Students studying outside the library

Lesesne named to Erskine Academic Hall of Fame

May 6, 2004

DUE WEST, S.C. — Wofford assistant football coach and president emeritus Joe Lesesne has been named to the Erskine College Academic Hall of Fame.

A 1959 graduate of Erskine, Lesesne is in his fourth year as the tight end coach for the defending Southern Conference champion Terrier football team. He previously served 28 years (1972-00) as Wofford's president.

Lesesne's father, Joab Mauldin Lesesne Sr., served as a professor of history and president of Erskine College.

Lesesne received a master’s and Ph.D. degree from the University of South Carolina.

He is a graduate of the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University and the U.S. Army War College. He has also received honorary doctorates from Coastal Carolina and Lander universities, Columbia College, the University of South Carolina, Furman University and Erskine College.

In 1958, he married Ruth Osborne, a 1959 Erskine graduate, and they have four children: Julie Lesesne, Lyle Lesesne Pritchard, Joey Lesesne and Harry Lesesne, who followed his father and grandfather by earning a Ph.D. in history at the University of South Carolina. The Lesesnes have 10 grandchildren.

In 1964, after serving as a professor of history at USC Coastal, he joined the Wofford College faculty as assistant professor of history. He left the classroom to serve as assistant dean and director of the interim (1967-68), director of development (1968-69), dean of the college (1969-72) and in 1972 was elected president. After retiring in 2000, he was named visiting professor of history and tight ends coach at Wofford.

During his tenure as Wofford president, the number of majors offered by the college increased to 23 from 15, and the faculty grew to 71 from 59. Enrollment held constant as the SAT average grew to 1,200. All major guides recognized the college as one of the nation’s best 300 colleges. He increased the campus to 145 acres from 75 and oversaw 17 major capital projects, including a $15 million athletic complex and a technology-rich academic building that became a national model. Under his guidance, the endowment increased to more than $100 million from $3.5 million.

Lesesne has a rich legacy of service to his state, region and nation. He retired from the S.C. National Guard as a major general. He served as chairman of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; as president of the Southern University Conference and the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church; as a member of the board of directors of the American Council on Education; and as a member of the Commission on National Challenges in Higher Education. He has served numerous local and state organizations, including the S.C. Department of Archives and History as vice chairman; the Southern Governors’ Commission on the Future of the South; the S.C. Association of Colleges and Universities as president; and the S.C. Higher Education Commission. Since retiring, he has served on the Erskine College board of trustees and as chairman of the South Carolina Natural Resources Commission.

The honors and awards that Lesesne has received are too numerous to name but include the Sergeant William Jasper Award, South Carolina State Chamber of Commerce (1995) and the Order of the Palmetto (2000).