This article was contributed by Honorary Alumnus Richard Haldeman of Due West, who was Erskine’s public relations director for many years.
“Go as far as you can. Keep going, keep learning. Open your eyes to any educational opportunity.”
That was the advice given to outstanding women students at Erskine College and Abbeville County high schools March 7 by Erskine College alumna Barbara Holloway Smith, consumer horticulturist with the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center. Smith was principal speaker at the 58th Annual Student Recognition Dinner sponsored by the Due West Branch of the American Association of University Women in the Bell Conference Room of Watkins Student Center.
The 1973 graduate described her own 40-year career as a high school teacher of horticulture and environmental science, operator of a landscape and design company, retail nursery worker, and consumer horticulturist, combining all those skills.
She described difficulties she faced as the only woman among graduate horticulture students at Clemson University, where she earned her master’s degree, and at Walhalla High School, where she introduced horticulture as a new subject field in South Carolina. She had to show university faculty that she could accomplish the job as well as a man could. She also made it her task to demonstrate to state officials the validity of horticulture as a subject separate from animal science.
“Fight for what you believe in,” she told the honorees from Erskine College and Abbeville, Calhoun Falls Charter, and Dixie High Schools. She cautioned the young women not to delay their educational opportunities: ”Grab education with both hands.”
Smith quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “I am who I am today because of choices I made yesterday,” as well as Nelson Mandela, who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you have to save the world.” She said her current position gives her the opportunity to help people by providing reasonable solutions to problems, steering them to be more environmentally friendly, and assisting them in raising their own food.
In conclusion, she offered “a toast to strong women”: “May we know them, raise them, be them.”
Smith was introduced by Due West AAUW President Dr. Jan Haldeman, professor-emerita of biology at Erskine and her former professor there. Administrative Dean of the College Scott DeCiantis offered a welcome from Erskine College. Haldeman and Betsy Elsner distributed certificates to the college and high school students. Other members playing a role in organizing and conducting the program were Sarah Kennerly, vice president; Susan Beverly, financial officer; and Edith Brawley.
Special recognition was given to Erskine senior Angie Schoonover, who has been selected to receive the AAUW state scholarship to attend AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) June 1-4, 2016. Rachel Whitmire ’14 and Kathleen Watkins ’15 are previous recipients of the scholarship.
Erskine seniors honored and their subject areas were Ashley Ramsey, art; Elinor Griffin, Bible; Amelia Chassevent, athletic training; Claire Mueller, biology; Krysta Schaus, Taylor Bush, business and economics; Christina Holbrooks, chemistry; Maria Bedenbaugh, early childhood education; Jennifer Jennings, English; Kate Macsay, Maggie Jameson, history and social studies; Kate Keukelaar, mathematics; Jennifer Karel, music and music education; Margaret Randall, political science; Angie Schoonover, psychology and sociology; and Kate Macsay, secondary education.
Abbeville High School seniors recognized were Wendy Diane Garner, English; Ashley Dale Brantly, foreign language; Samantha Ann Templeton, math; Cassidy Nicole Champoux, science; and Essence Jameria Oglesby, social studies.
Calhoun Falls Charter School seniors honored were Stephanie Hill, English; Lanterria Collier, foreign language; Kinsley McMinn, math; Erica Sanders, science; and Kayla Crawford, social studies.
Dixie High School seniors receiving awards were Courtney Alyssa Ashley, English; Haleigh Gracyn Phillips, foreign language; Leigha Jayne Snipes, math; Ashleigh Elizabeth Nickles, science; and Sara Elizabeth Sears, social studies.