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winter 2018
Cassandra Baker McLeod

From the heart

McLeod establishes endowed scholarship for the love of her life

The Wofford football game was always on when John Guyton McLeod Jr. í66 and his wife, Cassandra Baker McLeod, drove from Madison, Ga., to Dewees Island, S.C., on Saturdays in the fall.

“He would get so excited listening to the game on the radio that he would practically jump up and down in his seat yelling, ‘Go, mighty Terriers.’ I’d say, ‘Are they really mighty, John?’ and he’d always say, ‘Yes, ma’am, they are!’ He loved Wofford,” says Cassandra. She has only the fondest memories of the four years that they were married before John’s untimely death from pancreatic cancer in 2005. “That’s when I decided I wanted to establish a scholarship at Wofford in John’s memory.”

Cassandra has included a significant bequest to Wofford in her will, but decided to go ahead and establish the John Guyton McLeod Jr. Endowed Scholarship with a gift in 2017 when she received a second breast cancer diagnosis. The scholarship will be fully funded by the bequest.

“Cancer was the determining factor for starting the scholarship now,” she says. “I wanted to be able to honor John and his family during my lifetime. Knowing that the money will go ahead and benefit Wofford students also makes me happy.”

Cassandra’s past work in Spartanburg as executive director of the Spartanburg Arts Council and the Spartanburg County Art Association as well as the connection through the arts and ETV with Wofford also influenced her decision.

“I love Spartanburg. It was my second home,” she says. “I made great friends there that I still keep in touch with.”

Cassandra often jokes with John’s daughter Becky McLeod Connelly ’96 that she feels sure they crossed paths during the 1990s when Becky was a student at Wofford and Cassandra was with the arts council.

Cassandra accepted a job as executive director of the Madison Morgan Cultural Center in Madison, Ga., after 14 years in Spartanburg. There she met John, whose wife, Mary, had died in 1993 from colon cancer.

“She and I were diagnosed the same year,” says Cassandra, who was breast cancer free for 26 years before this most recent diagnosis. “I went to talk with him because he had just joined our board. I still remember he had on a blue oxford shirt and khaki pants that were a little frayed on one cuff. His tie was pulled down. Let’s just say he looked really good.” She still blushes at the memory.

They worked together professionally for several years before dating. She should have known it was serious when he invited her to the family vacation home on Dewees Island. He asked her to marry him in 2000 after a jog on Edisto Island, where the Baker family had a vacation home. They were married the next year. She was 50; he was 57.

“I was an only child, so John gave me family — two wonderful stepdaughters (Becky and Amanda McLeod Groves), five grandchildren, two sisters-in-law (Matey McLeod Ward and Harriet Harllee McLeod), plus the huge McLeod clan with its many ties to Wofford. All of this McLeodness truly changed my life,” says Cassandra.

John Guyton McLeod, John’s father, was a 1931 graduate of Wofford, and his grandfather, Daniel Melvin McLeod, graduated in 1890. The McLeod legacy that started with William James McLeod, who didn’t graduate from Wofford but was on an early college board of advisors in 1888, has extended to more than 40 McLeod graduates. The William James McLeod Award is given each year during the college’s Honors Convocation to the senior who has demonstrated potential for future dedicated and selfless service to the church, the state, the nation and Wofford College.

“John loved to fish (he fished for their supper then practiced catch and release). He loved to hike and play tennis, and he loved circumnavigating the island in his rowing shell. He ran three miles a day, and did the finances for our church on the Isle of Palms. He also gave so much of his time to the Dewees Island community, and really every community he ever lived in,” says Cassandra. “John was a giving, wonderful person who had the highest of values and integrity. He never spoke unkindly about anyone.”

John majored in biology at Wofford and was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity, as many of the McLeods have been. He was a U.S. Army officer and veteran of the Vietnam War, for which he received a Bronze Star. He began his career in human resources and retired as corporate vice president of Avado Brands Inc.

Preference for the John Guyton McLeod Jr. Endowed Scholarship goes to a student with outstanding character, academic promise and demonstrated financial need, who is also a resident of South Carolina. Further preference is given to biology majors or members of a Wofford College tennis team.

“John and I were together such a short time, but that time was filled with a lifetime of love,” says Cassandra, who hopes that family and friends also will honor John’s memory by adding to the scholarship. “People give for so many different reasons. My reason isn’t lofty. I just did it from the heart.”

Planned giving at Wofford College

During 2017, the college received 14 estate gifts totaling $1.1 million and 20 new estate commitments totaling $10.9 million.

Become a member of the college’s Benjamin Wofford Society by committing to an estate gift during 2018. Currently the oldest member of the society is a graduate of the Class of 1942. The youngest member of the society is a member of the Class of 2012.

For more information contact:

Lisa De Freitas ’88 

by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89