Claflin University to Host A Service of Remembrance for Former First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale and Dedication of the Tisdale Memorial Garden

Nov 04, 2022

Click to download program booklet.

When asked to share his reflections on former First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale’s immeasurable contributions to and influence at Claflin University and throughout South Carolina, her husband, president emeritus Henry N. Tisdale responded quickly and effusively. 
“Alice was First Lady and Partner like you would not believe, said Dr. Tisdale, who served as Claflin’s eighth president for 25 years. While I was raising funds for the University, Alice was a friend-raiser. She was renowned for her hospitality and left an indelible mark on countless University events. Alice was always out in the community, making friends and bringing them to the campus.”
Both Dr. Tisdale and Mrs. Tisdale retired during the summer of 2019. A year later, First Lady Tisdale lost her valiant struggle with breast cancer.
Claflin University and the Tisdale family will honor Mrs. Tisdale’s legacy as a compassionate educator and inspirational visionary leader with a Service of Remembrance and Dedication of the Tisdale Memorial Garden on Friday, November 18, at 11 a.m., at the Tingley Memorial Hall Courtyard on 400 Magnolia Street in Orangeburg, S.C.
The Tisdale family celebrated her life with a private service on August 1, 2020. 
Following the funeral, the family began planning to celebrate Mrs. Tisdale’s life publicly at the place they called home for a quarter of a century. 
“After we received the approval of Claflin’s Board of Trustees and Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, we began planning the celebration,” Dr. Tisdale said. “That’s when I decided ‘On a Hilltop High’ would be our final resting place. We asked renowned artist, Dr. Leo Twiggs (Class of 1956), to lead the effort to build and design what would become Tisdale Memorial Garden. And to our delight, he agreed.”
Twiggs’s recommendation for the site was approved, and Tisdale Memorial Garden was constructed in the Tingley Memorial Hall courtyard in Claflin University’s historic district. It is the most elevated area in Orangeburg County.
“Dr. Twiggs’s creativity and vision as an artist and alumnus were very important to our family and me,” said Dr. Tisdale. “Twiggs worked with me as an artist-in-residence at Claflin. He also worked closely with Alice on various programs at the University. Alice was a lover of the arts, so they also had a good relationship.”  
It’s significant that Tisdale Memorial Garden will provide Mrs. Tisdale with a lasting presence on Claflin’s picturesque landscape. She was primarily responsible for transforming Claflin into one of the nation’s most attractive campuses. Black Southern Belle Magazine listed Claflin as a “Heavenly Campus” because of the University’s vivid, green lawns, impeccably - manicured shrubbery, and the aesthetics of its historic buildings.
“Alice insisted we plant flowers, and she was a partner in Claflin Pride Day. She played a vital role in changing the look and making it a beautiful campus,” Tisdale said. “Shortly after we arrived at Claflin when I was appointed president, Alice visited every dorm and selected the colors and the décor for each building. She wanted the students to feel good about being at Claflin. She led the effort to coordinate the colors and themes you see around the campus. She created what is now considered the ‘Claflin Look’ on campus.”
As a “friend-raiser," Mrs. Tisdale was a member of numerous organizations, including the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Beta Zeta Omega Chapter.
She hosted the First Lady’s Hats and Gloves Scholarship Tea which attracted hundreds of guests each year from throughout South Carolina and neighboring states. It was one of the region’s most popular events.
However, Mrs. Tisdale’s most impactful contributions to Claflin occurred during her remarkable tenure as the founder and director of what became the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. 
“After we arrived at Claflin in 1994 from Delaware,  I informed the board chair that I believed we had someone who could take over the honors program and do a fabulous job establishing an honors college,” Dr. Tisdale said. “Alice started the program with 80 students before the enrollment grew to more than 300 students.” 
The eponymous Honors College, named in Mrs. Tisdale’s honor by Claflin’s Board of Trustees, became an academic unit and a college within the University. “The Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College became more than a schedule of activities – the focus was on major academic programs,” said Dr. Tisdale. 
“Alice went out and helped recruit high achieving high school scholars to the College.  She spent many nights on the phone convincing students that Claflin would be a great place to pursue their college degrees. When these students enrolled at Claflin, Alice would mentor them. She was there for them around the clock on nights and weekends.”
Mrs. Tisdale recruited a cadre of academically talented students. Some received prestigious international and national scholarships, including J. William Fulbright, Harry S. Truman, Thomas Pickering, and Gates Millennium scholarships. 
During her leadership, students were also selected for internships and career opportunities at Fortune 500 companies and leading research facilities. ACT Honors College students also surpassed 90 percent retention and graduation rates.
“Alice provided exceptional leadership for the ACT Honors College and the program’s success was astounding,” Dr. Tisdale said. “However, by coming to Claflin, she sacrificed her career ambitions in mid-level education, where in Delaware, she was a rising star.” 
Before moving to South Carolina, Alice’s career in mid-level education was on an upward trajectory in the state of Delaware. She had received several honors and awards in mid-level education. But that career ended when she followed her husband to Claflin. 
“She came to Claflin without a job -- to support me. Alice came because she believed it was God’s plan for us to be here,” said Dr. Tisdale. “She believed in me and that I could provide leadership and vision at Claflin.  It was incredible for someone with her accomplishments who had become increasingly prominent in her position not to follow her career path. That’s why she was First Lady and Partner like you would not believe.” 
Dr. Tisdale feels the Tisdale Memorial Garden is a tribute to what Claflin has accomplished over the past 25 years, which has provided the University with the momentum it enjoys today.
“It speaks volumes for Claflin University,” Tisdale said. “It symbolizes that what was created during that period is helping to sustain the University’s current growth and progress. There were outstanding leaders and great people at Claflin, and the past accomplishments were not a fluke. The administrators, faculty, and staff – Team Claflin – were very serious and committed to academics and student success-focused programs. That’s why Claflin continues to climb higher and higher in the national rankings.”
Note: To attend the Service of Remembrance and Dedication Service of the Tisdale Memorial Garden on Friday, November 18, please email
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