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Graduates create experiential learning fund honoring Roberta Hurley ’81

By JoAnn Mitchell Brasington ’89

The “remember whens” and good-natured ribbing started immediately. Steven Blanton ’04, Allen Bridgers ’01, Brian Fast ’07, Craig Melvin ’01 and Josh Whitley ’05 zoomed in ahead of the guest of honor, Roberta Hurley ’81, dean of students and vice president of campus life and student development.

The joking continued as Hurley experienced a series of technical difficulties.

“She saw all of these idiots on the screen and decided she wasn’t going to join,” says Bridgers about Hurley dropping out of the meeting within seconds of joining.

Once together, the graduates surprised Hurley by announcing the establishment of an endowed fund in her honor to support experiential learning for students with financial need.

“I was shocked and humbled. One of my first thoughts was I need to change my will,” says Hurley. “My parents worked very hard to make sure I was able to attend Wofford, and even then, I still relied on a small academic award, a South Carolina Tuition Grant, a loan and work study. There wasn’t extra to travel or intern or do research off campus. I’m thrilled students will have access to funds for experiential learning thanks to the generosity of these great alumni.”

The idea to honor Hurley started when Josh and Cowles Gilchrist Whitley ’05 took advantage of the Trustee Matching Fund to establish an academic scholarship to benefit students from Berkeley and Charleston counties. The experience was easy and meaningful, so they decided to consider an additional scholarship.

“These endowed funds for experiential learning make a huge difference for our students, and they’re a priority if we’re going to fulfill our president’s vision and the vision of the trustees to make all that Wofford has to offer available for all students,” says Whitley. “While we were doing this, we talked a lot about our positive student experiences and realized that few people have had the impact that Roberta Hurley has had over the past four decades.”

The Whitleys did establish a second scholarship to support Interim travel and study for students with need, and Josh started calling friends who also had a special connection to Hurley with an opportunity to create a third endowed fund.

“I’ve been on the right side and on the wrong side of Dean Hurley, and she’s always been fair,” says Melvin, who joked that he’d like his contribution to be considered hush money. “We can all share stories of how she contributed to the student experience at Wofford, so when Josh called and said we should do something nice for someone who’s done something nice for us and our families and our college, how could we say no?” Melvin and his wife, Lindsay Czarniak, had already taken advantage of the Trustee Matching Fund to establish the Lindsay and Craig Melvin Fund to support students pursuing experiential learning opportunities.

“I learned what to do and what not to do thanks to Dean Hurley. She chewed me out many a time,” says Blanton, who contributed along with his spouse, Anna Richardson Blanton ’09.

“Dean Hurley and the Wofford community were there for me at a tough time,” says Fast, who was joined by his wife, Dr. Patricia Jordan Fast ’08, in making the gift. “I could not have afforded an internship abroad as a student, so it feels good to support that now.”

“My first run-in with Dean Hurley was when I pranked a student by impersonating a campus safety officer,” says Bridgers. “Dean Hurley understands that it’s important to let students screw up in a safe space.” Bridgers and his wife, Jenna Sheheen Bridgers ’01, contributed as a couple to the fund.

“She comes to our weddings and the christenings of our children. She comes to funerals, and she was there when we got a tough diagnosis after our twins were born,” says Whitley. “I made five calls and all five said yes. I could have called others. This is the easiest money I’ve ever raised, and I know this fund will grow as soon as more people learn about it.”

Hurley became dean of students on Aug. 15, 1995, and by Aug. 15, 2022, she will have transitioned to her new role as senior vice president for administration and secretary to the board of trustees.

“This is a wonderful compliment,” says Hurley. “The best thing about my job has been getting to know students and the lifelong relationships that have come from that. It’s something I never thought of when I accepted the job.”

Gifts to fund new advanced chemistry lab honor Dr. Charlie Bass

Gifts to fund new advanced chemistry lab honor Dr. Charlie Bass

By Dudley Brown

More than 30 Wofford graduates donated to support renovating the chemistry department’s research lab. It’s their way of honoring Dr. Charlie Bass and giving back to ensure future Terriers receive the education and experiences they need for the future.

Dr. Steven Richards ’08, a Spartanburg dentist, fondly remembers how Bass, the college’s Dr. and Mrs. Larry Hearn McCalla Professor of Chemistry, taught organic chemistry and ultimately helped prepare students for postgraduate education. He played a leading role in getting alumni to give.

“I didn’t get a single no response,” he says.

The lab will accommodate research projects that carryover outside of traditional lab hours.

“Chemistry research, and I suspect research in the other disciplines on campus, simply does not fit nicely into a typical three-hour lab period,” says Bass, who will retire at the end of the spring semester. “In the past, attempts at research simply meant that experiments taking many hours were not possible as there was no dedicated space for such activities. Too much time was wasted by having to constantly set up and take down experiments so that regular lab classes could be prepared, taught, broken down and put away.”

More time focused on research excites Dr. Jameica Hill ’88, professor and chair of the chemistry department.

