It is with great sadness I share the news of the passing of John Maguire, CGU President Emeritus. John served as president of CGU from 1981 to 1998, but his impact and legacy extend far beyond his presidential term. Along with his wife, Billie, he worked tirelessly to positively impact the lives of university students, the local community, and national and international communities with his ongoing and dedicated efforts to combat and end racism wherever it is found, and most specifically in our democratic process.
After graduating from Washington and Lee University with a BA in philosophy, John was a Fulbright fellow in Scotland. He went on to complete both his Bachelor of Divinity (1956) and doctorate in theology and psychiatry (1960) from Yale Divinity School. In 1965, he was also a Fulbright scholar at the Universität Tübingen in Germany, one of several institutions where he engaged in post-doctoral research. In 2009, John was awarded the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal from Edinburgh University, Scotland. He also was awarded honorary degrees from Washington and Lee University (1979) and Transylvania University (1990).
John held many academic leadership positions throughout his storied career including President, State University of New York College at Old Westbury, beginning in 1970. In 1981, he left New York and joined Claremont Graduate University.
His achievements during his time as CGU president are innumerable. Some mere highlights include his co-founding of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a CGU-based literary award that is the world’s largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry, and his guidance of CGU through reorganization and renaming, as well as successful campaigns bringing more than $94 million in resources to the university. John also served as a charter trustee for Keck Graduate Institute through 1998. Furthermore, there is a John D. and Lillian Maguire Distinguished Professor in the Humanities Chair at CGU.
Awarding of the President’s Medal was a favorite activity for John as it allowed CGU to recognize visionaries in a variety of fields. Awardees include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, U.S. Congressional Representative Andrew Young, and television producer and philanthropist Norman Lear.
Following his presidential tenure, John continued his work at CGU by serving as a Senior Fellow in the university’s Division of Politics & Economics and as director of the Institute for Democratic Renewal. He organized and led ground-breaking initiatives on race and democracy. He sought to combat institutionalized racism and remedy race-based disparities in areas such as education, healthcare delivery, economic development, and criminal justice. He believed that our promise as a nation would only be realized by breaking down these barriers and focusing on social justice for all.
This is a subject I know many of us within the Claremont Colleges hold dear. We hope his family, wife Billie, and daughters Catherine, Mary, and Anne take comfort in his many contributions to our college community and in knowing we will do our best to continue his work and carry his flame forward.
President, Claremont Graduate University