Opening Doors: Alumnus endows scholarship in memory of friend and classmate
Elon Trustee Dr. William N.P. Herbert '68 honored the late Jim McClure '68 by funding a scholarship in his name, saying, "He was my anchor."
A generous gift from Elon Trustee and alumnus Dr. William N.P. Herbert '68 and his wife, Marsha, of Charlottesville, Virginia, has endowed the The James G. McClure, Jr. ’68 Memorial Scholarship, which will help make an Elon education possible for two students each year. The "Opening Doors" story series celebrates the power of scholarships to change the lives of Elon students and the generosity of donors who make this transformation possible.
Honoring a dear friend
Growing up in the small town of Graham, N.C., Bill Herbert ’68 and Jim McClure Jr. ’68 were inseparable. They played sports together. They got into and out of trouble together and rarely missed a Western at the Graham Cinema. They even double-dated as teenagers, and later were in each other’s weddings.
“I bet we were together just about every day and night,” recalled Herbert. “Jim’s family had their big meal at lunch and there was always a place for me at the table. My mother worked, so we’d have our big meal at night and she always set a plate for Jim.”
It seemed fitting they would end up as classmates at Elon, where Herbert studied biology and McClure earned his degree in business. Following graduation, Herbert pursued medical school and training at Vanderbilt and UT Southwestern in Dallas before moving on to teach at the medical schools at the University of North Carolina and Duke University. He retired in 2011 after serving as professor of obstetrics and gynecology and chair of the department at the University of Virginia Medical Center. McClure went on to own and operate the family business, Green & McClure Furniture, in downtown Graham, which flourished under his leadership.
Through it all, their friendship remained strong.
“Anytime I wanted to talk to him, I would call him,” Herbert said. “I was in a constant high pressure situation with academics and medicine, and Jim was my touchstone. He was someone I could always count on to have fun with and confide in. He was my anchor.”
McClure died in 2015 following a long battle with melanoma and leukemia. Recently, Herbert and his wife, Marsha, of Charlottesville, Virginia, decided to honor McClure by endowing a scholarship in his name to help bring outstanding students to Elon.
“I still think of Jim most every day and miss him every day,” Herbert said. “Jim and I had a special friendship, and Marsha and I thought endowing a scholarship was a good way of honoring him, especially having been the recipient of several scholarships myself along the way.”
The James G. McClure, Jr. ’68 Memorial Scholarship will assist two McClure Scholars each year, with preference given to students with financial need from Graham or Alamance County, N.C.
“Jim was very loyal to Elon, and I think he would be pleased and proud by this scholarship,” Herbert said. “Marsha and I feel very good about making this gift.”
Jim’s wife, Micki McClure, thanked the Herberts for their generosity. She called the scholarship gift a great tribute to an enduring friendship.
“They were like brothers, and they loved each other in life and in death,” Micki said. “I always knew when Jim was on the phone with Bill because there was so much laughter. Each time they talked, no matter how long it had been, they just picked up where they left off.
“So few people in this world have the kind of friendship that they had,” she said. “They were the kind of bear-hugging men who didn’t let go of each other for a while whenever they got together.”
“This gift is a way for my dad’s legacy to live on in perpetuity at Elon,” said Griffin McClure, the fourth-generation president and owner of Green & McClure Furniture. “It creates a pathway to Elon for students and can help students build the kinds of long-lasting friendships that Bill and my dad had. It shows you that no matter where you go in your life, the friendships are the relationships that are most important.”
Erin McClure Nettles said her father would have been “honored and humbled” by the Herberts’ gift.
“Elon was very special to my dad,” Nettles said. “It was one of the few places he spent much time in outside of Graham. He would be so excited that the scholarship was going to give someone from Graham access to such a prestigious university like Elon without having to leave home. It’s a wonderful testament to dad’s friendship with Bill and to Elon.”
Herbert has many fond memories of his Elon days with McClure, including joining Sigma Mu Sigma fraternity (now Kappa Sigma) together and watching football games at Williams High School. During the summers, they painted small rental houses that McClure’s father, J. Griffin McClure Sr., owned in Graham. Jim also worked at the furniture store whenever he could and later took over running the business following his father’s death in 1965.
“He never had a single pretention and was quietly generous,” Herbert said of his friend. “I remember one year he paid for one of his young part-time employees to attend a basketball camp because he couldn’t afford it. If I hadn’t asked him about it, he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.”
The McClure and Herbert families have been loyal and generous donors to Elon through the years, supporting scholarships, Phoenix athletics, Rhodes Stadium, science programs, the Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center and the Elon Academy college access and success program. They are also members of Elon’s Order of the Oak, recognizing donors who make estate or other planned gifts to the university.
Green & McClure Furniture has been a fixture in Graham since it opened in 1907, founded by W.B. Green and E.P. McClure, Jim McClure’s grandfather. Today it remains a successful business known for customer loyalty and treating employees like family.