Glenn McConnell and I are both graduates of the College of Charleston, I in '50 and he in '69. We love the old lady and glory in her success, but we are saddened by the noisy reaction to Glenn's election to be our next president by some of the students and faculty.
But their actions are merely a fad of the moment that's sweeping many liberal arts campuses these days. Those who don't know Glenn will admire him a year from now for his enthusiastic, positive personality and engaging sense of humor. The faculty, in particular, will respect the decisions he will make and the process employed in making them.
Did Glenn McConnell save the College during the 1980s? Of course not, but he certainly helped her survive a dark period. Not many folks living today know the story. I'm going to tell it without specific dates or names because it reveals the true man and value of Glenn McConnell.
He and I were serving in our state Senate when some of his former professors alerted him to an unhappy situation that had developed at our alma mater. As an alumnus and their senator, he was asked for his assistance. He agreed to look into the matter and asked me to help. True to his ethic of thoroughness and the truth, this involved much time and work.
Accordingly, we took our findings to the board and urged them, as respectfully as possible, to take positive action. It was not a happy scene. If looks and words of certain board members could have killed, we would have been dead men.
Not long after the president resigned, citing personal and health reasons, Glenn and I got identical phone calls we'll never forget from the chairman of the board, calling from Columbia. He said, "Senator, how about if we bring a gentleman down there to be our new president by the name of Harry Lightsey?" We were overjoyed. It made all our unhappy work and the acrimony worthwhile.
Mr. Lightsey, trained as a veterinarian, became a lawyer and was serving as the dean of the USC Law School. He was widely recognized as one of South Carolina's brightest minds and is one of the three great presidents of our college in the modern era. They are Capt. Ted Stern, Dean Lightsey and Judge Alex Sanders. None were academics but all were effective leaders in their fields.
Academics are the principle province of provosts in the leadership arrangements of colleges and are usually appointed by the president. In all my years of knowing Glenn McConnell, I have never seen him supported with any other than excellent staff, and he will continue that practice at our college.
Small wonder then that he earned the respect of all those he has served with in our General Assembly, black and white, Democrat and Republican. His has been a rare life's journey and now we have him for our College of Charleston. His best, for us, is yet to come.
Arthur Ravenel Jr.