“Our students will benefit tremendously from having a state-of-the-art chemistry research lab within the department,” Hill says. “The experiences they will gain working on projects with faculty mentors are numerous, including a gradual transition toward independent research and confidence in their scientific abilities. But the most important benefit to undergraduate research is learning. Learning chemistry by doing chemistry in a non-classroom setting will help prepare our students to be better chemists and lends itself to students developing that excitement for discovery.”

Penny Koger Memorial Scholarship a fitting salute to sister, alumna and soldier

Penny Koger Memorial Scholarship a fitting salute to sister, alumna and soldier

By Robert W. Dalton

Leslie Koger has a photograph of herself with her sister, Penny Koger ’00, that occupies a special place in her home and in her heart. It’s a picture of the sisters sharing Penny’s first salute after she was commissioned into the U.S. Army during Commencement Weekend in 2000.

Leslie, a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, is now saluting her sister’s life through the Penny Koger Memorial Scholarship. She died suddenly on New Year’s Eve in 2013.

“We always talked about doing some type of scholarship after our mom passed during my sister’s freshman year, but we never got around to it,” Leslie says. “When Penny passed, I knew I had to do something. It was coming up on the eighth anniversary of her death, and it came to me during the pandemic that I needed to hurry up and get it done.”

In addition to participating in Army ROTC at Wofford, Penny also was a member of the women’s track and field team. She was active in the community, earning the Spartanburg Boys and Girls Club’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 1997.

After being honorably discharged from the Army, Penny moved into human resources and worked for several government agencies. In 2008, Ebony magazine featured her as one of “30 Rising Leaders Under 30.”

“She was a proud Terrier,” Leslie says. “Being from a small town, she supported rural students, and she was an advocate for other African Americans on campus. She had a drive to do the work she wanted to do, to serve others and to better herself.”

The scholarship was established in June 2021 and awarded for the first time during the Black Alumni Summit on Homecoming Weekend in October. Breana Dogan ’22, a biology major from Spartanburg, was the first recipient, and Leslie was there to present the scholarship.

“It’s an honor to be the first to receive the scholarship,” says Dogan, who plans to use the funds in graduate school. “From everything I’ve heard, Penny Koger was a phenomenal woman who did a lot of things on campus and in the community. It’s a great opportunity, and I am truly thankful.”

Cheek and Fant continue to make a difference with new endowed funds

By Dudley Brown

James Cheek ’73 and Phillip Fant ’74 were among the first Black students to attend Wofford. They made contributions to shape the student experience, and recent gifts from their family will continue to impact the campus for years to come.

Fant’s daughter, Phylicia Fant, recently honored them by establishing the Phillip Fant ’74 and James A. Cheek ’73 Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will benefit students from Spartanburg with financial need.

“Legacy matters, and they were courageous,” Phylicia Fant says. “The whole idea of the shoulders we stand on is real.”

Cheek has established the Arthur Earl Cheek and Myrtle Jackson Cheek Legacy Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor his parents. Fant and his wife, Margaree, started a travel fund to support students traveling with the college’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. All of the new funds were announced during one of the college’s Black History Month events.

Cheek’s fund will support study abroad experiences for Black students and others who are first-generation college students.

“My father always encouraged us to experience new things,” says Cheek, who studied in Ireland one Interim. “My mother was an educator.”

Cheek describes the experience in Ireland as reaffirming and an opportunity to get to know Wofford peers away from campus.

“It was a different atmosphere than the college, and we got to know each other on a different level,” Cheek says.

The Fants also wanted to support student travel.

“My mom always made sure I went on field trips,” says Fant, a founding member of Wofford’s chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. “They were an extension of your learning. All students don’t have the same advantages as others.”

Cheek shares that sentiment.

“We might not all be on the same path, but we all can be on the same journey,” Cheek says.

Harrison White honors Beachams by establishing endowed internship fund

By Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89

David M. and Cynthia C. Beacham are famous for saying yes. For more than 40 years, if the Spartanburg community asked, the Beachams answered in the affirmative — serving on boards, chairing committees, leading projects, volunteering, advocating and giving.

“They’re a power couple, and they’ve given 110% through service to more than 20 charitable organizations in our community,” says John White, attorney and managing partner of Harrison White PC, during the Abernathy-White Christmas Eve Annual Breakfast. “Spartanburg is a better place because of their involvement, and it is our honor to recognize their contributions with the Abernathy-White Humanitarian Award.”

In addition to presenting the award, Harrison White contributed the lead gift toward the establishment of the David M. and Cynthia C. Beacham Internship Fund in the Beachams’ honor. The fund will give students with financial need the resources to say yes to transformational internship opportunities.

“Internships are vitally important for college students,” says David Beacham. “They give students the opportunity to put their academic training to practical use, advancing their skills while discovering their professional passions and purpose. Cyndi and I have been fortunate to have found our passion and purpose in our work and in our engagement in the Spartanburg community. This fund will give future generations the same opportunity.”

