Frances M. Maguire, 84, of Chestnut Hill, an artist and mother who with her husband, James J. Maguire, created a family foundation that has given millions of dollars to enrich the lives of Philadelphians, died Wednesday, Feb. 12, of cardiopulmonary failure at home.
Known to all as “Frannie,” she was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Merion Mercy Academy and what is now Gwynedd Mercy University.
On Thanksgiving 1957, she married Maguire, a businessman who built a string of small insurance agencies into a national insurance conglomerate, Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corp.
In 2008, he completed a $5 billion merger of the holding company with the Japanese Tokio Marine Group. The proceeds made it possible for the Maguires to become one of the region’s most generous philanthropic couples.
Their James J. and Frances M. Maguire Foundation has supported schools and colleges, churches, arts institutions, and organizations that serve the homeless.
In July 2017, the couple gave $50 million to St. Joseph’s University, the largest gift in the 166-year history of the school. The money was earmarked to bolster endowment and increase scholarships.
"To the community on Hawk Hill, Frannie was an emblem of generosity and grace,” said St. Joseph’s president Mark C. Reed. “Her passion for the arts and her investment in the success of young women and men have built a legacy that will live on.”
Mrs. Maguire endowed the Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions at Gwynedd Mercy. Its president, Kathleen Owens, said that she didn’t just write a check; she also showed up on campus.
“On many occasions, she would visit campus to meet with students enrolled in the school, always asking them about their journey or their ambitions or their clinical experiences, while humorously reminiscing about her student days,” Owens said.
Mrs. Maguire had a deep faith in the beauty of humanity, said Bill Valerio, director and CEO of the Woodmere Art Museum, where she took classes, was a trustee, and spent many hours painting in the studio.
She saw beauty in the world. Little by little, she transferred her vision onto canvas and into clay and bronze forms. She created busts of city and university leaders. Two of her paintings are on exhibit at Woodmere. Others are in private collections.
“Frannie’s inner radiance was expressed in the spirituality of her faith and her love of art,” Valerio said.
She began her art career in the early 1970s when her husband was away on business. She enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she drew, painted, and sculpted. Her paintings ranged from expressionism to experiments with cubism. Typically, they featured scenes of nature in bright pink, orange, green, and teal.
“Frannie Maguire’s vivid palette in her abstract paintings perfectly expressed her bright, hopeful approach to art, philanthropy, and life,” said academy president and CEO David R. Brigham.
Mrs. Maguire’s artistic vision found further expression in her entries to the Philadelphia Flower Show. In one 1994 entry, she used leaves, seed pods, and berries to form the face of a cat; in 1995, she used stems and flowers to suggest a bike. Both took first prize.
The judges’ comment: “Magnifique.”
Mrs. Maguire’s generosity touched Philadelphians without homes, including those helped by Face to Face, a Germantown nonprofit that provides meals, showers, classes, and art studios. Again, she showed up to greet the recipients.
“Each time I met her, whether it was at some function, or when she came here to do art projects with the children or adults, I always felt as if she received me like a longtime friend,” said Mary Kay Meeks-Hank, the nonprofit’s executive director. “It would be hard to overstate the genuine love I always felt in her presence.”
Mrs. Maguire was devoted to her eight children and many grandchildren. She liked nothing better than to shepherd the grandchildren to a room at home where they worked on special art projects.
“A typical visit to [her] house with my kids was the disappearance to the art room to create their next great piece,” said son Christopher. “She loved opening my kids’ eyes to their artistic talent.”
“She made everyone she met feel so special,” said Sister Mary Scullion of Project HOME.
When not pursuing creative work, she enjoyed biking and playing tennis with her husband.
Besides her husband and son, she is survived by children James J. Jr., Susan, Timothy, Megan Maguire Nicoletti, Colleen, Frances Glomb, and Tara; 24 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and two sisters. A son, Edward, died in infancy.