Ruby McSwain, a Lee County resident whose generous philanthropy earned her recognitions both locally and across North Carolina, has died. She was 97.
Facilities bearing her name include the Ruby C. McSwain Education Center at N.C. State’s JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh.
According to N.C. State’s website, “the center is named for Ruby Vann Crumpler McSwain of Sanford, who donated $1.2 million toward its completion. McSwain, known by many as ‘Ms. Ruby,’ is a noted philanthropist and has been one of the college’s more generous benefactors. In 1997, she donated 300 acres and a historic house to the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc. for North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Lee County Center. She was named Citizen of the Year in 1997 by The Sanford Herald and Philanthropist of the Year in 1998 by the National Society of Fund Raising Executives’ Triangle Chapter. She is a major benefactor of Meredith College and the North Carolina Museum of Art.”
Additionally, the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association gives an annual honor named for her, the Ruby C. McSwain Outstanding Philanthropist Award.
Locally, the Lee County Enrichment Center is named for McSwain and her late husband, Ernest, as is Lee County’s local Cooperative Extension building on Tramway Road. The couple founded a local charitable foundation and had funded many nonprofits and other organizations.
Ann Blakeley, Lee County’s former clerk of Superior Court, remembers meeting McSwain when she had a gift shop, the Fireplace, which was located near the courthouse.
“I met her at the courthouse and eventually, when she stopped driving, she invited me to drive her to some of the places she would visit,” Blakeley said. “It was kind of like ‘Driving Ms. Ruby.’ I would drive her to Meredith, to N.C. State, to the museum. We went into the chancellors’ homes. It just really opened up my whole world.”
McSwain’s funeral will be held 3 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church in Sanford.