Claflin University’s Top Stories of 2014

Dec 31, 2014

From the launch of Claflin Online to the opening of Claflin Commons, this was a banner year for Claflin University. We invite you to take a look back with us at just some of the highlights from 2014.                                                  

Dr. and Mrs. Tisdale Each Receive Order of the Palmetto at Visionary Leadership Gala

For their 20 years of service to Claflin University, Orangeburg County and the state of South Carolina, President Henry N. Tisdale and First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale each received the state’s highest civilian honor – the Order of the Palmetto – during September’s Visionary Leadership Gala in Columbia honoring all 20-year-plus employees of the University.

“It truly is a great day in South Carolina when we can honor two amazing individuals,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said during her video presentation honoring the pair. “We were blessed the day Dr. Tisdale decided to come back to his alma mater.”

Haley cited Dr. Tisdale’s leadership in increasing the University’s enrollment by some 85 percent and establishing a number of new degrees and programs at Claflin. She credited Mrs. Tisdale with the accomplishments made in the University’s honors program, which bears her name.

Haley said Dr. and Mrs. Tisdale’s partnership is one “like no other.”

“I personally am proud to say that Michael and I consider them both friends,” she continued. “Dr. Tisdale was a part of my transition team … and his leadership was instrumental. Mrs. Tisdale serves on the mansion commission … and we are so grateful for her service there.

“What do you do for a dynamic duo that has done so much for our community and our state? We give them each the highest civilian honor in the state of South Carolina – the Order of the Palmetto. … Thank you for all you’ve done for Claflin University, Orangeburg County and the state of South Carolina. You continue to make us proud every day. God bless.”

The Order of the Palmetto is the state’s highest civilian honor awarded to citizens of South Carolina for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. It was first presented in 1971 by Gov. John C. West, and comes in the form of a certificate or plaque that reads, in part, “In grateful recognition of your contributions and friendship to the State of South Carolina and her people, I do hereby confer unto you the Order of the Palmetto with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.”

Since its inception, more than 3,500 individuals have received the Order of the Palmetto. Some of the more well-known recipients are singer James Brown, author Pat Conroy, tap dancer Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates and civil rights activist Septima Clark.

Alumni Giving Rate #1 Among HBCUs

Claflin University alumni giving percentage increased nearly 10 percentage points in 2013, from 43 percent to 52.2 percent. The percentage places Claflin’s alumni giving rate among the best in the nation.

“We have always been proud of the support we receive from our alumni,” said Rev. Whittaker V. Middleton, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Claflin. “A few years ago, we started the 1st to 50 Campaign to become the first historically black college or university to reach a 50 percent alumni giving rate. We have received an overwhelming response, and can now say we are the First to 52.2.

The journey to 52.2 percent was a strategic one, Middleton said, that involved strengthening existing initiatives, embarking on new ones, embracing new technology, collaborating with the alumni association, involving communications and marketing staff, and solid leadership.

Achieving an alumni giving percentage rate over 50 percent is a difficult feat given the culture of alumni giving at colleges and universities nationwide. In a 2013 two-year comparative survey of the top 10 colleges where alumni give back conducted by U.S. News and World Report, giving percentages range from a high of 63.7 percent to 51.8 percent. Of the top 10, nine were liberal arts colleges. The average two-year average percentage of alumni donors for the 1,207 schools surveyed was 12.8. The average for the top 10 schools was 55.9 percent. 

Claflin University Among HBCUs Joining Gates Foundation in Effort to Transform Higher Education

Claflin University continues to be recognized among the nation’s leading institutions by esteemed and reputable organizations. In a recent development, the University has been chosen one of nine historically black colleges and universities nationwide to help the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation set about transforming higher education.

Claflin University has been awarded a $75,000 grant through the foundation’s HBCUs Pursuing Transformative Change initiative, which challenges institutions to develop transformative changes that will ensure student access and success at institutions in the 21st century.  The University has met with representatives from the foundation to demonstrate first-hand how Claflin has transformed itself into one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions and its plans for the future in regards to the foundation’s initiative.

“We are charged with working with other leading universities throughout the nation to create the future of higher education,” President Henry N. Tisdale said. “We are excited to be recognized by the Gates Foundation for our continuous work in realizing our vision, which is to be recognized as one of the premier undergraduate teaching and research universities in the world that prepares effective and visionary leaders with global perspectives.”

