For much of his 31-year Longwood University career, Dr. Wayne McWee has grappled with executive-level details of academic administration.
He has served as the university’s chief academic officer, interim dean of the business school, chair of two departments and chair of the Faculty Senate. He was involved in the transition to Division I athletics, the initial accreditation of the business school, the creation of new academic majors and the exploration of international exchange programs in China and France.
However, McWee takes the most pride in something of a less exalted nature.
"I have worked closely with six presidents but am proudest of the fact that I know as many groundskeepers and people in Facilities Management as I do administrators," said McWee, a business professor-turned-academic administrator who will retire June 1.
"I wasn’t just an aloof vice president; I’m a regular person. I get along equally well with everyone. I still talk with Rose, who was the custodian in my office when I was provost, and I realize the importance of your administrative assistants in making you look good. Without my administrative assistants, my life would have been terrible."
Life at Longwood has been anything but terrible for the still-wiry Michigan native, a finance and management specialist who joined the faculty in January 1984. He will retire as interim chair of the Department of Theatre, Art, and Graphic and Animation Design but will perhaps be best-remembered for his tenure as provost and vice president for academic affairs.
"I consider him the best academic administrator that I have encountered in my 20-plus-year career," said Dr. Drew Harris, who taught at Longwood from 1996-2006 and is now a professor of management at Central Connecticut State University. "He made simple decisions simple, sought and weighed evidence when faced with difficult decisions and made those decisions with a high regard for the concerns of all involved. And he communicated his decisions directly and without drama."
Sharon Sercombe, his administrative assistant when McWee was provost, called him the best supervisor for whom she ever worked. "When he had to attend a particularly problematic meeting, if he came back to the office singing, ‘Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,’ then we knew the meeting went well," said Sercombe, now retired. "He often told us stories or jokes to keep us smiling, and he was always interested in our well-being. Nevertheless, Wayne was professional at all times, and his sincere concern for Longwood was evident in all of his work."
Dr. Cheryl Adkins, professor of management, who McWee hired, said he "set high standards for faculty and students alike, while providing resources and support to meet those standards. Wayne also recognized the importance of work-life balance for faculty and would remind us that ‘family comes first.’ He has set an example for leadership at Longwood and in the Farmville community. He made a positive mark on Longwood."
One former student on whom McWee made a positive mark, Jason Blount of Hanover County, has established a scholarship to honor him and the "profound and inspirational influence he shared with his students." The Wayne McWee Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to a rising junior or senior in the College of Business and Economics, was created with a $25,000 gift from Blount '90 and his wife, Carol Wisch Blount '89. Financial need and high academic achievement are two major criteria.
"Dr. McWee always took the time to talk to me, gave me his knowledge and wisdom, and helped me more than he knows," said Jason Blount, president and owner of Cold Harbor Financial, who announced the scholarship April 3. "He was a great professor who was tough but fair."
McWee was touched by the honor. "For a teacher to even get a little note from a student saying you made a difference in his life is wonderful, but to have one endow a scholarship in your name is a wonderful, wonderful thing," he said. "Jason was a good student but wasn’t sure of where he wanted to go. I suggested that he consider a career in financial services."
The first recipient of the scholarship is junior Timothy Davis of Charlotte Court House, a double major in accounting and information systems and security.
In another recent accolade, McWee, who holds the academic rank of professor of business, was awarded emeritus status by the Board of Visitors in March.
McWee, a native of Yale, Mich., almost didn’t become a college professor.
After spending nine years as a high-school teacher and coach in Fennville, Mich., he took a one-year sabbatical in 1978 in Greeley, Colo., during which he did graduate course work at the University of Northern Colorado. Originally he didn’t intend to complete a doctorate but was urged to do so by his wife and friends, one of whom was fellow grad student Larry Minks.
"Larry and I became lifelong friends," said McWee, whose life was also changed by one of his professors in the University of Northern Colorado Monfort College of Business, Wilfred "Jack" Jacques.
Upon returning to Michigan, McWee resumed teaching high school and continued his doctoral studies. In 1980, Minks recruited him for the faculty at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, to which Minks had returned. McWee taught there three years before joining the business faculty at Longwood, where Jacques had become dean. Jacques recruited Minks to Longwood as well.
McWee encouraged Minks, now-retired president of Southeastern Oklahoma State, to launch the Business Innovation Center in 1987. That center in 1989 became the Small Business Development Center—one of the first two in Virginia.
"It has been a privilege to know Dr. McWee as a friend and colleague for the past 40 years," said Minks, president emeritus, Distinguished University Professor of Leadership and director of the Center for Transformational Leadership at Southeastern Oklahoma State.
"He has served as a constant mentor and role model for so many of us in higher education. He truly exemplifies a quote from the late Dr. C. Roland Christensen, a revered professor in Harvard University’s business school, who served as our mentor during the 1980s and 1990s: ‘What an opportunity it is to have the privilege of being a teacher, the most noble of all professions because it is the intersection of youth, creativity and research.’"
McWee has especially enjoyed working with Longwood’s chapter of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, which he co-founded and with which he has been involved for 25 years, and his work as the faculty athletics representative to the NCAA.
McWee doesn’t always wear a suit and tie—he once raised Limousin beef cattle (he is a former president of the Virginia Limousin Breeders Association), has worked college games as a baseball umpire and has been an avid runner since 1963. "I still run almost every day, but now it’s more like jogging," said McWee, who coached one of the first all-female cross-country high-school teams in Michigan.
In retirement, McWee and his wife, Deborah, an adjunct faculty member in psychology, plan to continue traveling, a passion of theirs. "We plan to take one major trip outside the United States and one major trip inside the U.S. every year," he said. "Our first big adventure after retiring will be a 14-day trip in November to Machu Picchu [15th century Inca site in Peru] with Walter Witschey. And there are still a lot of national parks we haven’t seen."
Two of the McWees’ three children, Dr. Andrea McWee Parson ’93 and David McWee ’02, are Longwood graduates. His other daughter, Allison McWee-Newton, graduated from the University of Mary Washington.
"I have had a long and wonderful career," said McWee. "All of it was possible because of the support from my wife. She has always been a constant source of encouragement and support."
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