Catawba trustee Claude Abernethy Jr. dies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Tonia Black-Gold
Catawba College
Claude Shuford Abernethy Jr. of Hickory, a longtime member of the Catawba College Board of Trustees and a generous benefactor of the college, died July 8 after an extended illness.
A memorial service for him will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at his home church, Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, and the family will receive friends after the service.
Abernethy, who was elected to his trustee post by the Southern Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1960, was serving his 49th year as a Catawba trustee at the time of his death.
He was preceded in death in 1999 by wife Raenelle Bolick Abernethy. Survivors include his three children, Anne Wepner of Newton and husband Tim, Martha Sowers of Hickory and husband Michael, and C. Shuford Abernethy III of Conover and wife Jayne, and his 19 grandchildren.
A 1948 Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Davidson College, Abernethy earned an MBA from Harvard University’s Business School in 1950. He had a long and successful career in stock market investing, retiring as a senior vice president with Wachovia Securities in Newton.
As a member of Catawba’s Board of Trustees, he shared his counsel with various college presidents. In doing so, he followed a tradition established by his uncle, the late Julius W. Abernethy, a former vice president of the Catawba Board of Trustees and a legendary supporter of the college.
For a number of years, Claude and his uncle Julius served on the board simultaneously. Claude and son Shuford, also a college trustee, continued that same tradition, serving simultaneously on the board together for more than 25 years. Claude Abernethy served on several trustee committees at Catawba, including finance and executive, as well as a period as chairman.
Abernethy Village on campus, a complex of five residence halls, is named in honor of the Abernethy family’s many contributions to Catawba, while the Abernethy Physical Education Center is named in honor of Julius Abernethy. A First Family Scholarship, the Claude S. Jr. and Raenelle Abernethy First Family Scholarship, has also been established at Catawba.
“Claude Abernethy was a wonderful friend to Catawba College, and, as with all truly strong relationships, he was an advocate for the institution and a generous supporter of our needs,” said Catawba College President Dr. Craig Turner.
“Having served on our Board of Trustees for 49 years, he advised and worked with eight different presidents. His knowledge, experience and wisdom will be sorely missed.”
Abernethy received numerous honors from the college. He received an honorary doctor of business administration degree in 1970 and the institution’s prestigious Adrian L. Shuford Jr. Award for Distinguished Service in 1994. In presenting that award to Abernethy, then Catawba College President J. Fred Corriher Jr. called him “a constant in a time of change” who “remains one of the truest and most conscientious friends Catawba College has ever had.”
Abernethy was honored at a Service of Recognition and Appreciation in 2004 for, at that time, his 44 years of service on the Board of Trustees. In 2008, he was one of the recipients of Catawba’s inaugural Campus Ministry Church/College Award in recognition of his strong and binding ties to both the United Church of Christ and the college.
In presenting the Campus Ministry Church/College Award, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Clapp, Catawba’s chaplain and senior vice president, recognized Abernethy as “a faithful representative of the college to the church constituency” and one who had given generously of his time to advise many nonprofit and charitable organizations.
Abernethy’s alma mater, Davidson College, recognized him with its Alumni Service Award in 1998. In making that award at Abernethy’s 50th reunion at that institution, Davidson College officials cited his “loyalty to his 10-generation family ties to the region and church.”
He served Davidson College as an Alumni Chapter President, as a member of the Steering Committee of the Catawba Valley regional effort in The Campaign for Davidson, and as member of the Davidson College Board of Visitors.
In addition to his home church, Abernethy’s philanthropy extended to Catawba Valley Community College, the Catawba County YMCA, the Sipes’ Orchard Children’s Home, Johns River Valley Camp, United Church Homes and Services and many other church and civic organizations.