Cherry’s granddaughter has ‘thirst for knowledge’

Maggie McGowan attends an Intro to Psychology class at Gary Randsdell Hall. McGowan is the great-great granddaughter of Henry Hardin Cherry and pursues a major in marketing this semester.

Stephani Stacy

Most people on campus can say they are familiar with the serious-faced statue of Henry Hardin Cherry outside Cherry Hall.

But many are unable to say they are related to the iconic founder of the university –   except for Maggie McGowan, Cherry’s great-great-granddaughter, who is in her freshman year at WKU.

“I lived here when I was little and my grandfather would always take me to the statue and be like, ‘That’s your great-great-grandfather,'” McGowan said. “And I didn’t really understand it then, but now I’m like, ‘Whoa.'”

The statue of Cherry is not McGowan’s only relative on campus. Guthrie Bell Tower is decorated with a picture of Maggie’s grandfather, Dan Cherry, who was a brigadier general. Dan Cherry and his wife Sylvia still live in Bowling Green and said they are thrilled that Maggie chose to attend WKU.

“I always hoped she would, but I tried to keep quiet because I didn’t want to be an undue influence on her,” Dan Cherry said. “I wanted her to be objective about it. But I was delighted with her decision.”

McGowan is majoring in marketing, but is considering switching to psychology to satisfy an avid interest in how the brain functions. She said she has joined the sorority Phi Mu and is thinking about participating in Feel Good, the campus organization that fights world hunger.

McGowan is also in the Honors College and said she plans to travel to Harlaxton, England, next year to spend a semester studying in a manor house.

“She has a tremendous thirst for knowledge,” Dan Cherry said. “She wants to learn things, and she’s curious about things.”

McGowan was born in Las Vegas, but grew up on the outskirts of Memphis, Tenn., while spending time in Bowling Green and Savannah, Ga. She said WKU has already become so familiar that going home for Labor Day weekend “felt weird.”

“I really like it,” McGowan said of the WKU campus. “I already have so many friends. I don’t feel like my home in Memphis is my home anymore.”

Sylvia Cherry, McGowan’s grandmother and Dan’s wife, said she was thrilled with Maggie’s decision.

“She just loves it up there,” Sylvia Cherry said. “She hasn’t bothered us twice.”

McGowan met her roommate, freshman Naomi Driessnack, at the Academic Transitions Program they had both attended last March.

“We were the only normal ones there, so we decided to room together,” said Driessnack, who is from Huntsville, Ala. “She’s amazing at meeting new people. She’s interested in people and people’s interests. I know she’ll probably be successful. She’s innovative.”

McGowan said she was attracted to WKU by the variety of the campus landscape, something she noted was missing at other colleges.

“Most campuses are spread out and they’re pretty, but they’re kind of flat,” McGowan said. “And WKU just has so many dimensions and different aspects to it.”

She added that her college choices had been between the University of Mississippi and WKU. She had chosen the latter even though the University of Mississippi was closer to her hometown.

“I just liked here better.” McGowan said. “And people here seem so much more concerned with how you’re doing, like all my professors ask me how I am every day, whereas I’ve heard that at other college campuses, you’re just a number and they don’t even know who you are.”

McGowan said she dreams of traveling, seeing the world and building a career in law, perhaps specializing in criminal justice.

“I feel like WKU really helps you push yourself and reach goals you hadn’t even thought of before you came here,” McGowan said.

Dan Cherry said he has complete faith in McGowan’s bright future.

“She has high personal standards, she has high expectations of her friends, and she strives to be the best she can at everything she does,” Cherry said. “She’s going to leave a good mark on the world. I’m confident of that.”