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John McWharf '61

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Reunion Gift will Honor Parents
May 2010

He knew it was the right choice. When John McWharf '61 arrived on campus in the fall of 1957, he knew that Clarkson was where he wanted to be. He had, after all, prepared very carefully to begin his college career. He had seriously considered at least two other schools, but one was too big, too impersonal, and the other was too close to home. His parents were supportive. As the first in his immediate family to attend college, John's parents knew that a college education was the gateway to a better future. John had worked and saved some money, including delivering newspapers. With help from his parents and a scholarship from Clarkson, he knew  he could handle tuition at just under $1,000 per year. The support helped him devote full time to his studies and he graduated with no debt.

"That was nothing like it is today," said John recently, "today, students have so many more things to worry about. Just selecting a school is an arduous process, and even working during the school year doesn't guarantee that a student can afford the cost of tuition (tuition at Clarkson for 2010-11 is $34,070). Students graduate and start life with a crushing debt load. Clarkson helped me and prepared me well for success and a better life, and I want to do something to help future generations in a way that also honors my parents, who sacrificed so that I could go to college."

His parents' sacrifice helped John graduate with distinction and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Rochester in 1967 and took a position with DuPont in Niagara Falls, where he worked in research and development. After transferring to a DuPont facility in Wilmington, Delaware, he decided it was time for a change, and became a DuPont business analyst in 1975. In 1998 he earned his MBA from the University of Delaware. "My Clarkson education prepared me to think both deeply and creatively, and to be flexible; I especially appreciate the coursework I took in the liberal arts," says John.

Through the years, John has been a loyal and generous supporter of the Clarkson Fund. "I've always felt strongly about supporting the work that Clarkson does, helping deserving young adults make a better life for themselves and others," says John, "so as I approached retirement in 2009 I decided it was time to take the next steps." Working with Clarkson, John decided to create an endowment named in honor of his parents that would provide scholarship support to needy students. John has made a gift to start the endowment, and a bequest in his estate plan will someday be added to the fund. Both of his gifts will count towards the fundraising for his 50th reunion in 2011. "Making a gift now allows me to enjoy making an immediate impact in someone's life, and also say ‘thank you' to Clarkson as I approach my 50th," says John, "I feel a sense of contentment, of fulfillment with this gift. It has been 50 years in the making, and I know it is the right choice."

What's creative about John McWharf's Gift?

  • John made his initial gift in 2009, before retirement, when he was in a higher income tax bracket.
  • John made a gift of highly appreciated stock he had held long term, so he did not need to declare any capital gain on the stock.
  • John's bequest is in his will, allowing him planning flexibility into the future.
  • The bequest is based on a percentage of John's estate, and was defined by use of a codicil.
  • The bequest language links it to the endowment, so there will be no confusion in the future.
  • 50th reunion counting guidelines allow John to count his gifts when the time is right for him.
  • The guidelines for the Theodore and Wanda McWharf Endowed Scholarship Fund allow Clarkson flexibility on the number and size of awards each year.

Footnote: John McWharf passed away in January, 2011. This article is published in thanks and admiration to a loyal Clarkson alumnus.