The university’s Kneedler gift is even greater than the sum of its parts


The home of the late Mary and Jay Kneedler was fine but not lavish. The couple loved to entertain, but the dinnerware was understated. “They didn’t care about opulence,” said Donaldson King, Mary Kneedler’s nephew. But if art and jewelry were out, Jay Kneedler did enjoy collecting stocks. “He didn’t sell stock, he just bought stock,” King said. Smart investing and moderate spending allowed the couple to pursue something that was important to them: philanthropy.

The philanthropy of Jay and Mary Kneedler (with a photo of
her first husband, the late Robert Bailey) will strengthen
WCU’s nursing and business programs. Photo courtesy the
University of North Carolina Charlotte

Mary Kneedler, who died in Asheville on June 11, 2010, at the age of 97 (see “Women and Children First,” fall 2010 magazine), was a career public health nurse and instrumental in the founding of WCU’s School of Nursing. Jay Kneedler, who died in 1992, was an engineer with Westinghouse before he was a WCU business professor. On her death,
Mary Kneedler bequeathed $1.24 million to Western Carolina to support scholarships and professorships in the university’s nursing and business programs in perpetuity. And with anticipated matching funds, the bequest ultimately will double.

The $500,000 Mary Kneedler Distinguished Professorship in Nursing will enjoy matching gifts from the C.D. Spangler Foundation of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina, bringing it to $1.5 million. A state match will bring the $500,000 Jay Kneedler Distinguished Professorship in Business to $1 million. In addition to these permanent endowments, intended to support extraordinary faculty members, the Kneedler gift will establish two separate endowed scholarship funds of approximately $120,000 each for students in the College of Business and the School of Nursing. Those scholarships will provide support for two students beginning in the 2012-13 academic year, eventually covering approximately half the cost of annual attendance.

Jim Manring ’74 MBA ’76, former WCU senior director of development, worked closely with Kneedler as she determined her gift to WCU. “She was deeply caring and attentive,” said Manring, who retired in March after 36 years. “She left these gifts to areas that meant a lot to her. These perpetual gifts of professorship and scholarship funds will be her legacy, and that of her husband, Jay, too.” Kneedler knew her gift could be leveraged and “would be very gratified that the possibility had come to pass,”
King said.

A sense of purpose guided Mary Kneedler. “I believe her motivation for living was to do what she could to help other people in whatever way she could find,” King said. Her philanthropy reflects this. Before Jay Kneedler died, the couple supplemented an endowed history professorship at UNC Charlotte established in the name of Mary’s first husband, Robert Bailey, killed in action in World War II. Previous Kneedler gifts to WCU include $100,000 to the on-campus child care center that bears Mary Kneedler’s name. Mary Kneedler’s will also provided for two of the couple’s alma maters – Montreat College, where they enjoyed attending lifelong-learning courses, and the Black Mountain Home for Children.