A Bright Idea: Jim McWethy ’65

Friendly and personable to the extreme, Jim McWethy ’65 is something of a modern renaissance man.

berry-center-mcwethy (1)“What I call myself is an independent business man. I have a broad spectrum of investments,” said McWethy, before rattling off a number of business ventures including stakes in or outright ownership of a blueberry farm, a golf course, a software company, and involvement in his son’s hydroponic tomato business.

Only, not the type of involvement one might expect. “I deliver tomatoes part-time,” said McWethy quite matter-of-factly. “It’s kind of fun. It’s fun to a point.”

McWethy said he keeps very busy, despite being “technically retired,” with his various investments, involvement in the Berry Center, and an interest in politics.

“If you put them all together, I work harder than when I was employed. I’m trying desperately to slow down, but there seems to be something in my brain that I just can’t do it,” he said.

McWethy’s fortune was built on his grandfather Lester Berry’s successful company, Berry Bearing Co., the world’s largest privately held industrial bearings distributor prior to its sale. Berry was “the perfect example of an entrepreneur,” said McWethy. “He had a vision to do something no one had ever done before.” It’s Berry after whom the Center is named, and it was Berry’s underprivileged upbringing in New York that grounded McWethy, the results of which are evident at Cornell.

“He’s surprisingly down to earth,” said senior Ben Sebers. “He obviously loves Cornell. He really loves the school. What more can you ask for from an alum?”

“He genuinely wants to see Cornell students succeed,” said senior Audrey Saunders, who, as a Berry Center stalwart, has met and interacted with McWethy on several occasions. “He can’t sit still. He’s always excited to talk with students.”