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Claflin University to Recognize Four Alumni from Class of 1943 as Platinum Graduates

May 10, 2013

She takes flying lessons.  She drives a sports car.  She travels the world.  Her philosophy is “Go ahead and do it!”  Her name is Dr. Clemmie B. Hatchett and she’s 91 years old.

Hatchett is among the four living members of the Claflin University Class of 1943 who will receive special recognition during the institution’s Commencement Convocation on Saturday, May 11 for reaching the 70th anniversary of their graduation.

“It’s one of the highlights of my life,” said Hatchett of the anniversary.

Hatchett will be joined by classmates and Orangeburg natives Lillian W. Frederick and Ezra G. Livingston and Vivian A. Brockman-Swenson from Colorado as Platinum graduates.

“It is remarkable beyond words that we have four alumni who are reaching this incredible anniversary,” said President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale.  “They are truly an inspiration to us all and it will be one of the great privileges of my presidency at Claflin to acknowledge their unique achievement.”

Livingston says the moment “will feel alright” at the Convocation. Livingston recalled in 1943 tuition was $40 per year when he came to Claflin.  “Back then, the money was very difficult to raise,” he said.

But the sacrifice paid off.  He went on to have a career as a research scientist and forensic toxicologist.   Since, he continually give back to his alma mater with his time and money.  There is a picture of him and his family inside the halls of the James S. Thomas Science Center. 

“I’m 91 years-old and I’ll be 92 soon,” said Livingston.  “A year ago, I realized how old I was.  I’m up there.”

But he says he won’t be too old to celebrate this milestone.

Neither will classmate Brockman-Swenson who will travel from her home in Colorado to attend the festivities. 

“It’s wonderful.  The things I have seen living these 89 years, it’s just grand,” said Brockman-Swenson.  “I’m thrilled to see everybody.”

After her graduation from Claflin, she became an educator and librarian.

One of her hobbies is fishing.  She once caught a 20-inch long rainbow trout, which is displayed prominently in her living room.  

“I have kept up with Claflin graduates by talking to them over the phone,” she said.

Still living in Orangeburg, Frederick has been an active and cherished member at nearby Trinity United Methodist Church as a Sunday school teacher for many years.  She used her education at Claflin to illuminate the minds of children and teach second grade students for more than 25 years at Dover Elementary School in North and Indian Land Elementary School in Fort Mill, SC.

The Platinum Class will be recognized during the Convocation, which starts at 11 a.m. at the Seventh-Day Adventist Worship and Convention Center, 514 Neeses Highway in Orangeburg.  Admission is by ticket only.  For media inquiries, please contact Sonja Bennett, assistant vice president for communications and marketing, by phone at (803) 535-5688 or by e-mail at sbennett@claflin.edu.

About the Platinum Class graduates

Clemmie Barnes Hatchett

A native of Florence, South Carolina and a 1943 graduate of Claflin, Hatchett received her master’s degree from Atlanta University and an Ed.S degree from Georgia State University. 

During her career, she taught school in Florence and in Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked with Teacher Corps and was a coordinator of The Model Cities Program. She retired in 1983 as an assistant high school principal.

Hatchett remains very active in the community and her church.  She is a volunteer with the Neonatal Unit at Grady Hospital Food Bank and is a member of the NAACP. Previously she served as an alumni representative to the Claflin Board of Trustees and as the regional director of the Claflin University International Alumni Association for Region Five.

In 1994, Hatchett was inducted into the Claflin University Hall of Fame. Her many other rewards include the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education Award and the Clark Atlanta University Certificate of Recognition. Hatchett was married to the late Paul Lawrence Hatchett. They have three children: the Honorable Glenda Hatchett, Paul Jr., and Kolen Sydney and five grandchildren.

An adventurous person, Hatchett has recently taken flying lessons.  “I haven’t done a solo flight yet but I’ve been training since December,” she said.  So far, she’s been training with flight simulators and has taken the wheel up in the air under supervision on several occasions. 

“When I’m in full control, I enjoy it so much,” said Hatchett.  “I told my children if I keep my health, I’ll get my license to fly a jumbo jet.” 

