Mary Seawell Metz ’58 has committed $1 million to endow the Faculty Development Center’s directorship.

An Educator Champions ‘The Link’

Mary Seawell Metz ’58 has committed $1 million to endow the Faculty Development Center’s directorship.

By Liv Osby

Mary Seawell Metz ’58 has served as a professor, president and trustee at colleges from one coast to the other, affording her an appreciation of university life that few enjoy.

Among the most critical operations, she says, is faculty development. Nothing has made that more apparent than the pandemic, as faculties everywhere adapted to remote learning.

Metz has committed $1 million to endow the director position of Furman’s Faculty Development Center.

“I always thought that being outstanding in the classroom was at the heart of the university,” she says, “and that developing an excellent teaching faculty is really important.”

The center’s executive director, Diane E. Boyd, is “excited and humbled” by the gift.

“As an accomplished educator and leader herself, Mary’s recognition of the direct link between faculty vitality and student success through her investment in the Faculty Development Center makes the gift that much more significant,” says Boyd, now the Mary Seawell Metz ’58 Director of the Faculty Development Center.

Metz’s father, Columbus Jackson Seawell ’56, dropped out of The Citadel during the Great Depression so his younger sister could finish school, resolving to someday finish his degree. Years later, after launching an accounting firm in Anderson, South Carolina, he attended Furman.

Around the same time, Metz had graduated from T.L. Hanna High School and received a full scholarship to Furman. So father and daughter were students together for about one year.

“I loved all of the humanities,” she says, “and I was taking every course I was interested in from world religions to English literature to French language classes.” Metz majored in both English and French, graduating summa cum laude.

She and her husband, Gene, a Clemson alumnus and architect, married her senior year and settled in Anderson. She soon began teaching French and English at Hanna. And eventually, the couple decided to attend graduate school, though they didn’t have much money.

“We made a plan that I would go first because I could not earn enough as a woman with a baccalaureate degree to put him through grad school,” she says. “But with an advanced degree, I could earn more.”

They left for Louisiana State University, where Metz completed her Ph.D. in French, graduating magna cum laude, while her husband joined the architecture faculty.

She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to France and then took a teaching position at LSU, becoming one of very few women on the faculty at that time.

Metz served as provost and dean of the faculty at Hood College, president of Mills College, dean of the University of California Extension, and president of the S.H. Cowell Foundation in San Francisco.

The author of several French textbooks, Furman presented her with The Distinguished Alumni Award in 1977 and with an honorary Doctor of Humanities in 1984.

“My long life has sort of begun and ended with Furman at the center,” says Metz, who serves on the Furman Board of Trustees.

Along the way, she and her husband adopted a daughter, and when they moved back to South Carolina, they parlayed the proceeds from the sale of their California home into gifts for their alma maters.

“The faculty was so supportive of me, and I wanted to honor them as well,” she says. “I did this because of my great admiration for and love of Furman.”

With its expansion into downtown Greenville, Furman’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is claiming its seat at the table.

Dr. Matt W. Wilson ’86 has made a planned gift of $4 million to Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health.