For a portion of May, the Catawba College Guest House was the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Guild’s Designer House. Thanks to a substantial gift from Catawba Trustee and Alumnus Larry Cloninger ’74 and wife Susan, the guest house will remain elegantly furnished and be renamed the Cloninger Guest House at Catawba.
The Cloninger Guest House will be used by invited guests of the College and for various functions involving faculty, staff and student organizations, according to Oliver Scott, Catawba’s assistant to the president for specialEvents. She anticipates it to be 100 percent refurbished and ready to accommodate the College’s invited guests by the second week in July.
Of the Cloninger’s gift to provide and maintain furnishings in the house, Scott said, “We’ve been friends with the Cloningers for 20 years and know that Susan and Larry have always been good stewards. Their recent gift to the guest house will make the Catawba community a much better place. Their commitment to their family, the community and the College is an example for us all. How fortunate we are to have graduates and friends such as these.”
Catawba Senior Vice President Tom Childress echoed Scott’s sentiments, calling the Cloningers “staunch supporters of the College.” He noted that the Cloningers like to help with projects “without attention or fanfare,” and work quietly when they see a need either at the College or in the community “to meet it and move on with little or no attention focused on them.”
The guest house was rescued from demolition in 1940 when U.S. Highway 601 was reworked. It was purchased then for $1,000 and moved behind the Catawba College President’s House by Mr. and Mrs. William Harden. The Hardens reworked the house, changing its outward appearance, and lived in it until 1961 when it was sold to Dr. and Mrs. Carl Wheeler. The Wheelers had only lived there a year when Dr. Wheeler died following surgery and his widow sold it to Dr. Edward and Nancy McKenzie in 1962. The McKenzies lived there for 36 years until 1998 when they sold it to the College and moved to Statesville to be closer to their children. Since 1998, it has been used to provide overnight accommodations for visiting faculty and as student housing.
According to Larry Cloninger, his wife Susan is on the board of the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony. She was aware of the work underway to refurbish the house as the Symphony Designer House and early in that process, the Cloningers made a financial commitment to maintain the designer furnishings in the front hall, the downstairs back hall, the stairwell and upstairs hall.
Scott noted that other donors including Tony and Jeannie ’72 Misenheimer have made contributions to maintain the designer house furnishings in a front bedroom, downstairs bathroom and back hall. It was the Cloningers’ gift, however, which will allow the entire house to be completely furnished, she said. Others have made contributions to the house lawns and further contributions are welcomed and will be appreciated.
Larry Cloninger, president of Cloninger Ford-Toyota of Salisbury, contends he and his wife’s gift to maintain furnishings in the College guest house is a small way he can give back to both his alma mater and his community. “I think a college adds a lot to a community, whether or not you use the resources of that college. We live here and see this as a way to simply help our community.”
Cloninger, who grew up in Belmont, was an accounting major at Catawba and fondly recalls his classes with now retired Catawba Professor Al Carter and the late Dr. Millard Wilson. Following his graduation, he worked for a year and a half for an accounting firm in Lexington before realizing that that was not his career preference. He applied for entry level jobs with various automobile manufacturers, and remembers clearly that “Ford’s Sales Division in Charlotte was the only one which offered me one.” He went to work there and met his future wife, the former Susan Kissiah of Concord, who also worked for Ford in the parts and service division.
In 1985, Cloninger bought City Motor Company in Salisbury and married Susan a year later. He changed the name to Cloninger Ford and moved to his business’ current location on Jake Alexander Boulevard in 1988. The couple has two children, 16-year-old Madison, a student at Salem Academy in Winston-Salem, and nine-year-old Miles, wrapping up his third grade year at Cannon School in Concord.