donor spotlight: george and viola mcloughlin

George and Viola McLoughlin with their daughter, Priscilla, at the unveiling of a sculpture in memory of their son, Michael.

Concept, Control and Communication.

A musician, George calls these principles “The Three C’s of Conducting” and they apply to just about any endeavor beyond the symphony. He says, “If you have a concept of where you want to arrive and what needs to be done to reach that goal, then it’s just a matter of communication. Otherwise, you are wasting people’s time.”

And just about the worst thing you can do to George is waste his time. Having celebrated nine decades, he notes with a smile, “The less of it you have left, the more serious it becomes.” His wife adds, “Seize the day. Carpe diem!”

An accomplished pianist and trombone player, George also conducts and arranges music. He has led choirs and still plays trombone with the Maitland Symphony. Receiving his bachelor of music degree from Boston University, he received a doctor of education degree with a minor in music education from the University of Kentucky. Viola earned a secretarial degree and was an executive assistant in New York. When George was teaching at Asbury College, his bride made the decision to return to school. Viola admits it was a struggle, especially with two little children, but she obtained her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Asbury and her master’s degree in education from Rollins College. She taught elementary school in Seminole County, working her way up to becoming assistant principal at Red Bug Lake Elementary

Married since 1953, George and Viola met when they were working at a Massachusetts camp. George served in the Navy’s Amphibious Forces in the Pacific and occupied Japan. While teaching at Asbury, George earned his doctorate from the University of Kentucky, with a dissertation focusing on community college teaching and success

Valencia brought them to Florida during the height of the community college movement, which was transforming the academic paradigm to one of open access. His wife notes today, “George, you’ve always said that the community college is the best idea going.”

He agrees. “The community college is for teaching. It is student oriented rather than research or even sports oriented. It is teaching oriented.” George taught humanities at Valencia from 1969 until 1985, offering the opportunity to touch the lives of many students. Viola recounts a story of two international students he had assisted, who one night, knocked at the door. “Here were these two students, husband and wife, no car. I don’t know how they walked. And they’re holding a complete dinner of Vietnamese food to say thank you. It was a beautiful gesture. They thought of everything, a little dish of this kind of food, even around to the dessert and appetizer. It was very moving to me.” George had the kind of impact in the classroom that merited this sort of gratitude from his students

The McLoughlin’s owned an apartment complex in downtown Orlando. Upon George’s retirement, they donated the property to establish a gift annuity. Through this annuity, they created an endowed Valencia scholarship for non-traditional, disadvantaged students who might not qualify for any other aid

George has described his endowment as a last chance for individuals who might have a spotty academic record, abuse victims, recovering substance abusers, the homeless, those undergoing career change, single parents, victims of tragic circumstances, juvenile offenders and those seeking re-entry to the community after incarceration. The reason for targeting these populations was simple: to fill in the gap, and to offer hope and a hand up for students in whom few others are willing to invest

It is a spirit that they have instilled in their daughter, Priscilla, a professional who assists people in recovery at the Center for Drug Free Living. The couple spent the last 20 years enjoying the serendipity of retirement and celebrating many milestones, like George’s 90th birthday. Their adventures included a spontaneous, free-spirited trip to England for which they purchased only rail and plane tickets, “bumming around with no reservations,” and enjoying plays and local inns. Viola jokes about being on the “Today” show to celebrate her 100th birthday. She says she will share her wisdom for a long, fulfilling existence. “Live a thankful life. Take your religion seriously. And don’t say everything that enters your head! I think that covers a lot.”

And for this delightful pair, there is still a lot to cover, more family celebrations, new journeys, and additional students who just need one person to believe in – and invest in them. In addition to their personal and professional accomplishments and their beautiful daughter, George and Viola have left a legacy at Valencia that will endure forever, in perpetuity.

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