McClain to Retire after 45 Years of Service

Glorianna McClain, one of the longest-serving employees of a United Methodist general agency, will retire Oct. 30. Her career spans more than 45 years, including 26 years of service to Africa University.

As the executive assistant to the associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement, McClain has worked alongside James H. Salley in the Africa University Development Office since 1994.

“She wasn’t recruited; she was sent to be … in the development office as we traveled places where no one had gone before," said Salley. “She has worked without fanfare to carry out the mission of Africa University and The United Methodist Church. Her calm demeanor has been an incredible asset to the office and the university, and I know that she is happy and proud to be a part of a dream come true.”

McClain was first hired in The United Methodist Church in 1975 as a clerk/typist with the General Board of Discipleship. At the insistence of her mother, she had driven to midtown Nashville to apply for a job at the Scarritt Bennett Center. After mistakenly entering the Discipleship personnel office, thinking it was that of the Scarritt Bennett Center, she applied anyway. Ten months later, based on work of superior quality in the typing pool, an executive working with the Black College Fund office of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) offered her a job as a fund and administrative officer.

Dr. Shirley A. R. Lewis, a former president of Paine College, led the Black College Fund office from 1986 to 1994 and supervised McClain.

“She exhibited a keen interest in learning more and doing more to support the work of our United Methodist-related Historically Black Colleges and Universities and to engage in related professional opportunities,” said Lewis. “She engaged eagerly in assisting in event planning, conference programming and the training of the Lina McCord Black College Fund interns.”

McClain joined Africa University shortly after the institution opened. She had a front-row seat as the Africa University initiative took shape. McClain typed countless documents and helped to assemble concept papers, feasibility studies and a 200-page Africa University Master Plan for presentation to the 1988 General Conference. She recalls being captivated by AU’s mission and potential.

Salley offered her a position in 1994. McClain described her first major task in the AU office — a data- conversion project — as daunting. Yet, she aced it. AU, she said, involved diving in at the deep end, learning quickly and exceeding expectations.

“It’s just amazing, when I think of the blessings that I have had,” McClain said. “I say, ‘Thank you, God.’ He really has watched over me all these 45 years.”

A 2002 visit to the main campus of Africa University at Old Mutare in Zimbabwe is one of the many blessings. Her interactions with students, faculty and staff during that visit are treasured memories that feed her ongoing passion for the ministry.

“Some of us are known as the face of the AU Development Office,” said Salley.  “Glorianna McClain is the foundation of the AU Development Office.”

Over the years, McClain has kept the office running smoothly, supervised database maintenance as well as financial record-keeping and reporting, and provided Salley with the necessary administrative support to assure the success of the university’s global advancement efforts.

“What I have enjoyed most about this journey with Africa University is realizing that my work made a difference … and working with Jim Salley, the staff and the members of the AU advisory development committee,” McClain said.

Lisa Tichenor is a founding member of the university’s advisory development committee and chair of the AU (Tennessee) Board of Directors.

“I had the good luck to begin collaborating with Glorianna … in 1994,” said Tichenor. “She has provided critical support for those of us working on behalf of AU from all parts of the world.”

In retirement, McClain looks forward to another trip to Africa University and Zimbabwe, accompanied by her son this time. She wants to see Paris, France, and fill more of her days with the laughter and antics of her family.

“There is more to Glorianna than AU or the UMC,” said Salley.  “She is active in her local church, as close to her family as one can be and really enjoys people.  She has spent her entire professional life in ministry, and that service has done well with her soul.  God has blessed me with a confidant, friend and colleague.” 

A virtual celebration of Glorianna McClain’s retirement is planned for Oct. 15. Congratulatory messages and cards can be emailed to or sent by post to the Africa University Development Office, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007.