She has also been to every continent except Antarctica.  “It’s too cold there,” she says.

Back in the 40s, Hatchett recalled being a little bit older than her classmates.  Her mother had a bad car accident on Thanksgiving and she stayed at home to help her recovery.  “I came back to take my exams and I finished with the Class of ‘43.  I finished with top honors.”

Vivian Brockman-Swenson

Brockman-Swenson is a native of Cheraw, South Carolina and a 1943 graduate of Claflin.  She received a master’s in library science from the University of Wisconsin in 1949 and a master’s in education administration from Colorado State University in 1966.

She served as a librarian with the Denver Public Library for seven years, the Denver Public Schools for 20 years and as director of libraries at the Community College of Denver for 15 years. She retired in 1996.

Brockman-Swenson is the recipient of many awards, including Teacher of the Year for Denver Public Schools, “Excellence in Education 1995”, the Appreciation Award of Service in 1999 and the “Living Legends Award” from the City of Denver in 2009.

She is a member of Broomfield United Methodist Church in Broomfield, Colorado and was a delegate to the UMC general conference when the conference met in Denver. She has served on the Board of Gate N Green, a retirement community in Broomfield where she currently resides.

Brockman-Swenson is the mother of three daughters by her first marriage to the late Daniel Brockman and has three steps-sons through her marriage of 23 years to the late Dr. Johnson Swenson, who served as president of Front Range Community College.  She has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

She recalled fond memories of her time at Claflin.  Brockman-Swenson said living in the residence halls and having a president, Dr. Joseph B. Randolph, who believed in the arts were some of her favorite aspects of the University.  She especially loved listening to the University Concert Choir. 

She also remembered the bell in the middle of campus that would signal a morning wake up call, lunch and dinner.

“The bell would wake me up every morning at 6 a.m.  And then at 7 a.m. we would know to get up and head to the dining hall when it rang again,” said Brockman-Swenson.  “It was a huge bell in the middle of campus.  We didn’t have that many buildings back then.”

Ezra G. Livingston

Ezra G. Livingston was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina and graduated from Claflin University in 1943 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He earned a master’s degree from New York University.

He majored in sociology and minored in education at Claflin but it was the laboratory that caught his eye.  Unfortunately for him at the time, lab costs were too high for him to pursue chemistry.  After Claflin, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.  Following his service in World War II, he wasn’t interested in teaching.  So he worked as a presser to support his family while taking courses at NYU. 

He then began his career as a research scientist. For 30 years, he was the senior forensic toxicologist at Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research.  He specialized in identifying drugs and poisons in human tissues and testified numerous times in court. He was appointed by the mayor of White Plains to serve on the White Plains Human Rights Commission.

In 1974, Livingston founded the Claflin College Century Club to encourage contributions of at least $100 and in 1984, the Quarter-Millennium Club for contributions of $250. Livingston also founded the Westchester Chapter of Claflin College Alumni Association and served as its first president.  In 1979, he returned to Orangeburg where he continued as an active supporter of his alma mater. He served as the first president of the Dunton Memorial Club, which awarded student scholarships.

In 1997, he was inducted into the Claflin University Hall of Fame. His many awards and recognitions include a certificate of merit from the Claflin College Orangeburg Alumni Chapter. He is a member of the NAACP, Urban League, VFW and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.  He was married to the late Catherine Davis Livingston of Orangeburg.  They have three children.

 Lillian Frederick

Frederick was born and raised in Florence, S.C., where she attended and graduated from Wilson High School.  She then matriculated at Claflin University and majored in education. She taught second grade for over 25 years at the following schools:  Dover Elementary School in North and Indian Land Elementary School in Fort Mill.  She met and married James Frederick, Sr., who passed away in Dec. 2007.  From this union, six children were born:  Doris, Rose, James, Jr., Ronald, Stanley and Donald (deceased). She also has seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.  Frederick is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Orangeburg, where she has remained for much of her adult life.  She taught children’s Sunday school there for many years as well.  She is an avid gardener and also enjoys reading. 

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