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Family establishes endowed fund in honor of former WU student and professor Bishop

By Luanne Williams

John Larry Bishop was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, grew up in Greensboro and finished his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Appalachian State University in Boone. He traveled domestically and internationally during nearly two decades as a hospital administrator and civic leader. But through it all, his heart remained at Wingate, where he spent his first two years in college, raised a family and served two stints teaching business courses.

“He just fell in love with everything at Wingate,” says his sister, Teresa Bishop Caine. “He had some wonderful teachers there and made wonderful friends.” Two months after Bishop’s death, she is taking the lead in the family’s effort to honor his memory with the creation of the John Larry Bishop Endowed Faculty Fund at Wingate University.

The family’s $1.1 million gift, announced Wednesday by University President Rhett Brown during a luncheon held in the Hinson Museum of Art to celebrate Bishop, will establish the John Larry Bishop Distinguished Professorship. Proceeds from the investment will also be used for student financial assistance, course development and student/faculty research. Caine says her brother had intended to establish the fund before an injury robbed him of his health.

Described by Caine as a quiet and intellectual kid with a strong work ethic, Bishop graduated from Wingate Junior College in 1963. He earned a bachelor of science in business education in 1965 and a master of arts in economics and business in 1968, both from ASU.

While finishing his graduate degree, he spent a year teaching high school before joining the Wingate faculty. He became an integral part of the business department in the late 1960s, and in the mid-1970s he served as director of the college’s Evening School. He and his wife, the former Judith Wilson, raised their two sons in Wingate and stayed in the community when he left the college to put his business acumen to work as administrator of Union Memorial Hospital. He also became a key community leader, working with the county’s Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Central Carolinas and a number of other civic organizations.

“The thing about Larry is he never took credit for anything,” says Richard Heins, major gifts officer at Wingate and the former vice president of Union County operations for United Way. “He would always say, ‘we,’ never ‘I,’ when he talked about accomplishments.”

In 2006, after retiring from healthcare administration, Bishop came back to his beloved Wingate as an adjunct professor, a role he filled for 11 years.

“The first trait that comes to mind about Larry was his loyalty. He cared about his students and he was intensely loyal to Wingate University,” says Barry Cuffe, professor of business analytics. “Larry Bishop was quiet and unassuming.”

Finance professors Lisa Schwartz and Kristin Stowe were both struck by how Bishop connected with students.

“Larry was one of the sweetest people I know. He loved working with the first-year students in Business 101,” Schwartz says. “Whenever a student would tell me they were struggling in his class, I would say, ‘Go and talk with him.’ The student would usually come back to me and say how nice he was and how much they enjoyed talking with him and that they felt so much better about the class afterward. I also really enjoyed our informal chats around the copy machine. He is truly missed.”

Stowe says one of Bishop’s strengths was his ability to mentor students.

“When he recognized that one of the guys in class was underachieving, Larry would call the student in during office hours,” Stowe says. “These ‘come-to-Jesus meetings,’ as Larry called them, were remarkably successful in saving academic semesters and even college careers.”

Mary Maye, administrative assistant for the Byrum School of Business, says Bishop made time outside of normal office hours to meet with students in the library to make sure they understood assignments. 

That’s what she’ll remember most about Bishop, along with his passion for Bulldog baseball.

“Larry enjoyed all sports, but especially baseball,” Maye says. “He would go to games both at home and away to support his students.”

Caine agrees. “He was crazy about that baseball team,” she says. “Even in recent times when it was too cold for him to sit out, he would drive over to the baseball field and sit in his car and watch the game from there.”

Cuffe says he always cherished opportunities to swap stories, exchange theories or debate educational trends with Bishop.

“Larry’s footprints and fingerprints are all over our business program,” Cuffe says.

President Brown and others shared personal remembrances of Bishop during Wednesday’s luncheon. 

“On behalf of a grateful university community, many many thanks to Larry’s family,” Brown said.

Learn more about the Porter B. Byrum School of Business.

Dec. 2, 2021