Trailblazing College of Charleston President Ted Stern dead at 100

Stern

Theodore Sanders Stern, College of Charleston president emeritus, died Friday in Charleston.

He was 100 years old.

Stern was known for transforming the college from a small private school into a nationally- recognized institution of higher learning.

“Ted Stern’s legacy as a campus and community leader is difficult to overstate,” said George Benson, president of the college. “We mourn Ted’s passing and we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family. We have lost a dear friend and a great human being.”

Stern served as president of the college from 1968 to 1978. With the College of Charleston facing a financial crisis, Stern worked with the South Carolina General Assembly to ensure the future of the college by turning it into a public institution. By the end of his presidency, enrollment had grown to more than 5,300 students and 181 faculty.

His legacy includes admitting the first black students to the college.

Under Stern’s leadership, the college acquired some 80 buildings and constructed many of its most important facilities, including the Robert Scott Small Building, Maybank Hall, Physicians Memorial Auditorium, Buist Rivers Residence Hall, Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center, Grice Marine Lab, the Stern Center and the Albert Simons Center for the Arts.

Stern helped launch the college’s first graduate programs and South Carolina’s Governor’s School.

In 1974, the college honored Stern by naming the student union building after him.

The Ted Stern Cup, also named in his honor, is awarded annually to a graduating senior who exemplifies the character of the college.

“For decades, Ted Stern has been a friend and mentor to the entire College of Charleston community,” said Greg Padgett, chairman of the college Board of Trustees. “We will continue to honor and celebrate Ted’s legacy in the days and weeks ahead.”

In addition to transforming the college, Stern played a crucial role in shaping the City of Charleston. He was instrumental in the development of the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston Place and the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina.

He was the first president of the board for the Spoleto Festival USA, guiding Spoleto through its early years to become one of the nation’s premier arts festivals.

Stern grew up in New York City and was a top-notch swimmer who narrowly missed competing in the Olympics. A 1934 graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Stern enlisted in the United States Navy after college and earned a Bronze Star. His Naval career included front-line combat and personally briefing President Dwight D. Eisenhower as chief of naval operations in charge of petroleum. He arrived in Charleston in 1965 as a 53-year-old Navy captain to head the Navy Supply Center.

“Ted was a figure larger than life because he gave more of himself than one could expect any single individual to give. Every job he held, every board he served on, every personal interaction he had over his 100 years, were all rooted in the philanthropic spirit that served as the inspirational foundation of his life,” said House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

“Through his infectious spirit and the great institutions he built over his 100 years, Ted’s legacy is one that will live on for centuries to come,” Harrell said.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

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