Globetrotting Alumna Finds Lifelong Home

Nora McGuinness

Nora McGuinness has always been heavily involved at UC Davis. She volunteered as chair of the scholarship committee for the University Farm Circle, as a member of the Friends of the Mondavi Center and also currently serves as co-chair of the communications committee in the Emeriti Association.

By Trevor Stewart

The brisk winds of Madison, Wisconsin blew the McGuinness family westward, as they embarked on a journey to California in 1964. Nora McGuinness Ph.D. ’84 and her late husband Arthur did not know at the time that they would find their forever home in the University of California, Davis, and the surrounding community.

The couple moved to California because Arthur was hired as a professor in the English department. During her illustrious UC Davis career, Nora worked as a writer, editor, academic administrator for the Office of the Chancellor and director of UC Davis Summer Sessions‘ study abroad programs, teaching and administering programs in London and Paris. She later taught in integrated studies, the freshman honors program and also served as its director.  

Aside from a two-year stint in London in the 1970s, during Arthur’s term as Education Abroad Program director for the United Kingdom and Ireland, the family would live in Davis for the rest of their lives.

“UC Davis was very welcoming of new faculty families and was an amazing place to raise a family,” said Nora, who is now a CAAA member and donor to the university.

After 15 years out of formal study, Nora was motivated to finish her graduate work in English literature, completing her Ph.D. in 1984. She wasn’t the only one wearing graduation attire that weekend; her oldest daughter, Anne O’Neal ‘84, completed her bachelor’s in chemical engineering and presented her for formal investiture by the Graduate Division.

“It was very special to share graduation with my husband and daughter,” Nora said. “Not many people get to have that experience.”

Always an Aggie

Nora continued her teaching and administration until her retirement in 2002, and she has stayed connected with UC Davis and the community since then.

“My continued association with the university is very important to me because it has been my home for most of my adult life,” said Nora.

Nora said as she shifts away from on-campus involvement, she will transition to committee and board work at the University Retirement Community (URC), where she presently resides. She is currently co-chair for the community’s employee appreciation fund drive.

Located in Davis, California, URC allows residents to maintain an active relationship with the university by organizing trips to campus concerts, plays, lectures, and events. Many of the residents are alumni, former faculty and staff or have other connections to UC Davis through their children and grandchildren.

“The residents here are so interesting,” said Nora. “They have lived all over the world and have had exciting adventures, each with a unique story. Dinner is always a social event.”

Nora, herself, is no stranger to world travels. She has traveled with Aggie Adventures on a Greek Island cruise, and plans at least two major trips annually. She has visited Paris, Normandy, London, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore this year. Her most recent excursion was to Florence, Italy, after which she and a friend rode the Orient Express from Venice to Prague.

“Taking a trip on the Orient Express was on my friend’s bucket list and she knew she could count on me to join the adventure,” Nora laughed.

While Nora doesn’t have any impending travel plans set in stone, it’s safe to assume she will be on an expedition to a new place in the very near future.