A long-term approach to giving
Tom and Marilyn “Tay” McMahan were two of the great leaders in the Anderson community during their lifetimes, giving of their resources and embodying the spirit of servanthood. He was a World War II veteran and a successful businessman who went on to become mayor in Anderson from 1980-1987. She directed the local chapter of Meals on Wheels and worked with elementary school children suffering from speech and hearing impairments.
They served on numerous community boards and organizations, including local hospitals, the United Way, and the Madison County Community Foundation. Additionally, Tom was involved in building projects that enhanced the quality of living in the area, such as the River Walk and the Harter House assisted-living facility.
Perhaps most importantly, the McMahans knew a good opportunity when they saw it — something that would make a difference in people’s lives and would last well into the future. Though they have both passed on — Tom in 1999 and Tay just last November — their contributions have clearly impacted the city of Anderson as well as Anderson University, which Tom often praised as the “city’s greatest asset.”
Though neither of the McMahans were AU alumni, they recognized something special in the university. That’s why they gave regularly to AU for building projects and scholarships, and they helped build relationships between the city and the university.
Their connection to the university was more than politics and economic development, however. Tom and AU President Emeritus Robert Reardon were good friends growing up and attending school together at Anderson High School. Years later, that childhood friendship developed into a business relationship of mutual support and goodwill.
Tom was among the first to donate money for the fundraising campaign for Reardon Auditorium. He was also a major influence in helping to create the Fellows and Sponsors organization, a group of local residents who believe in the university’s mission and have contributed their support and financial resources in helping it succeed.
When Tom became mayor, his involvement with AU increased as he continued his efforts to form meaningful connections between the city and the university. It was also around this time that he and Tay were married. Each had lost a spouse in death several years prior and they had developed a special relationship to one another.
Together, Tom and Tay became a powerful force in the development of the university, not only by co-chairing a committee for the university’s first comprehensive campaign (spanning from 1985- 1990), but also by committing their own financial resources. In addition to their yearly contributions, the McMahans created an endowment that would provide scholarship money to students. They also set up two large charitable trusts that named Anderson University as the beneficiary.
The charitable trusts, in particular, demonstrate the McMahans’ strategic long-term planning. Designed to pay the McMahans an income for as long as they lived, the trust expired when Tay passed away, and the principal went to Anderson University. A decision Tom and Tay made nearly 20 years ago is now having a huge impact on the campus and in the lives of students.
In recognition of their tremendous efforts, Anderson University presented the McMahans with several awards over the years, including the honorary doctor of laws degree presented to Tom in 1976. Tom was also the recipient in 1994 of the William P. Riethmiller Community Partnership Award, given by AU to acknowledge his community service to the university. Finally in 1999, just after Tom’s death, the McMahans received the Heritage Award to honor Tom’s memory and to recognize their outstanding contributions.
In addition to being great community leaders, the McMahans were also great friends and supporters of AU. They were instrumental in helping the campus take shape and in making students’ dreams come true, and their gifts will truly have a lasting impact on Anderson University and the community.
— Cara Miller, Excerpt from 2006 Donor Report