Edward McCabe, 91; Headed Sallie Mae

Mr. McCabe also worked in the Eisenhower administration.
Mr. McCabe also worked in the Eisenhower administration. (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Edward Aenas McCabe, 91, the founding chairman of Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Association, died Oct. 4 at his home in Bethesda. He had dementia.

In the early 1960s, Mr. McCabe, an attorney, represented a group of businessmen who established USA Funds as a nonprofit guarantor of loans made to college students. President Richard M. Nixon in 1972 asked Mr. McCabe to set up a federally chartered organization to provide college loans directly to students and parents. It soon became the chief source of funds for student borrowing.

Sallie Mae began privatizing in 1997 and is no longer a government entity. It owns or manages student loans for nearly 10 million people and administers more than $18 billion in college savings accounts.

Mr. McCabe was chairman of Sallie Mae from 1972 to 1978 and again from 1981 to 1990. He also was on the board of USA Funds from 1978 to 1996 and was a director of the USA Group from 1993 to 2000. He was the founding chairman of the USA Group's successor, the Lumina Foundation for Education, a billion-dollar private foundation, from 2000 to 2003, remaining on its board until 2006.

Born on a farm in County Monaghan, Ireland, and educated in a one-room schoolhouse in the bogs, Mr. McCabe immigrated to the United States in 1928 with family members who settled in Philadelphia. Mr. McCabe served in the Army during World War II, becoming a counterintelligence agent in U.S. detention camps.

After the war, he graduated from the Columbus School of Law, now part of Catholic University, and with four partners set up the law firm Hamel, Park, McCabe and Saunders. It later merged with Foley and Lardner, and Mr. McCabe remained of counsel with the firm until shortly before his death.

In the mid-1950s, he was general counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor and served as White House counsel and administrative assistant from 1956 to 1960.

A devoted sports fan and golfer, he was a member of Burning Tree Club and the Kenwood Country Club, as well as the Metropolitan Club. He was a board member of Immaculata College of Washington and DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa. He had been a member of Bethesda's Church of the Little Flower since 1960.

His wife of 30 years, Janet Isabel Steven McCabe, died in 1981.

Survivors include his wife of 23 years, Verna Ann Peterson McCabe of Bethesda; four children, Thomas McCabe and Michael McCabe, both of Great Falls, Patrick McCabe of Round Hill, and Barbara Bowman of Archbold, Ohio; two sisters; and 17 grandchildren.

-- Patricia Sullivan

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