Previous occupations: S.C. lieutenant governor, former state senator and president pro tempore of the Senate, retired attorney and business owner
Education: College of Charleston, bachelor's degree in political science in 1969; University of South Carolina, law degree in 1972
Hobbies: Personal watercraft riding, Civil War re-enacting, snow skiing
Glenn McConnell left the College of Charleston after graduating in 1969, but he's returning to campus Tuesday as the school's president.
He has strong support among members of the school's Board of Trustees, but he'll also face many challenges over the next few years. Despite a rocky hiring process, the former lieutenant governor has said he's ready to hit the ground running. Here's a few things you need to know about him and what comes next.
Why was he selected?
Greg Padgett, chairman of the college's Board of Trustees, said the board chose McConnell because he has decades of experience as a state leader. And "McConnell has shown he's a visionary leader," Padgett has said.
The board hired him, despite strong opposition from faculty members, some students and the local, state and national branches of the NAACP.
McConnell, 66, had many strong supporters on the board and in the state Legislature, where he previously served in the Senate for 32 years, the last 11 as president pro tempore. In that role, he built up a great deal of goodwill, and earned a reputation for being able to work well with other legislators across party and racial lines.
State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, has said McConnell will be able leverage his experience in the Senate to forge a strong relationships between the college and the General Assembly. "The last few presidents have not been very attuned to the General Assembly and the politics of the state," he said.
State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, a colleague and personal friend of McConnell, said, "As long as they give him a chance, they'll see what a gem they have as president."
Why was his hiring so controversial?
McConnell faced strong opposition at the college because he had no academic experience, and because some people thought his support of flying the Confederate battle flag on Statehouse grounds and participating in Civil War re-enactments might make it more difficult for the school to recruit minority students, especially black students.
That's important because only 6 percent of the college's students are black, while blacks make up about 30 percent of the state's population.
The percentage of minority students enrolled at the college is one of the lowest among the state's higher education institutions. School leaders have been trying to turn that around in recent years, but it's slow work.
Opponents also thought state legislators, with close ties to McConnell, may have pressured board members to hire him.
What will he bring to the job?
Supporters say McConnell is fair and talented and will win over opponents when they begin working with him. During his decades in the Legislature, he was able to build coalitions across racial and party lines.
Grooms said McConnell is a brilliant strategist who always is looking four or five steps ahead. He will use that skill to improve the college.
McConnell also has the state-level experience to help the college expand to a comprehensive research university that offers doctoral degrees needed by area businesses.
What challenges does he face?
McConnell first will have to win over faculty members and students who were opposed to his hiring.
He also will have to overcome resistance among some legislators to the college expanding to become a comprehensive research university, or get approval from the state's Commission on Higher Education to move forward with the plan.
He will be expected to increase minority enrollment, which has proved to be a tough job in the past.
And, like other college presidents statewide, he will have to find creative ways to bring in more money.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
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