Charleston Mayor Joe Riley held a series of three meetings last week attended by top administrators of both the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina about potentially merging the two centuries-old institutions.

“The response was overwhelming and extremely positive,” Riley said. “People were very enthusiastic. It’s like the light bulb went off.”

He said Charleston needs a comprehensive research university with undergraduate, graduate and doctorate-level programs to realize its economic potential and compete for new business with other research-rich regions around the country like North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Austin, Texas.

A merger of the two schools isn’t a new idea, but has taken on new urgency, he said. “It moved from a nice thing to have to an imperative.”

MUSC President Ray Greenberg and College of Charleston President George Benson don’t know exactly what a future collaboration between the schools might look like, but both are open to discussion.

“We’re not, in our current structure, reaching our full potential,” Greenberg said.

Read more in an upcoming edition of The Post and Courier.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.