James McWethy’s $5-million gift to endow the Berry Center continues his legacy of giving to Cornell College. Named for his grandfather, Lester Berry, the Center serves as a vital academic resource for students and faculty, as well as an enduring tribute to a man whose vision and ambition inspired Mr. McWethy.
McWethy says he decided to give this gift now, rather than plan it as an estate gift, in part for the pleasure of being involved in the Center. He chaired the Center’s Planning Committee from October 2004, to May 2006, and currently chairs the Center’s Advisory Board .
The Berry Center is virtually impossible to replicate at other colleges and universities, according to McWethy.
“This program offers an outstanding and dedicated faculty, complemented by interaction with business leaders and distinguished alumni, incorporated into a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, “ he says. “However, the ingredient that really sets us above the competition is the ability to fit all of this into Cornell’s One Course At A Time calendar.
“When it is appropriate, a course can literally be taught anywhere in the world. The overall result is graduates who are exceptionally well-prepared to be outstanding leaders in the world economy.”
1965 Cornell Grad
McWethy graduated from Cornell in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business and mathematics. He earned a master’s degree in economics from Indiana University and taught economics there for three years, later teaching part time for several years at community colleges.
He was also actively involved in the leadership of the Berry Bearing Company, founded by Lester Berry, for 23 years. The business was sold in 1993 as one of the most successful companies of its kind.
Mr. McWethy's generosity toward Cornell College would have pleased his grandfather. He and his family pledged the lead gift to renovate McWethy Hall (formerly Alumni Hall), which revitalized one of the finest historic buildings on campus and transformed it into a beautiful new home for the college's art department.
“My study of economics and business at Cornell made a huge difference -- it really prepared me well,” McWethy says. “To some extent, I give [economics and business professor] Don Cell credit for it. He was a major impact on my life. He and Dr. Bob Bunting were my mentors in economics. Without them I'm not so sure this would be happening.”