‘Culture shock’ becomes love of Claflin
By: HALLE SPARKS
Mar 02, 2020
President Dwaun J. Warmack talks with Panther reporters.
“I love Claflin,” says Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, who became convinced to pursue the Claflin presidency after just one visit to the university campus.
Both Warmack and first lady LaKisha Warmack dressed up as “secret shoppers” and made a trip from St. Louis, where he was president of Harris-Stowe University, to Claflin and Orangeburg. They met both students and faculty and got a warm welcome.
“The love the students had for their university was unimaginable.”
Warmack has labeled himself the “freshmen's president.” The new class and Warmack both began their Claflin experience in August. He even addressed them directly in his convocation speech in September after becoming president, succeeding the retiring Dr. Henry N. Tisdale.
Nevertheless Warmack said there was at first a culture shock coming from a city the size of St. Louis to Orangeburg. It didn’t last long. He said he and his wife became convinced Claflin was right for their family and now consider Orangeburg a great new home.
“This is an amazing place,” he said of Claflin. “Nothing has let me down.”
Warmack told Panther reporters that he is spending time learning about the university.
He plans to protect Claflin traditions and build on its successes while bringing new insight and new ideas. “I’m spending a large amount of my time getting to know the campus.”
But that has not stopped him from envisioning advancements at the university. A priority is construction of a new student center, he said.
The student center is the heart of the campus and should reflect the students at Claflin, Warmack said. The student center is the “living room for students.”
He wants to bring more national food chains and collaborative work spaces into a modern student center, offering students a variety of food options and a comfortable place to continue their studies.
The president hopes to see the new student center become reality within two years.
Claflin has been a part of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for three years, but its athletic training facilities don’t reflect that, Warmack said. He wants modernization as a priority along with the student center.
Warmack spends a lot of time communicating with today’s Claflin students. He says that is his way and a top priority.
He also has been getting to know alumni. He prides himself on the connection he has built on an alumni tour.
The tour allowed him to gain different perspectives and opinions from alumni from the East to West coasts.
Alumni want to see more young Claflin graduates become active at the university and offer it support, Warmack said.
Toward building such involvement, Claflin in April will be hosting its first annual 40-under-40 gala. The gala will highlight the accomplishments of 40 alumni under the age 40, with the honorees being selected by a special committee.
Those saying being president is all work are not far from right. On many days, Warmack’s schedule runs from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. But he stays prepared for the rigors, beginning each day with a workout at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Center.
“I wake up every day excited to come to work,” he said. “My life is work.”
His wife and daughter pay a price for such devotion, he said. But that does not change his goal of being an outstanding father and husband – and remaining healthy.
With 22 years in higher education under his belt and the Claflin presidency before him, he also plans to stay in touch with academics by returning to the classroom next fall, teaching a sociology or leadership course.
In his spare time, Warmack does not watch much television but is an avid reader, presently finishing Jim Collins’ “Good to Great.”