By Bill Studenc
A classroom in Western Carolina University’s Apodaca Science Building has a new name in recognition of a couple’s three-decade record of financial support and in tribute to a family’s history of providing dental services to residents of Jackson and surrounding counties for more than 150 years.
The McGuire Legacy Classroom is the moniker for a 64-seat general classroom formerly known as Room 207 and used by every academic division in the College of Arts and Sciences, including classes helping students prepare for dental school as part of WCU’s Pre-Professional Program.
The new name, approved in December by WCU’s Board of Trustees, was unveiled during a ceremony Friday, March 3, attended by friends and family of benefactors Patrick and Jeanne McGuire, and university faculty, staff, students and board members.
Patrick McGuire, who retired from his dental practice in 2016, and wife Jeanne, who served for many years as office manager, recently made gifts and pledges to three of WCU’s colleges. The contributions come in the form of a cash gift for the College of Arts and Sciences and two planned gifts for the Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts and the College of Education and Allied Professions.
The gifts will lead to the creation of three separate funds to be known as the Patrick and Jeanne McGuire Legacy Endowments in each college. The funds will provide experiential learning and professional development opportunities for students, faculty and staff in each college; support for initiatives that enhance the overall quality and reputations of the colleges’ programs; and support for initiatives that engage members of the Jackson County community.
The gifts from McGuires are significant not only because they touch multiple colleges, but also because private support of academic programming is needed just as much as private support for student scholarships, said Richard Starnes, WCU provost.
“Some might see this gift as simply a donation, but for Patrick and Jeanne McGuire this is an investment,” said Starnes. “Students, faculty and staff from across the university will reap the dividends of this investment in the form of support for innovative ideas, enhanced opportunities and transformative academic experiences for years to come. The university the McGuires love will be better, stronger and a more vibrant community of learning through their vision and generosity. We are deeply grateful.”
Patrick McGuire attended WCU from 1972 to 1973, transferring to Pfeiffer University. There, he earned his biology degree and met his future wife, Jeanne, who studied early childhood education. He went on to earn his doctorate in dental surgery at Emory University.
A member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advancement Council, he is part of a lineage of dentists serving patients in Western North Carolina. He began his practice in 1980 in Sylva with his parents, Harold and Patsy McGuire. The family donated nearly 70 artifacts to WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center related to Patrick’s grandmother, Daisy McGuire, North Carolina’s first female licensed dentist and the nation’s oldest practicing dentist when she retired at age 97.
“Neither Jeanne nor I graduated from Western Carolina University,” he said. “However, I am a WCU alumnus. I spent most of the 1972-1973 school year at Western, as well as numerous summer school sessions taking courses I needed.”
He also spent much time on campus as a child and young adult. “My father was a great sports fan and a huge fan of WCU football and basketball,” he said. “I have always loved Cullowhee and Western Carolina University. My one ‘sin’ is that I didn’t graduate from WCU. However, if I had I would never have met Jeanne, and that would easily count as the biggest misfortune of my life. So, I can’t be very sorry.”
The McGuires said they decided to split their gifts among three colleges that have had an impact on their lives and the lives of other family members. “These gifts are in honor and appreciation of the past, while we support the continued growth of learning in the future. We also chose these three colleges as they represent the chosen professions of ourselves and our four children,” Jeanne McGuire said.
“Our gift to the College of Arts and Sciences is because we have respect for the sciences with the McGuire family’s history in the dental profession, and history, especially of this region, is so very important to our lives,” she said. “The College of Education and Allied Professions is responsible for many of the educators who helped us raise our children. We were always impressed with the local schools our children had the opportunity to attend.”
The Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts is particularly near and dear to her heart, as she has been active in its Advancement Council and Friends of the Arts organization. Her husband and their four children have participated in WCU arts programs.
“Our love of the arts is embedded in the fabric of our lives. Every aspect of the Belcher College has been an enhancement of our life in Jackson County,” she said. “Through the years, WCU always provided culture and opportunities to learn for our entire nuclear family. We were often on campus to experience the joy of the arts and fun of sporting events. It has been my experience with every event we are fortunate enough to attend that our lives are uplifted.”
The recent gifts to WCU are also in recognition of the impact the university has had on the region in which the McGuire family has lived for generations, Patrick McGuire said.
“As I have grown older and as Jeanne and I have worked on different committees and boards, I have reflected on what Western Carolina Teachers College, and its many iterations, has meant to me and my extended family. Variations of our family circumstances are reflected over and over across our beautiful mountains,” he said.
“Originally this institution was created to inform and instruct individuals who would go out into the hedgerows and byways to educate the children in this mountainous area, which was at that time so remote and isolated by difficulty of travel. Since its inception, WCU has provided educational opportunities for my family and the entire region with direct training and also in providing primary and secondary educators who have dramatically transformed lives, mine included,” he said.
The gifts also provide a coda for the McGuire family’s contributions to WNC through dental care. “Continuously, over more than 150 years and four generations, McGuires, their in-laws and relatives have provided dental services to Jackson County and beyond. My brother is in the wane of his dental career. When he retires, it will be the end our family’s remarkable run, of which I had but a small part. Through a few pictures exhibited in the McGuire Legacy Classroom of the Apodaca Science Building, we hope to preserve a small part of that history,” he said.
Gifts creating the three college endowments are part of a lifetime of giving by the McGuires, which includes establishment of the Sweat/McGuire Endowed Scholarship to provide financial support to students in WCU’s Brinson Honors College.
“Patrick and I were able to finish our educations without any debt because of the support our parents were able to provide for us. We were given much, and it is our honor to be able to give back to others,” said Jeanne McGuire, a member of the WCU Foundation Board of Directors since 2017.
“It has been my joy to have talked with the leaders of each of the colleges across campus. What I learned from those discussions was the need for continued professional development opportunities. We know the deans and their support teams will use the funds to enhance the students, faculty and staff in ways that they see most important for their college,” she said.
During a reception following the March 3 unveiling ceremony, Jeanne McGuire distributed hand-quilted coasters to guests in attendance, which Jamie T. Raynor, vice chancellor of advancement, characterized as “an act of generosity and hospitality that is so typically Jeanne.”