggest U.S. bank merger ever, and it helped Pittsburgh National compete with crosstown rival Mellon Bank Corp.

Mr. Gilliand once said competition made his bank better. "Our aim is not to pass Mellon in totals," he told Forbes magazine in 1983. "It is to do everything they do, better."

Mr. Gilliand became chairman and CEO of the post-merger company and oversaw several other bank acquisitions before retiring in 1985. With $15 billion of assets, PNC was then the 27th-largest U.S. banking company. He remained on its board and was chairman of its executive committee until 1992.

"His leadership and vision have left a legacy that will be part of this organization for many years to come," said PNC chairman and CEO Thomas O'Brien, one of Mr. Gilliand's proteges.

Mr. Gilliand began his banking career in the accounting department of People's First National Bank and Trust Co., Pittsburgh, in 1953.

In 1959, as People's controller, he was instrumental in its merger with Fidelity Trust Co. of Pittsburgh. The combined company was renamed Pittsburgh National Bank. He became its CEO in 1970.

A resident of Fox Chapel, Pa., and Naples, Fla., Mr. Gilliand is survived by his wife, Olive Lee, and a cousin, Doris Morley of Monroeville, Pa.

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