David Beacham came to Spartanburg as a Wofford College student in the mid-1970s. He joined the college’s admission staff not long after graduation in 1977 and transitioned to advancement and senior leadership positions. He will retire from the college in May as senior vice president for administration and secretary to the board of trustees after 45 years of service. His nonprofit commitments have included First Presbyterian Church, the Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties, Partners for Active Living, the American Red Cross Piedmont Chapter, Habitat for Humanity and St. Luke’s Free Medical Clinic.

Cyndi Beacham retired in June 2020 as president of the Charles Lea Center Foundation. Prior to that, she was vice president for community improvement and education with the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce. There she ran Leadership Spartanburg and started Junior Leadership Spartanburg. Through the years, she has supported numerous community organizations.

“This breakfast is all about planting seeds, and we’ve watched the seeds that David and Cyndi Beacham have planted grow and make a lasting impact in our community,” says White. “We want our community’s young people to take note and follow their examples.”

The Abernathy-White Christmas Eve Annual Breakfast began more than 60 years ago when two prominent Spartanburg citizens — John B. White Sr., founder of the Beacon restaurant, and Warren Abernathy, senior advisor to Sen. Strom Thurmond — started gathering people who often did not see eye-to-eye for a breakfast on Dec. 24. The point was to get people to put aside their political differences to build cooperation and community. Over the years, the modest gathering, which was originally held at the Beacon, grew to an event that now brings nearly 700 people together at the Marriott downtown for breakfast, fellowship and a cause that furthers the Spartanburg community. Harrison White hosts the breakfast in memory of White and Abernathy.

Wofford Way Unity Fund builds culture of lifelong learning and growth

By Robert W. Dalton

Johnston Dantzler ’69 learned a lot about himself and the world around him during Wofford’s first Interim in 1968. Dantzler and three friends traveled to three historically Black universities to interview students and administrators. Their goal was to learn about the challenges faced by Black people in America.

“As we had never interacted with students of color, we left Johnson C. Smith University, Claflin and South Carolina State with different perspectives. We found these college students much like us ... interested in, yet concerned about, the future of America.”

More than 50 years later, Dantzler is still learning. That’s why he joined several classmates in 2021 to establish the Wofford Way Unity Fund. The fund’s purpose is to provide support to enact the recommendations of the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee adopted by the college’s board of trustees in August 2021.

“I reflect on my Wofford experience 50-plus years ago with mixed pride and inquietude,” Dantzler says. “My first Interim project helped me do some soul-searching, to envision America, its people and government as inclusive of all citizens. I want to believe we can still achieve this. With its current emphasis on diversity and inclusiveness … today’s Wofford has made the responsible commitment to every student seeking truth, understanding and justice while earning a quality liberal arts education.”

Elliott Cooper ’04, Wofford’s director of annual giving, says that recommendation 13 of the JEDI report perfectly summarizes the purpose of the Wofford Way Unity Fund. That recommendation states that financial need should not limit student academic choices.

“The Wofford Way Unity Fund aims to break down the barriers that financial limitations raise within the Wofford experience,” Cooper says. “It will allow more students to participate in the things that make them choose Wofford in the first place, the community, the academics and the co-curricular opportunities. The ultimate goal will result in all Wofford students having the opportunity and choice to participate in all Wofford has to offer.”

Terrier Excellence Fund allows supporters to give to specific sports

Terrier Excellence Fund allows supporters to give to specific sports

By Robert W. Dalton

Philips Leach ’10 believes the Terrier Excellence Fund could be a game-changer for Wofford’s overall athletics program.

The fund was established to allow supporters to give to specific sports. The proceeds could be used to fund a variety of items, such as travel for recruiting, meals and nutrition for physical development, personal and professional development, international team trips, and locker room and equipment enhancements.

“It would have been a great addition to supplement the men’s soccer budget when I was playing,” says Leach, who played on the Southern Conference regular season and tournament championship team in 2009. “A lot of programs, both men’s and women’s, are recognizing that. These are funds that can be used wherever the coaching staff sees the greatest need.”

Leach, director of origination at REV Renewables in Raleigh, N.C., and a member of the Terrier Club Board of Directors, says the fund can aid programs on two fronts: helping them be more successful now and attracting more talent in the future.

“It’s a creative addition that the athletics department has submitted to supporters who may want to make donations to a specific sport on top of their regular Terrier Club donations,” Leach says. “Whether you played on a given team or had friends or family who played, it’s a great avenue to support specific programs.”

Men’s soccer coach Joel Tyson says the fund will allow programs to enhance the experience of student-athletes.

“Any time we get the opportunity for people to provide funds for our program, it gives us the opportunity to take better care of our players,” Tyson says. “That could be done in a variety of ways, including providing extra gear, enhancing postgame and post-training nutrition, and creating team bonding activities.”

Luke Feisal ’14, associate athletics director for athletics development, says the Terrier Excellence Fund, coupled with Terrier Club annual giving and athletics endowed scholarship contributions, will allow programs to excel at the highest level.

“Giving to a specific sport through the Terrier Excellence Fund is a tremendous way to elevate the student-athletes’ experience as they strive to reach their goals and expectations. It is a definite difference maker.”