Reinhardt officials and more than 50 Fincher family members and friends celebrated a generous gift from the late Sen. William W. Fincher Jr. -- a Cherokee County native -- with a luncheon on Sunday, July 15. This gift funds the College's first endowed chair, the William W. Fincher, Jr. Chair of the Visual Arts. The luncheon honoring Mr. Fincher and his late wife took place on Reinhardt's Waleska, Ga., campus in the building bearing their names: the William W. Fincher Jr. and Eunice L. Fincher Visual Arts Center.
"Reinhardt was always a very important school for my father," said Mary Jane Peterson, the Finchers' oldest of three daughters. "He admired its goals as a Christian-based institution, and because it's a Methodist school -- that was a very important part of his love for Reinhardt. Father's love of Reinhardt grew out of his family's involvement with the school over several generations."
In 1997, the senator and his wife set up a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, payable to Reinhardt following their deaths. The Finchers' daughters -- Peterson, Phyllis Parsons and Frances Hansford -- decided to use the trust's earnings to establish the Fincher Chair. In addition, the trust will provide maintenance funds for the Fincher Visual Arts Center, for which Mr. Fincher and his wife gave the naming gift in 1997.
The ties between the Fincher family and the College are long and strong. Mr. Fincher's parents both attended Reinhardt. In the late 1800s, Mr. Fincher's paternal grandparents lived in the area and all nine of their children received their education at Reinhardt. During that time, Mr. Fincher's maternal grandparents, the Chambers, moved to Waleska so their 10 children could attend Reinhardt. In those days, Reinhardt taught students from first grade through two years of college. Over the years, many Fincher and Chambers descendants have attended Reinhardt.
In the early 1970s, Mr. and Mrs. Fincher initiated another milestone for Reinhardt -- its first off-campus center. They asked that classes be offered in Chatsworth, Ga., because they felt their community would benefit from students earning their degrees close to home. The College's Chatsworth Center operated from 1975 though 1996 with many of its alumni becoming business, civic and educational leaders.
"This College has a wonderful history of families who have come forward with support -- the Finchers are such a family," Reinhardt President Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood said. "They have brought a legacy of service and generosity to this College, and we are most grateful. They understood what the Reinhardt experience meant to our young people, and they chose to further it by supporting the arts."
In 1935, Mr. Fincher and his brother, Jack Fincher, opened a drug store in Chatsworth. An entrepreneur at heart, Mr. Fincher enjoyed success running the store and operating drive-in theatres. He also did well in banking and politics. In 1964, Mr. Fincher was elected to the Georgia State Senate, where he represented Murray, Whitfield and Catoosa counties for 26 years.
Lifelong Methodists, the Finchers were active members of Chatsworth First United Methodist Church for more than 70 years. They also were very involved in their local community.
Ten years ago, after giving the naming gift for the College's visual arts center, the senator said, "Reinhardt College augmented the Christian and educational upbringing in the homes of both the Finchers and Chambers of Cherokee County, and in turn, influenced the lives of their descendents. The College has served the North Georgia area in its mission to educate students in a Christian environment. My desire to show gratitude to Reinhardt led to this gift in memory of my parents. The gift is a symbol of my belief in the values for which Reinhardt stands and the role it has played in the lives of those it has touched."
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