May 12-18, 2000
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Paul Goodloe McIntire

McIntire helped launch art, music and commerce at U.Va.

By Nancy Hurrelbrinck

With designs being created for a new studio art building and a concert hall and funding secured for the former, the Virginia 2020 Planning Commission on the Fine and Performing Arts is helping to raise the arts to a new level at the University.

During most of its first century, U.Va. had no art and music departments. Both were launched in 1919, made possible through the generosity of local philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire.

A look at McIntire and his gifts places in perspective both the history of the arts here and the life of a man whose name is nearly as pervasive in Charlottesville as Thomas Jefferson's, yet whose biography is less familiar. Two U.Va. Commerce School faculty members, associate professor William R. Wilkerson and William G. Shenkir, William S. Farish Professor of Free Enterprise, chronicled his legacy in Paul G. McIntire: Businessman and Philanthropist, published in 1988.

President Edwin A. Alderman (center) and McIntire (right) welcomed French Ambassador Paul Claudel to the University Nov. 20, 1929. McIntire received the French Legion of Honor medal that day for funding a new hospital in France after World War I.

McIntire, who was born in Charlottesville, made his fortune in Chicago and New York and moved back here in 1918. He made his mark on the area with his philanthropy, giving parks and statues to the city, as well as funding the creation of three departments at the University. He also gave U.Va. a flagpole, an amphitheater, and numerous objects from his art collection. He served on the Board of Visitors from 1922 until 1934.

McIntire attended a local private school and worked in his father's drug store before attending U.Va. for one semester in 1878. (It wasn't unusual in those days to attend a university only briefly, as most professions didn't require a degree.)

In 1880, McIntire moved to Chicago and worked as a coffee salesman, relocating to New York City and becoming a Wall Street financier in 1901. He had one child with his first wife, Chicagoan Edith Clark, a daughter named Charlotte Virginia who was mentally ill and resided in a sanitorium.

When not working, McIntire traveled in Europe extensively, collecting reproductions of Old Master paintings, Russian icons, enamelware and china, some of which he later gave to the University. He also traveled to more exotic locales, such as Puerto Rico and Zimbabwe, whose tropical scenery he loved.

Having decided to retire at the age of 58 , McIntire returned to Charlottesville, where he delved into various philanthropic projects. A devotee of New York's commuter rail lines and Charlottesville's street cars, McIntire never owned a car.

After he expressed his interest in helping the University establish a school of fine arts (departments were called schools then), U.Va. President Edwin A. Alderman prepared a proposal, estimating that the University would need $5,000 for materials and an endowment of $70,000, to generate $3,500 a year. That amount would get "a tip top man at the outset," he said. (Assistant professors earned $1,500 a year then.)

Having little idea how wealthy McIntire was or what he might be inclined to give, Alderman also outlined a plan for a future school of music, including a concert hall, that would need an endowment of $80,000.

Within a week, McIntire sent $155,000, specifying that the income from the funds be used for the art and music programs in perpetuity. The equivalent in today's dollars would be between $1.5 million and $3 million.

Aware from his days in Charlottesville of the friction between town and gown, McIntire said he hoped U.Va. would offer many concerts and lectures "so that the people will appreciate more than ever before that the University belongs to them and that it exists for them."

In 1920, McIntire gave the University $60,000 to build an outdoor amphitheater next to Cabell Hall and $24,000 to purchase an organ for it (which was sold in the 1970s).

Wishing to encourage the teaching of his own profession, he gave $200,000 in 1921 to establish the Commerce School "to give such training for the career of business as will give our youth knowledge and skill in that field, and will inculcate in them those habits of economy and integrity upon which our whole economic life depends."

To Charlottesville he donated land for four parks (Lee, Jackson, Washington and McIntire), three statues (Lee, Jackson, and Lewis, Clark and Sacajewea); the building and books for the first public library; and a third of the cost of building McIntire High School, along with a scholarship fund for its graduates.

To local public schools he also gave thousands of dollars worth of Victrolas, records, maps and books about art, literature and philosophy, saying he hoped the children who used them would "have a broader culture than one out of 25 boys have at the University when they leave college."

McIntire ended up moving back to New York and died there in 1952.


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