HBCUs are just one cohort in the conversation. Large state schools, two-year colleges and other institutions are also joining in the conversation to transform higher education as a whole.

BOV 20th Anniversary Gala Raises $400,000 for Scholarships

It was a beautiful evening full of fellowship and entertainment honoring Dr. Henry N. Tisdale and Mrs. Alice Carson Tisdale on their 20 years of visionary leadership at Claflin University.

Also honored during the 20th Anniversary Visionary Leadership Gala at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center were employees who have provided 20 or more years of service to the institution. The event raised nearly $400,000 for student scholarships.

“Claflin University is one of the best institutions, not just in the nation, but in the world,” said Clyde Bess, chairman of Claflin’s Board of Visitors. “Tonight, we’re granted the opportunity to celebrate visionary leadership, selfless commitment and extraordinary service.”

The Tisdales have been honored with other accolades throughout the year, including serving as grand marshals in the 2014 Orangeburg County Christmas Parade this month, as well as recognition by the South Carolina General Assembly in April and selection as The Times and Democrat’s 2013 People of the Year last December.

Claflin Launches Intensive English Language Program 

International students now have the opportunity to learn the English language and culture before beginning their journey to receive an American academic education through Claflin University’s new Intensive English Language Program.

Students enrolled in Claflin’s IELP will learn the pronunciation, listening, speaking, grammar, reading and writing skills needed to succeed in American universities. The curriculum, developed by the program’s director Dr. Esther (Eun Jeong)Lee, will also infuse American culture into the learning process to better prepare students for success in American colleges and universities.

“The idea is for them to not just be learning English, but to actually be able to do coursework in English,” said Dr. Donald Pace, interim dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. “And we hope they will stay at Claflin to continue their studies.”

Through the IELP, students are offered six levels of English language training. Their placement is dependent on entry test scores. Each level includes 24 to 28 hours of intensive coursework per week, and 168 clock hours of work are required for each level.

It typically takes a year for students to complete the IELP, Lee said. Two seven-week sessions are planned for the fall and spring semesters, and one during the summer session.

Emmanuel Pressley Named Claflin’s First Truman Scholar; Hemingway Native is the Only 2014 Truman Scholar from S.C.

Claflin University junior politics and justice studies major Emmanuel Pressley has been on a journey since before he even matriculated to Claflin. He just didn’t know quite where it was leading him.

Pressley became Claflin’s first-ever Harry S. Truman Scholar in April – and the only one from South Carolina this year. The Truman is a highly competitive, merit-based award offered to U.S. college students who want to go to graduate school in preparation for a career in public service.

A celebrated prize in its own right, the Truman Scholarship (known also as a “Baby Rhodes”) is also considered a steppingstone to other prestigious awards, such as the Rhodes Scholarship and the Marshall Scholarship.

Pressley, who graduated as valedictorian of Hemingway High School in 2011, is one of 59 new Truman Scholars – mostly college juniors – who were selected from among 655 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities. He joins the ranks of many U.S. leaders already established in the field of public service, individuals such as Dr. Susan E. Rice, U.S. national security adviser and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; George Stephanopoulos, former Clinton adviser and current ABC journalist; and Janet Napolitano, former U.S. head of national security and former governor of Arizona, among many others. 

‘Torchbearers’ Tells the Story of Claflin University’s First Ladies

A book signing and unveiling for “Torchbearers: First Ladies of Claflin University,” a publication chronicling the contributions and experiences of Claflin’s eight first ladies, was held in April in Ministers’ Hall.

The book was commissioned by the University and written by Dr. Vermelle Jamison Johnson, former senior vice president and vice president for academic affairs at Claflin University. It is published and distributed by Claflin University Press.

A special feature at the book signing was the unveiling of official portraits of the first ladies – Laura Ann Peaslee Webster, wife of Dr. Alonzo Webster (1869-1874); Mary Locke Emery Cooke, wife of Dr. Edward Cooke (1874-1884); Mary E. Phelps Dunton, wife of Dr. Lewis Marion Dunton (1884-1922); Gertrude Ramsey Randolph, wife of Dr. Joseph Benjamin Randolph (1922-1945), the University’s first African-American president; Opal McDonald Seabrook, wife of Dr. John Jarvis Seabrook (1945-1955), Claflin’s first alumni president; Dr. Ethel Augusta Braynon Manning, wife of Dr. Hubert Vernon Manning (1956-1984); Ethel Lewis Rogers, wife ofDr. Oscar A. Rogers Jr. (1984-1994); and Alice Carson Tisdale, wife of current president Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, who began serving as the University’s first alumni lay president in 1994.


