Love of poor college students is so amazing, so divine

Southern Seen by Larry McGehee


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Dr. and Mrs. Larry McGehee were surprised during Wofford College’s annual homecoming November  3  with a $50,000 endowed scholarship  in their honor.


My wife and I recently changed our Christmas giving patterns.

Instead of spending December days finding gifts for each other, we give to charities, especially this year, to provide heating for low-income families or housing and food for local homeless people.

My wife got an early start. Each night throughout the year, we put any quarters we have in our change pockets into a glass jar. Each December, she counts them, rolls them into coin containers, and spends them for her secret gifts — no credit card receipts and no canceled checks — for me.

This year, however, she gave her entire stash of quarters — $340 in all — to Second Presbyterian’s Soup Kitchen.

A week later, we wrote checks to warmth funds to assist folks unable to pay their electricity or gas heating bills, an especially serious problem this year because of increases in energy costs.

We made gifts to several charities fighting multiple sclerosis, lupus, breast cancer, muscular dystrophy, AIDS and other ill-health causes; gifts to several libraries and several environmental causes;

Gifts for toys for needy children; gifts to college scholarship funds; gifts to promote literacy and support writing; gifts to help with historic preservations; and gifts to support churches.

Giving isn’t entirely new for us. But the difference this year is that it is now a primary focus for us, rather than a secondary after-thought.

And, like Scrooge joyfully awaking transformed, on a bright Christmas morning, we are relishing new pleasures. Our sensitivities have been jolted, and our sensibility about the season’s meaning has been sharpened.

Much of this re-examination and repairing of the ruts in the roads of our lives came from a special event, and special people, in early November.

Each recent Homecoming Saturday at Wofford College, our workplace for 25 years, we have hosted a post-game party for returning alumni of a senior seminar in American Religion that I have taught since 1999.

There are 155 such young alumni, most of them in graduate studies, law, medical, dental, and divinity schools, or in their first jobs in sales, banking or non-profit agencies. Usually we have about 80 former students dropping in and out of our two-hour gathering.

This year, the reunion drew about 200 people, and most of them lingered the whole two hours instead of coming and going. Some guest speakers from the seminars also showed up as well as a few parents of alumni, and new spouses and newborn children were shown off — along with one Boston terrier.
Promptly at 5 p.m., the party’s mid-point, four alumni moved to a make-shift stage at one side of the big reception room and rapped for attention.

Although Betsy — dubbed the Queen Mother by the alumni — and I were the hosts, this was something we had not planned. I began to fret that tailgating beer at the game may have flowed too freely.

What followed has left us teary-eyed, sniffing and Kleenex-dabbing for six weeks now.

This self-anointed committee announced that the Religion 340 alumni had been asked, by phone and e-mail and in person, to establish an Elizabeth Boden and Larry McGehee Endowed Scholarship.

Its annual earnings are to be awarded each semester, by a three-person Wofford committee, to financially strapped Wofford students, to buy textbooks and other course-related materials.

Religion 340 alumni started soliciting in September to get $25,000 by November Homecoming. By October, they had met that goal — so, they raised the goal to $50,000. And they met it by Nov. 3!

The excitement in that room was as absolutely electric as the ending of that “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie — although Betsy and I were virtually speechless.

Adding frosting to our cake was the surprise appearance of our Baltimore eldest daughter and our Atlanta youngest daughter and her husband.

After unsuccessful efforts to hug and thank every one of the alumni, chaplain Talmage Skinner led us all in a robust rendering of the Alma Mater, a tradition he has perpetuated for many years. He never sounded better. The room rocked.

None of these alumni has made his or her fortune yet. Their gifts were truly sacrificial, the poor establishing a perpetual fund to help generations of impoverished students yet to come.

These Religion 340 alumni know and practice the art of sacrificial giving and, in the process, they have changed our own outlooks, our pocketbooks and our lives.

The teachers have learned from their pupils. That may have been the greatest gift of all from them. God bless them, every one!

2007, Wofford College

Dr. Larry T. McGehee, a Paris native, is the retired vice president for planning and marketing, and professor emeritus of religion at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. He can be reached by e-mail at


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Larry  Thomas  McGehee
Grove  Class  of  1954

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Reprinted  from
The Paris Post-Intelligencer
Paris, Tennessee
December 12, 2007  Edition ~ USED  BY  PERMISSION

From  an  original   column on the site:
"Southern Seen"
Wofford  College
South Carolina
December 10, 2007

Link  to  the   "Southern  Seen" page:
(While you are there visit this column's 10 years of archived articles)

Permission  to  reprint   granted  by  The Paris Post-Intelligencer and  Wofford  College
(They retain full rights)


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Thanks to Helen  Kibbons  Powell ('56)  for  alerting  us  to  this   honor.