Alumni Weekend 2014 begins countdown to Erskine’s 175th celebration
Dr. Joab Mauldin “Joe” Lesesne, Jr. ’59 of Spartanburg received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award as part of Alumni Weekend activities at Erskine College and Seminary April 26, the 175th day before Erskine’s planned celebration of its 175th anniversary Oct. 18.
Awards were presented to alumni and friends of the institution during a meeting led by Alumni Association President Steve Southwell ’80 of Rock Hill. Southwell presented the Alumni Association’s highest award to Lesesne, president of Wofford College from 1972 to 2000 and son of Erskine’s eighth president, Dr. J.M. “Tum” Lesesne.
Lesesne was educated in the public schools of Due West, and following his graduation from Erskine College he earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of South Carolina. He began teaching at Wofford College in 1964 as an assistant professor of history and was named president in 1972. He has continued to serve Wofford since his retirement in 2000 as Professor of History and Director of Football operations.
Lesesne and his wife Ruth, a member of the Class of 1958, are the parents of four children and have 11 grandchildren.
“You know I started here when I was three,” Lesesne said, referring to his life on the Erskine campus during his father’s tenure as a member of the faculty and then president.
“There’s no way I will ever be able to give back to Erskine what Erskine has given to me,” he said.
The Sullivan Awards, given by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation to a man and woman who have “shown a spirit of love for and helpfulness to their fellow human beings,” were presented by Acting President Dr. N. Bradley Christie.
Carolyn Griffith Allen ’57 received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award and her husband, Hillard H. Allen ’04 (Honorary) received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. Both are residents of Due West, where they retired nearly 20 years ago.
Carolyn Allen is a retired teacher who has served her alma mater as a co-chair of the Annual Fund, president of the Parents Association, member of the Alumni Board, and a “Home Away From Home” grandparent. Her own granddaughter Rachel will be enrolling at Erskine this fall. She and her husband often cheer on the Fleet at home games and also attend music and other fine arts events.
Hillard Allen retired from a 37-year career with NASA in 1995. He has served his adopted alma mater in many ways, including maintaining the college’s Model A Ford. He has served the Town of Due West during the implementation of “Streetscape” projects and also serves the Due West ARP Church in many ways.
“What a joy it has been to be a part of this Erskine community,” Carolyn Allen said. “I’d like to start all over again at Erskine!”
“Thank you, Erskine, thank you alumni, and ‘Go Fleet’” Hillard Allen said.
Christie took a moment to pay personal tribute to the Allens, who have been especially close to the Christie family over the past two decades.
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award, for recent graduates who have begun making achievements in the workplace, church and community, was given to Dr. Tad Whiteside of Aiken, a member of the Class of 2000. He received the Ph.D. degree from the University of Georgia in 2004, then did postdoctoral work with the Environmental Protection Agency. He moved to Aiken in 2007 to continue research at the Savannah River National Laboratory, where he developed the next generation of instruments used to detect and measure radiation. He has served as chair of the Savannah River Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and is treasurer for the Southeastern Regional Meeting of ACS.
Whiteside, who earned a double major in chemistry and physics at Erskine, with a minor in mathematics, said his technical skills were honed in the lab with Young Professor of Chemistry Dr. Howard Thomas, and his communication skills were honed in English, history, and other classes.
The Erskine Service Award, presented by Andy Byrd ’88, president-elect of the Alumni Association, was given to Nan Sherer Campbell ’86 and Dr. J. Allen Derrick ’65.
Campbell served as president of the Alumni Association in 2012-13. She has worked for Erskine on the Board of Trustees, the Board of Counselors and the Alumni Board, and has also led the Greenville and Atlanta alumni chapters. While a student at Erskine, she served as student body president and editor of the Arrow, and received the H.M. Young Ring. She is active in church and community service, and she and her husband Kenneth Campbell ’87 are the parents of triplets.
Campbell said her service to Erskine “may look like a solo sport, but it takes a team,” acknowledging the help of alumni and others.
