SPARTANBURG, S.C. – An important step toward making South Carolina a nationwide model for nurturing ethical elected and business leaders is under consideration in the Legislature, which is now in session in Columbia.
The 2008-2009 state budget, released this week by the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives, includes an appropriation of approximately $1.25 million toward the construction of the specialized Center for Ethics and Leadership to be located on the campus of Wofford College in Spartanburg. If approved in the final budget, these funds will require a matching contribution by a private source or the college and must be used before July 1, 2009.
The center’s programming and facilities will be modeled after a seminar-based curriculum in leadership developed at the Aspen Institute in Colorado. Wofford President Benjamin B. Dunlap is a frequent moderator for the Aspen Institute’s Executive and CEO Seminars as well as its Henry Crown Fellowship and various affiliated programs. He also has designed and moderated seminars in Europe, Africa and the United States for corporate clients.
Two programs built around the Aspen model already exist in South Carolina and are expected to move into the center immediately upon completion. One of these is the Liberty Fellowship Program. Sponsored by businessman Hayne Hipp, Wofford College and the Aspen Institute, this program has been through four annual cycles and now has about 100 alumni.
The second existing program that will move into the center is the biennial three-day conference for first-term state legislators administered by the South Carolina New Statesman Society, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the “promotion of ethical and enlightened leadership." The society and the legislative program are closely identified with Spartanburg Rep. Doug Smith, the retiring Speaker Pro Tem of the South Carolina House. Smith has played a major role in developing the vision and plans for the proposed new center.
Upon completion, it is expected that the center quickly will be able to add additional seminar leadership programming, including one designed for career-oriented staffers in Congressional offices in Washington. This concept has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., whose letter states, “A center promoting the practices of moral and ethical leadership is exactly what is needed to restore the confidence of the American people in their elected leaders. I am especially proud that this facility would be located at Wofford College.”
There are also plans to hold an annual seminar for 20 to 24 top executives and CEOs from U.S. corporations who will meet with provocative authors and thinkers to discuss major challenges facing America. Topics will include a persistent emphasis on ethics and excellence as well as the role of business in American democracy.
The Spartanburg architectural firm of McMillan Smith & Partners PLLC has developed a preliminary $12 million plan for the Center for Ethics and Leadership, which could include a 250-seat auditorium, a large seminar rotunda for 230 participants and observers, and two smaller seminar rooms. The proposal also includes a multipurpose room designed for personal computing, meal service and a small library.
College officials say that full realization of this vision will depend on the availability of additional funding, and that the project could be scaled back from the original concept or built in phases.
The exact site of the center for ethics and leadership on the Wofford campus has not yet been determined, but possibilities include a location on Cumming Street across from Gibbs Stadium or a wooded site in the heart of the Wofford Arboretum along the Liberty Trail that connects the campus to the Liberty Park gardens of the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.
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