Seeing gifts come to life

Joe Maguire’s philosophy is to support what you love, and he loves jazz.

Joe Maguire of Wolverine Development Corporation was all smiles as he toured the Billman Music Pavilion with Project Manager Todd Wilson. In the background are the beginnings of the J. P. Maguire Gallery in Murray Hall.
Joe and Jeanne Maguire have both been musicians from a young age. Joe plays saxophone, and Jeanne is an oboe and piano prodigy who studied at Johns Hopkins’ Peabody Institute.


Joe Maguire is a dedicated Spartan. In fact, even though he is a graduate of Northwestern and Columbia Universities, he is as engaged and excited as they come. That is great news for the Michigan State University College of Music given his recent gift to support the construction of the new Billman Music Pavilion.

Joe grew up and still lives in East Lansing, Michigan, and he has been a fan of the Spartan Marching Band since he was a child hearing rehearsals from his backyard. His mother and two siblings are graduates of MSU, and his grandmother was a professor in the same building he now teaches as an adjunct professor in the School of Planning, Construction and Design.

He has a solid green and white pedigree, but his belief in supporting what you love has connected him with MSU in ways he never could have imagined as a young man.

Joe is a passionate advocate for the performing arts. He served for several years, including two as chair, on the advisory council at MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts, where he created the Joseph & Jeanne Maguire Endowment for Jazz at Wharton Center.

His love for the MSU Jazz Studies program led to the launch of the “Jazz on the Grand” concert series in Lansing, featuring the MSU Professors of Jazz. Now, his gift to the Billman Music Pavilion will be recognized with the naming of the seating gallery in Murray Hall, a central space in the new 38,000 square foot Billman Music Pavilion which opens in spring 2020.

The J.P. Maguire Gallery in Murray Hall – the section of the new space for the principal use of jazz in the College of Music – is a unique feature as the only balcony space to take in performances in the building.

“I knew early on I wanted to be involved somehow in the Billman Music Pavilion facilities project,” he said during a meeting in his Wolverine Development Corporation office in East Lansing where he serves as president and CEO. “I’ve always been such a fan of music and the performing arts in general; it’s really exciting to see it come to fruition.”

Founded in 1924, his family-owned and operated company owns commercial properties around the state. One look around Joe’s spacious but modest office reveals a very organized leader who values the history of his company, his family and his community.

He is married to Jeanne, an oboe and piano prodigy who studied at Johns Hopkins’ Peabody Institute, with whom he has raised three sons. Other than his time earning an economics degree at Northwestern in Chicago and then a master’s at Columbia in New York, Joe has built his life in East Lansing.

The Professors of Jazz perform at "Jazz on the Grand" in fall 2018, a concert series in downtown Lansing that began with an idea from Joe Maguire who thought it would be great to bring the talented musicians to the city.
Joe Maguire enjoys any opportunity to hear MSU jazz professors play. Here he met with Etienne Charles after his performance at a jazz festival in Savannah, Georgia.
At an MSU advance degree commencement exercise in May, Joe Maguire (right) stands proudly with fellow faculty and two master's graduates from the Construction Management Program where he is an adjunct professor.


Joe played tenor and baritone saxophone in the bands at East Lansing High School during the late 1970s.

“I marched as a tenor, but I just loved playing the baritone sax in the jazz ensemble. The arrangements would often switch the bari between playing with the rest of the sax section and the fourth trombone part. So I could get kind of down and dirty and yet still swing in the course of the same tune. It was fun. I loved it,” Joe explained with a smile on his face. “We had some exceptional musicians in that high school ensemble and a very good director in John Campbell. He really drove us, but it was an excellent experience.”

Outside of the classroom, Joe said that band experience is what formed him more than anything else in high school. He worked hard and carries the lessons he learned then into his support for the arts now.

“I remember Joe as a very bright and intelligent young man,” said his former band teacher, John Campbell, now retired as director of bands at Central Michigan University. “He always gave his best with everything that he did. He was a strong musician and an even better person. I'm so proud of him.”

Joe, in turn, is proud of what he learned from teachers like Campbell, and it has informed his philosophy on the importance of philanthropy. As evidenced by his support of the College of Music, Wharton Center, and Lean Ensemble Theater in Hilton Head where he is a founding director, he sees first-hand the need to give back to the things you enjoy most.

“If you attend a concert or a play, opera or symphony, you are there in large part because of someone else’s generosity,” he explained. “Ticket sales almost never pay the bills. You are there because somebody helped build the venue and somebody else is helping to pay for the performance.”

He gives credit to others who have stepped up their support for jazz and especially the Billman Music Pavilion since the project was announced. Joe said they have paved the way for people like him.

“I think it is incumbent on people who are jazz fans and who have the means, to step up when we have needs such as this – like the jazz gallery,” Joe said. “There are a number of people in the community who have been great at doing this – people like Ken and Sandy Beall, Pat McPharlin and April Clobes at MSU Federal Credit Union, and of course Dr. Jim Billman, for whom the Pavilion is named. They’ve really set a great example and inspired me to get involved.”

Another source of inspiration for Joe is Jazz Studies chair Rodney Whitaker and the MSU Professors of Jazz, for whom he sponsors two annual performances – Jazz on the Grand and A Jazzy Little Christmas.

Murray Hall for the principal use of jazz in the new pavilion is named in recognition of the major gift from Craig and Lisa Murray. The view in this rendering is from the J. P. Maguire Gallery, named in thanks for the contribution from Joe Maguire.


Joe feels fortunate to have gotten a tour of the facility as it is under construction from Project Manager Todd Wilson of MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities. As a real estate development professional, he marveled at the engineering and the efficient use of space on what is a relatively small footprint.

“It’s great to talk about and look at plans, but when you really get in and touch it and see it, it’s exhilarating. I was blown away by the intricacy of the engineering, especially the structural sound wave absorption – the control of vibrations, the isolated elevator shafts so that sound waves are not transferred through the concrete. I was really impressed,” Joe said.

One reason he says that it is exciting to support the arts at MSU is that you actually get to see and hear the impact of your gift.

“Whether it’s a performance or a bricks and mortar contribution or something else, I see it. It’s very tangible to me,” Joe said. “Regardless of where we went to school or whether we went to college at all, we all should think of MSU as a great investment. MSU is great about letting you tailor your gift to precisely what you want to do. It makes it fun. You get involved in it.”

While the engineering, efficiency, utility and more impress a building development professional like Joe, ultimately it is his connection to MSU through music that makes the Billman Music Pavilion so special.

“I’m really excited to have my name associated with the pavilion in this small way,” Joe said grinning ear to ear. “I smile every time I walk by.”


For more information about naming opportunities or contributing to the Billman Music Pavilion, please contact Senior Director of Development Rebecca Surian at (517) 353-9939 or surian@msu.edu.

Topics filed under:

Share this: