Ruby C. McSwain, philanthropist and JCRA benefactor, has passed away

Ruby Vann Crumpler McSwain, or “Miss Ruby” as she was known at NC State University, where she was a generous benefactor, died Aug. 30 at age 97.

Among her donations to and support of the university is her gift funding the Ruby C. McSwain Education Center building and complex at the university’s JC Raulston Arboretum. Designed to enhance the educational activities at the arboretum, the center houses the York Auditorium, staff offices, volunteer office, membership office and headquarters for the Garden Club of North Carolina. It also features the first green roof at NC State University.

A native of Sampson County, where she was born March 31, 1918, the youngest of six children, she grew up in Salemburg and then attended Pineland College. She married Ernest P. McSwain in 1945, and over the years the two conducted entrepreneurial ventures in Sanford and in Ontario, Canada.

She was a garden and horticulture enthusiast, as was her husband. Among their businesses were florist and greenhouse operations in Lee County. The center at NC State that is named for her is nestled among the extensive gardens of the JC Raulston Arboretum, a place beloved by Miss Ruby and where she was regularly a guest of honor at the arboretum’s annual Gala in the Garden.

She also served on the board of the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc., in the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and was a member of NC State’s William Joseph Peele Society, a lifetime giving society for those having given $1 million or more. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters by the university in 2005. She also was honored in 2001 with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, awarded by the governor of North Carolina.

Her generosity to CALS and Cooperative Extension included her support of the building of the Ernest and Ruby C. McSwain Education and Agriculture Center in Lee County. She was likewise a longtime supporter of Meredith College in Raleigh, as donor to its library, its scholarship programs and its grounds, and as a trustee. She was a donor to and trustee of the North Carolina Museum of Art, as well.

Speaking of Miss Ruby to The Sanford Herald, Keith Oakley, CALS assistant dean for College Advancement and president of the N.C. Agricultural, Dairy and Tobacco foundations at NC State, said, “She was really one of the most prolific philanthropists in the last 20 years.” He added that her gift to establish the Education Center at the JCRA is “still the largest gift in the history of the arboretum.”

For more information, see The Sanford Herald article and the News and Observer obituary.