Tripp Boykin, English teacher and assistant headmaster at Laurence Manning Academy (LMA) in Manning, S.C., and a member of the Erskine College Class of 1992, says of his alma mater, “Erskine is not buildings, degrees, and logos—it is a living entity that does not stop living when we all graduate and move on.”
Sharing the Erskine experience
Erskine College offered “a near perfect environment for growth in faith, social skills, and academics,” Boykin said, and it was at Erskine that he “grew up and matured.”
As an active alumnus, he works to share that “near perfect environment” with prospective students and hopes other alumni will do the same. “Help them arrange a visit, and let them decide for themselves if Erskine is right for them,” he says.
“This is my third year as director of admissions, and Tripp has brought a group of students from LMA each fall to our campus,” Director of Admissions Tobe Frierson said. Boykin also brings students to campus for private tours, and Frierson estimates that some 50 students from Manning have taken campus tours during her tenure.
Boykin’s recruiting efforts go back about a decade. “Tripp has been recruiting for Erskine ever since he arrived at LMA,” Frierson said. “Not only is he sending us students, he is sending us the top students from his school, and because his school is so similar to Erskine, they often end up being top students here.”
Quick to follow up when students express an interest in Erskine, Boykin helps them through the admissions process and supplements the information they glean from a visit with accounts of his own experience as an Erskine student. As Frierson points out, “He actually carries more weight than any of my counselors would because he already has personal relationships with these students.”
For all Boykin’s success in getting students to consider Erskine, “Never once have I heard him try to convince a student to come here,” Frierson said. “For Tripp, it’s all about exposure.”
By telling his Erskine story, being willing to bring students to campus, and even accompanying prospective students and their families on campus visits, Tripp Boykin models a way for loyal alumni to assist their alma mater, working in their own spheres of influence in church and community. “If other alumni wanted to follow suit, it could be one of the best gifts they could ever give to Erskine College,” Frierson said.
Vivid memories, lasting relationships
Boykin himself visited Erskine for the first time in January of his senior year in high school. His aunt and uncle lived in what was then the Due West Retirement Center, and since they had asked him about considering Erskine, he wanted to give it a try. After the visit, as he and his parents drove past the strawberry patch on the way to Greenwood, he declared, “That’s it, I’m going to Erskine!”
Like many Erskine students, Boykin became involved in a variety of campus groups and activities, including the Erskine Entertainment Board, the Choraleers, Alpha Psi Omega, the Secret Seven (which he helped to create, with Brian Davenport and Scott Williams), the Chamber Singers, and the Erskine radio station (which he helped to start).
The heart of Boykin’s Erskine experience lies in friendships that have endured. “As a student at Erskine, I loved and still love the relationships,” he said. “It’s hard to forget Erskine, especially when you stay so close to people from Erskine.”
As an English major minoring in music and vocal performance, Boykin recalls “being exceptionally challenged, but nurtured,” and remembers especially Dr. Brad Christie, Dr. Hans Engler, Dr. Jack Heinsohn, Dr. Joan Little, Dr. Porter Stokes, and Dr. James Strobel.
Boykin traveled to Scotland with the Choraleers to sing at Ebenezer Erskine’s church. He and Eric Frampton undertook their own concert tour during Winter Term one year, and even recorded their own album for class credit. He recorded a solo album after graduating from Erskine, and is now in a band, performing several shows every year and donating all proceeds to charity. He enjoyed managing the Erskine radio station, “Tower 88,” and did an internship in radio. He and his girlfriend (who became his wife) assisted classmate John Kuykendall with his senior project, transcribing recorded interviews and helping with editing and proofreading for a book called Never Forget: A Small Town Remembers World War II.
The joy of Erskine
Tripp Boykin treasures many Erskine memories, but one event in his sophomore year stands out: meeting his wife, who is also a 1992 graduate.
“The most important moment of all those wonderful moments [was] meeting and falling in love with my Erskine sweetheart, Shannon Buchanan,” he said. “It has been over 25 years since we went on our first date.”
The two married in June 1992, following their commencement in May. The wedding was held in Bowie Chapel, the reception in Watkins Student Center. “Extra special to us was that, along with family and friends, the president and his wife—Dr. and Mrs. Strobel—came to our wedding, along with many of our closest professors and mentors,” Boykin said, adding, “That was not so unusual at Erskine.”
The Boykins “are proud to be a true Erskine couple,” Boykin said. “We still get a kick out of wearing our class rings and Erskine apparel and coming back on campus for visits.”
Boykin’s commitment to his marriage offers a clue to the strength of his love for Erskine, which has also endured for more than 20 years.
“I grew in my faith as a result of the diverse and intimate relationships I shared while at Erskine,” he said. “Twenty-three years later and with many of us scattered all over the state and country, my dearest Erskine friends are still very much in my heart.”
Boykin’s current work as an educator was preceded by years of experience running businesses. “At Erskine I developed confidence, an energy to pursue new ideas, and, within reason, not to be scared to take calculated risks.”
Eleven years ago he closed his businesses and left the corporate world to pursue a career in education. Laurence Manning Academy “has an Erskine feel,” he said. “It is my little Erskine away from Erskine.”
He draws deeply on what he learned during his time in Due West.
“I bring the Erskine spirit to everything I do,” he said. “Erskine showed me the joy of investing in others, how much we are a part of one another’s journey in life and faith.”