Claflin University is honoring its president and first lady for their 20 years of dedicated service to the institution in a very special way – by ensuring that future generations of students have financial assistance to embark on their own visionary quests.
The University kicked off the fundraising portion of its 20th Anniversary Visionary Leadership Gala on Thursday in Ministers’ Hall. There, individuals, organizations and businesses pledged their financial support to the Gala and its cause – to raise $1 million in support of student scholarships and to establish an endowed chair in honor of President Henry N. Tisdale and Mrs. Alice Carson Tisdale.
Nearly $180,000 was given or pledged for the cause during the kickoff.
“I’m proud to be a graduate of Claflin University,” Board of Visitors Chairman Clyde Bess said. “I’m proud because of the leadership that has been demonstrated through our president.”
Paul Fant, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said Dr. and Mrs. Tisdale have labored together for the last 20 years to make the University what it is today.
“But many stood in the trenches with them,” he said. “To those 20-plus year employees and faculty members, thank you for your continued commitment and service to Claflin.”
Fant has served on the Board of Trustees for 14 years and said, “During that time, I have witnessed first-hand the extensive transformation at Claflin.”
“Because of your leadership,” he said to Dr. Tisdale, “Claflin is a first-rate institution.”
Marcus Burgess, a graduate of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College and former director of the annual fund/alumni relations for the University, was the student representative on the board during the 1994 search for Claflin’s next leader. He said they knew 20 years ago that the Tisdales were special.
“Dr. Tisdale’s open door policy for students was something unheard of before his tenure,” Burgess said.
“He always talked about doing things the right way in spite of what’s popular,” Burgess said, adding that Tisdale has served as a mentor to him in the years since his matriculation at Claflin. “He kept me upright and righteous, and made sure I did the right things in spite of it all.”
Gwendolyn Phillips, director of TRIO programs at Claflin, has worked at the University since before the Tisdales arrived. She characterized Mrs. Tisdale as “generous to a fault, inviting and always pleasant.”
“She’s a force to be reckoned with,” Phillips said. “She is in her own place, and that’s where she wants to be.”
Since arriving on campus and taking charge of the Honors College, “The Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College has grown, and it is good,” Phillips said. “A lot of students are inspired, and they want to be a member of the Honors College.”
Claflin’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement Rev. Whittaker V. Middleton said the Tisdales have shown just how much can be accomplished with teamwork.
“They are a team in every sense of the word,” he said. “By example, they have taught the entire Claflin family what it means to work as Team Claflin.”
Dr. Tisdale “established a vision … and challenged us to raise our expectations and standards,” Middleton said. Because of that vision and dedication to the University, he said, Claflin has seen unprecedented progress and achievement. “The physical plant has been completely transformed … and every building on campus has received some type of improvement or renovation.”
“He has the ability to rally the support of all of the University’s stakeholders … to buy into a shared vision of excellence,” Middleton said. “I am certainly thankful for his determination, vision and leadership. We’re not the best-kept secret anymore. People know about Claflin, as a result of what Dr. and Mrs. Tisdale have done.”
Looking out at the audience, Dr. Tisdale said he fondly remembered many of the faces from when he first set foot back on Claflin’s campus more than 20 years ago. But one person in the crowd holds a place above all others.
“One very special person who was with me 20 years ago was my wife Alice, who took this leap of faith with me on this incredible journey, knowing it was God’s plan to pick up from Delaware, return to South Carolina and lead this institution into the 21st century,” he said. “The first lady and I are excited and humbled to be among the employees with 20 or more years of service to this institution. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve stayed with us after all this time.”
The 20th Anniversary Visionary Leadership Gala – set for 6 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, September 18, 2014, at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia – will be held in honor of the Tisdales for their 20 years of dedicated service to Claflin University, as well as all employees who have given at least 20 years of service to the institution.
Tickets are $200 per person, or $5,000 for alumni chapter or organization sponsorship tables of 10. All money raised will go toward the $1 million goal for student scholarships and the endowed chair in honor of the Tisdales.
For more information or to purchase tickets or sponsorships for the Visionary Leadership Gala, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 803-535-5238 or 803-535-5376.
Gifts and Pledges Received to Date
Attorney and Mrs. William H. (Annette) Johnson: $50,000
Two $20,000 Scholarships in honor of James Bennett and Judge Richard Fields from Congressman James Clyburn’s Office: $40,000
Mrs. Lessie B. Price: $20,000
Mr. and Mrs. Clyde A. (Sherry Y.) Bess: $10,000
Mrs. Janice Marshall: $10,000
Earline H. Ulmer and Bessie H. Byrd: $10,000
Mr. Robert Bates: $5,000
Bank of America: $5,000
Mr. and Mrs. Moses (Emma) Harvin: $5,000
Rev. Larry D. and Dr. Gloria McCutcheon/Mr. and Mrs. Spencer (Minnie) Anderson: $5,000
Midlands Gives: $4,504.21
Mr. Robert and Rev. Kathryn Scarborough: $3,000
Mr. Steven Dial: $2,000
TOTAL TO DATE: $179,504.21