Claflin Women’s Volleyball Captures Its First SIAC Title

The Claflin University women's volleyball team defeated Kentucky State 3-1 (25-17, 25-15, 22-25, 25-15) to capture the 2014 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) title.  With the win, the Lady Panthers improved to 23-12 on the season and will receive the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Division II Championships. This is the first SIAC Championship for Claflin University.

Head Coach Vernell Keitt-Capers was named the tournament Most Outstanding Coach, and seniors Chelcey Foster and Caleen Hawkins were named the Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Setter of the tournament, respectively.  Foster and Lydia Wise were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Claflin University Department of Music Receives Full Membership in National Association of Schools of Music

Claflin University’s Department of Music has been approved for full membership by the Commission on Accreditation of the National Association of Schools of Music.

“This is a major academic achievement, and I want to express appreciation to Dr. Isaiah McGee for his leadership, to the music faculty for its contribution and to all other individuals who formed the team that guided us to this successful conclusion,” President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale said. “We can be proud of another step forward in our effort to achieve excellence in all that we do for our students.”    

NASM, founded in 1924, is an organization of schools, conservatories, colleges and universities with nearly 650 accredited institutional members that establishes national standards for music programs. Institutional membership is gained only through accreditation.

Claflin University has been an associate member of NASM since 2004.


Claflin University Launches Three Fully Online Degree Programs


In an effort to continue and expand its tradition of access and success, Claflin University launched three fully online degree programs for the fall 2014 semester, starting with bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and organizational management and the Master of Business Administration.

Students who already possess some college credits may be able to complete the undergraduate degree programs in as little as 18 months. The courses are designed to be flexible to meet the needs of busy, working adults.

Classes range from general education courses such as English, math and Spanish to program-specific courses including Introduction to Forensic Science and Law Enforcement Systems in the criminal justice degree program and Principles of Management and Accounting in the organizational management degree program. Both the organizational management and MBA programs at Claflin are internationally accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, the organization that recognizes national and international business schools.

Claflin Online launched during the summer 2014 session.

Claflin Kicks Off New Sustainability Initiatives Campus-wide

Claflin University has stepped up its green efforts and invites the campus community to take a more active role in helping the environment.

In September, under the theme “Your future is orange, maroon and GREEN,” the University unveiled new exterior recycling bins bearing the Panther logo campus-wide; trash bins with green lids designated for recyclables among the black bins across campus; recycling bins for paper, plastic and aluminum in each residence hall; and plans for a one-stop recycling center behind the Dining Center.

Claflin students play a vital role in collecting and sorting the recyclables. Teams of student volunteers are assigned to the task several days a week.

“We are building on our previous work and taking our campus’ green efforts to the next level,” President Henry N. Tisdale said. “This is our commitment to the future of Claflin University, the state and the world. We need the entire Claflin community to help us in this worthwhile endeavor.”

Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Held for Claflin Commons

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for Claflin University’s new contemporary residence hall during Homecoming Week on November 21 at the building on Goff Avenue.

Opened for occupancy in September, the 64,000 square foot facility – which establishes a new gateway to the campus from Goff Avenue – is comprised of two three-story wings, one each for men and women, with accommodations for approximately 200 students in two- and four-bedroom suites. Each wing features its own elevator, laundry room, computer lab and informal study areas. The wings are connected by a shared student commons area that also serves as the main entry to the building.

Open gathering spaces, high ceilings, lots of natural light, a small multipurpose room for student meetings and two fitness rooms add to the overall appeal of the Commons. New plazas and courtyards provide additional outdoor gathering spaces for students. The building was designed with environmental stability in mind by Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture. It makes use of natural daylight and energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that aid in reducing the consumption of electricity and gas. High-efficiency plumbing fixtures also reduce water consumption, and regional and recycled materials were used in the building’s construction, helping to conserve natural resources.
Claflin broke ground on the new student housing complex in September 2013.

Nikki Giovanni Kicks Off Claflin University’s 145th Anniversary

Claflin is celebrating its 145th anniversary during the 2014-15 academic year with a series of events and activities that are characteristic of the academic, artistic and service excellence that flourish at the University.

These events commemorate Claflin’s longtime legacy of offering, for the first time in South Carolina, quality higher education for men and women “regardless of race, complexion, or religious opinion,” with “the only admission requirements for prospective students being the possession of good moral character and a conscientious desire to learn.”