Derrick attended Columbia Seminary after graduating from Erskine, and was ordained to the ministry by Catawba Presbytery in 1968. He retired last year after 45 years of service to two ARP congregations, Union and Edgemoor. He also served more than 30 years working with youth programs at Bonclarken Assembly. He service to Erskine includes two terms on the Board of Trustees. The J. Allen Derrick Scholarship is awarded each year to an undergraduate student.
“Erskine set us on the right path, taught us the right values,” Derrick said. He expressed his gratitude that Erskine has remained a place of academic excellence and Christian commitment.
Inducted as honorary alumni this year were two longtime members of Erskine’s facilities staff, Johnny Davis and Reynolds Valentine. Director of Alumni Affairs Buddy Ferguson ’82 spoke about both men.
Davis came to Erskine in 1975 and has worked on “just about every part of the Erskine campus,” Ferguson said. Davis says he has learned a lot about working on different things during his career at Erskine, with the added bonus of acquiring numerous friends. He is known around Due West for helping his neighbors and participating in community activities. He and his wife are members of Due West Baptist Church.
Valentine joined Erskine in 1971 and is currently responsible for the upkeep of Watkins Student Center. He says he has found joy in building lasting relationships with his colleagues in maintenance as well as with other members of the Erskine community. He is active at St. Mary’s Baptist Church. His wife Wanda, son Rashaun and mother Margaret were on hand for the occasion.
Annual Fund Co-Chairs Tara Cox ’04 and Christopher Bethea ’79 gave a report on the 2013-14 Annual Fund campaign. This year’s goal is $1.3 million, with approximately $864,000 received so far. Bethea told the assembled alumni, “We are an Erskine family,” and stressed that although “disagreements will occur,” working together is essential.
Outgoing Alumni Board members recognized were Jamey A. Dagenhart ’08, Sem. ’12; David W. Dangerfield ’05; W. Michael Duncan ’87; Ray A. King ’55, Sem. ’58; Leslie Black Trier ’00; and Shay Shealy West ’86.
President-elect Andy Byrd ’88 presented a slate of nominees for the Alumni Association Board of Directors; Southwell conducted the election and installed the officers. Chosen as new board members were Tara V. Cox ’04; Mary Alex Senn Kopp ’11; Jane Boswell McDonald ’53; James H. Moore ’77; Linda Young Price ’68; and Cory O.B. Robinson ’11.
A special item on the agenda of this year’s Alumni Association meeting was an update on Erskine’s 175th anniversary celebration—set for Oct. 18—from Acting President Christie, Vice President for Advancement David Earle, and Vice President for Communications Cliff Smith. The update included the screening of a short clip from a feature-length documentary film on the history of Erskine, a project undertaken by Will Frampton ’03 under the aegis of the Office of Communications.
Also in honor of the upcoming 175th celebration, several “past in the present” displays were positioned around campus to match the historic view depicted in the photo on each poster. The displays were part of the launch of an interactive online celebration of Erskine’s 175th anniversary.
The Erskine Choraleers, directed by Dr. Mark Nabholz, opened the meeting with a short concert. Dr. J. Allen Derrick ’65 offered the invocation and Schadell Brooks ’13 gave the closing prayer.
Activities Friday included a dinner for the Class of 1959 as well as a Senior Art Show in Bowie Arts Center and a Spring Choral Concert offered by the Department of Music.
The Class of 1964 celebrated its 50th reunion Saturday with a gathering at the home of class representative Roddy Gray and his wife Rose, followed by dinner at the Belmont Inn in Abbeville. On Saturday afternoon, Erskine’s instrumental ensemble Sinfonia, directed by Dr. J. Brooks Kuykendall, presented Buster Keaton’s silent film College, complemented by a newly devised score.
Saturday’s events started early with the 22nd annual Red Eye Run at 8 a.m. Andrew Woodford ’09 had the best time among the male runners at 18:59, followed by Drew Wallace ’07 at 19:32 and Frederich Engler ’99 at 21:13. Sandy Lesley ’00 finished first among the women at 22:31, followed by Bethany Woodford ’09 at 25:06 and sophomore Megan Marrah at 25:54.