McGranes provide gift to Cornell athletics campaign

Cornell College has been a big part of classmates John McGrane and Martha “Marty” Benson McGrane’s lives for a long time.

John McGrane ’73 and Martha “Marty” Benson McGrane ’73 2
John McGrane ’73 and Martha “Marty” Benson McGrane ’73

“We have deep ties to the college,” said Marty. “Who knew! If you asked us as 22 and 21-year-olds whether we’d be that close to the college this many years later, I’m sure we could not have imagined it.”

Both served as class agents for the Class of ’73 for decades, keeping in touch with classmates and encouraging reunions. Marty served on the Alumni Board in the early 1990s. Then, John served on the Board of Trustees for nearly 20 years, part of which was spent as the Board Chair. They’ve also given to a number of campus initiatives including the Science Facilities Project, Garner President’s House renovation, the Berry Career Institute, the Stoll Program for Law and Society, and the Cornell Fund.

Now the McGranes, of Bethesda, Maryland, are getting involved yet again, by donating $100,000 to the Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project, part of the Greater > Than Campaign. 

“I think it’s important because Cornell was a big part of and continues to be a big part of our lives,” John said. “So, I think we are trying to give back for what it gave to us. All of these gifts help make Cornell stronger and attract students.”

Their gift will be used to expand and renovate the Small Sport Center–a $19.5 million construction project that is currently underway.

The two say they’ve enjoyed walking by the building and thinking about how it will look. When the building opens, they’ll see new open gathering spaces, increased office space, an expanded wellness facility, and plenty of natural lighting. 

“I think it’ll be great,” John said. “It’ll be a real change for the campus, just like the other buildings. You go into the new and renovated science buildings and you are awe-struck at how nice it is, how functional it is, and how it meets students’ needs. And that’s exactly what we are expecting from the athletics facility.”

The facility will provide a space for the entire campus to get involved in health and wellness activities, which is different than when John and Marthy attended Cornell. 

“Back in our era, there weren’t many opportunities in athletics for women,” John said.

John never competed in a sport, though he did participate in intramurals. Still, they both have memories of fulfilling the required physical education courses. 

“I was spending all my gym time, athletic time, in physical education courses at what is now McWethy Hall because that was the women’s gym,” Marty said. “Actually, I had a great time playing golf and learning how to fence.” 

Both also smile as they recall the swimming test, a graduation requirement.

“It was a very easy test,” Marty said laughing.

“I think it was just across the pool and back,” John added.

The two met at Cornell and started dating during the second semester of their junior year after bonding over experiences studying abroad. John graduated from Cornell with a B.A. in philosophy and political science

“I have strong memories of classes and discussions with professors and in particular my philosophy professor,” John said. “Back then, if you majored in philosophy, you had these one-on-one tutorial classes for your last two years, basically. Really, I recall how much those courses taught me how to think, how to write, and how to communicate, and I think a lot of the other courses were that way as well.”

Marty graduated with a B.A. in history and art. She says Cornell prepared her for the future. 

“I was liberally educated. I could learn to do anything,” she said.

John went on to Georgetown University Law Center and eventually ended up as a partner in a large law firm, Morgan Lewis, with about 2,000 lawyers and 28 offices around the world. Marty had a career in higher education, working for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Law School Admission Council. Marty later stayed home with their three kids, who are now grown and all living and working in the Washington, D.C., area. They have two grandchildren, ages 2 and 5. 

The McGranes are enjoying their retirement and look forward to resuming their monthly trips from their home in Maryland to their second home in Mount Vernon now that they have their COVID-19 vaccines. 

During those trips, they’ll now get to watch the progress of the future Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center (with a nickname of the SAW).

Construction began at the end of April and the 18-month athletics project is scheduled to finish in the fall of 2022. Fundraising for the project is underway. Please contact Kristi Webster Columbus ’96 or A.J. Plummer for information.