Bob McCuen '45
The lush, expressionistic oil on canvas captures two sailboats off Brittany. Its surface is mottled and scraped in salmon, white and bright aqua—freezing a cast of light reflecting off the coastal pink granite and green sea. It’s the work of renowned landscapist Edgar Alwyn Payne, whose work is held in many major museum collections and now, too, at The Webb Schools through the generosity of alumnus Robert M. McCuen '45.
Bob McCuen loved the sea and he and his wife, Patricia, sailed often and were long-time members of the Mission Bay Yacht Club. Bob passed away in 1998, after a 16-year struggle with multiple sclerosis. Though wheelchair-bound for most of that time, he did not let it prevent him from enjoying his interests in sailing and attending social events.
The McCuens lived in La Jolla, California, and were long-time members of the La Jolla Presbyterian Church. Together they were philanthropically involved with Webb, Las Tias Auxiliary for the Children’s Home Society and the San Diego Museum of Man. Mrs. McCuen passed away in July 2008.
In addition to the Edgar Alwyn Payne painting, which was donated in the name of Robert McCuen and Peter Grant, the McCuens also bequeathed to Webb $212,500 and interest in a $1 million charitable trust (CRT) that will provide support for their children with an eventual remainder benefit for Webb.
Bob’s great affection for Webb began shortly after he entered the school in January of 1943 as a boarding student in the sophomore class. He quickly became active in the music program, joining the glee club and the choir. He was on the dance committee, a member of Block W and played on the varsity basketball team. During the summers, Bob and several of his friends from Webb often worked the McCuen family farm in Ramona, harvesting hay and digging potatoes.
El Espejo editors remarked that “Bob’s rasping laugh will be long remembered” and his “serenades on the piano before each meal enthralled many and caused a great deal of concern to others.” It was predicted in El Espejo that Bob had a good chance of becoming a Wall St. executive. Bob’s yearbook quote was “Music’s the medicine of the mind.”
Shortly after the end of World War II, Bob entered the Army Air Corps. In a letter to Vivian Webb in April of 1946, he described making coal-tar ointment while attempting to decipher a doctor’s prescription and bemoaned the fact that even though he was in the “Air Corps,” he had only flown in a military plane once. He also asked the Webbs to look after his stamp collection, which he had inadvertently left at the school.
In service to the country, Bob attained the rank of Corporal and was a staff writer on the Lowry Field (Colorado) weekly newspaper. He met his wife, Patricia, at a big band dance and they were married in 1950 at the McCuen family ranch. Upon completion of his military service, McCuen joined the investment firm, McCuen & Co. His father, C. Melvin McCuen, founded the company in 1932. The San Diego investment services company is a thriving business today.
Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Bob kept up a lively correspondence with Thompson Webb and then with Head of School, Fred Hooper. Hooper once remarked in a letter to Bob, “The latch string is always out for you and your wife, and the first time you pass by this way, please stop in to have a meal with us. Throughout the years, you have given of yourself to help the future of Webb School in so many ways.” In a letter to Bob in March 1960, Thompson Webb wrote, “It means a great deal to me to know that so many of our old boys are rallying around the school.”
Indeed, Bob McCuen was an active student who remained involved with the school long after walking across the Alamo lawn to receive his diploma. He gave of his time and resources and used his influence to persuade foundations and his own clients to provide scholarship dollars so students from varying socio-economic backgrounds could enjoy the benefits of a Webb education. He also encouraged his clients to consider sending their children to The Webb Schools. “Webb is honored that Robert and his wife, Patricia, chose to extend their legacy by making a gift through their estate that will continue to provide support for our students,” says former Head of Schools, Susan Nelson.
Through this generous and visionary gift, the McCuens ensured their children’s needs and established a lasting legacy with organizations about which they cared a great deal. Without a doubt, Bob understood the value of a Webb education and wanted others to share in his experience. His and Patricia’s gift to The Webb Schools continues to have an impact on the lives of Webb students.
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