Kicking off the series of events was an appearance by world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni on October 16.

“For 145 years, Claflin University has honored its rich traditions while embracing and pursuing transformative change,” President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale said. “The University has overcome many challenges to become recognized as one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education. It has a compelling story of access and success.”

Hundreds Attend UNCF’s Empower Me Tour at Claflin University

Hundreds of high school and college-age students were on the Claflin University campus in October to be empowered with knowledge and skills to be successful in college and beyond during the UNCF Empower Me Tour Presented by Wells Fargo.

The Tour – a free, traveling college-and career-readiness road show sponsored by the country’s largest and most effective minority education organization – is designed for underserved students in grades 9 through 12 and their parents, as well as educators, college students and administrators, college graduates and the community at large, to participate in a full day of exhibits, college and career workshops, and engaging panel discussions with special guests and celebrities.

During the Tour, educators and entrepreneurs shared their personal educational journeys with local high school and college students through workshops on such topics as money management, professional portfolios and self-esteem. Attendees also participated in the Empower Me Tour Zone, an interactive experience that provides students, parents and educators an opportunity to engage with college recruiters and learn about scholarship opportunities.


Claflin Professor Awarded Patent for New Biofuel Process

The world continues to rely heavily on petroleum products to power transportation and industrial needs. But the fact remains that there isn’t an infinite supply of fossil fuels to supply the world’s needs in the generations to come.

Enter the race for the next big energy source. Claflin University biology professor Dr. Omar Bagasra – with Dr. Verlie Tisdale, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Claflin, and associate biology professor Dr. Kamal Chowdhury – was awarded a patent in October 2013 for the development of a microorganism that will make it easier to transform cellulose biomass into butanol.

Bagasra said this genetically engineered microorganism would allow trees, shrubbery, paper, pulp, sugarcane bagasse, plants, woodchips and other natural products – basically all biological garbage – to be more easily converted into butanol, which can then be used to power our vehicles without having to replace or modify engines.

Inaugural Entrepreneurship Competition at Claflin Offers Students Experience, Opportunity to Build Their Own Business

Eleven teams of students entered Claflin University’s own version of “Shark Tank” when they present their business proposals and ideas at the University’s first-ever Entrepreneurship Business Competition in February.

Like the popular ABC television show, teams of two to four undergraduate interdisciplinary students who have been working on and perfecting their projects since September will outline plans, offer analyses and prototypes, and showcase their marketing ingenuity for a panel of judges. Those judges will then decide which five teams have the most viable business ideas and will share $10,000 in prize money.

Projects range from high-tech products to those in the service industry. There’s a new nutrition drink, apps and clothing lines. Winning teams will have the opportunity to be mentored and take their ideas to the next level.

Each team had 15 minutes to give its multimedia presentation to the judges. Judging the competition were retired real estate entrepreneur and rancher Joseph Sanders, New York-based entertainment lawyer Johan S. Powell, CEO and founder of Education Through Talent Gwendolyn Chisolm, and S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership President and CEO John Irion.

InstaPrintz, a program that would allow users to make mobile “printures,” won the competition. As the winner, the four-person team – comprised of students Maame Addo, Michael Devore, Brandolyn Mack and Linh Tong – received the $5,000 grand prize.

Claflin University, S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice Partner to Provide DJJ Employees Greater Access to Degree Programs

The leaders of Claflin University and the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice have put pen to paper for an agreement that grants DJJ employees greater access to several of Claflin’s degree programs.

According to the memorandum of understanding signed by Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale and DJJ Director Margaret H. Barber in July, Department of Juvenile Justice employees have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or organizational management or Master of Business Administration degree from the University beginning fall 2014.

Courses will be offered via video conferencing at regional DJJ sites across the state as well as onsite in the Palmetto Conference Room at DJJ headquarters in Columbia. General education and prerequisite courses will also be available through Claflin Online, the University’s latest initiative that offers busy, working adults and current students more flexibility in achieving their educational goals.

DJJ employees who take advantage of this opportunity are eligible for Claflin University’s Partnership Scholarship Program, which will provide a 30 percent reduction in the University’s standard tuition per semester for those enrolled in one of the undergraduate programs and a 10 percent tuition reduction for those enrolled in the MBA program. Additional scholarship opportunities are available for those who qualify.

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