Meet James J. Maguire: Dyslexic Insurance Salesman Turned Philadelphia Philanthropist

Just a few decades ago, an undiagnosed case of dyslexia meant certain academic failure. James J. Maguire was always a poor academic student, with failing grades and a basketball scholarship he barely hung on to. But that didn’t stop him from being an excellent insurance salesman. He began his career at MetLife and went on to establish his own Maguire Insurance Agency, Inc. in 1960. He later began operating as Philadelphia Insurance Companies, which uniquely offered insurance to nonprofit social service agencies and health and fitness clubs.

Thanks to his success in the insurance industry, Maguire and his wife Frannie established the Maguire Foundation in 2000 and have focused grantmaking on the Greater Philadelphia area. Since then, the foundation has given more than $80 million in grants to local educational, human service, and cultural institutions. But the main focus of the foundation is education, and the couple provides need-based scholarships to over 1,000 students in the mid-Atlantic region.

So what else do the Maguires like to donate to?

For one, they’re committed to their alma maters. The couple gives to St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and Gwynedd Mercy University in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, to which they have generously given millions for campus expansion campaigns. 

Maguire’s philanthropy has extended to Philadelphia Futures, a mentoring program for underprivileged high school students in the inner-city, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, St. Vincent’s Shelter, soup kitchens, and summer camps. The Maguires are also major fundraisers for their local Thanksgiving Turkey Trot race. James recently made headlines for receiving the prestigious Horatio Alger Award, which recognizes leaders who have overcome adversity to succeed and commit themselves to philanthropy and higher education.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Maguire Foundation is not accepting unsolicited grant proposals at this time. Current investments are in the Maguire Scholars Program and other youth education programs. The Maguire Scholars Program’s application form is available on the foundation website, and there are currently 21 partnership institutions in higher education.

To get in touch with the Maguire Foundation, reach out to Executive Director Amy Holdsman at 484-344-5004 or via email at