COLUMBIA - Funding scholarship programs is one of the best ways to increase diversity at the College of Charleston and other schools, and new president Glenn McConnell said he wanted to lead by example.
McConnell, the longtime Charleston Republican senator who recently resigned as lieutenant governor to take the C of C post, emptied his lieutenant governor campaign bank account last quarter, records show. The result was $260,239 spread out among 17 charitable causes: church restoration projects, Civil War preservation and reenactment efforts, help for senior citizens and animal rescues among them.
The biggest single donation of $110,000 went to the College of Charleston Foundation, the charitable arm of the school, primarily for scholarships, according to McConnell and campaign finance records.
McConnell's S.C. Senate campaign account still has about $158,000 left. The former senator said he plans to donate those funds to charity, although he has not yet decided which ones.
"I think scholarships will give us a more diverse population," McConnell said. "That's the message I'm going to try to get out ... we need community support. I hope some others will follow my example and contribute to help with these scholarships."
Mike Robertson, a college spokesman, said it's the first time the school has received campaign donations.
McConnell said that he cannot mandate how the money is spent, but he has made his wishes known that it should go toward increasing diversity at the college. He has asked for $10,000 to go toward specific students who are in a difficult situation.
McConnell declined to go into detail about the students' situations but said his donation should help them with a semester's tuition. "It would appeal to your heart and you would want to do something for them," McConnell said.
Under state law, McConnell could have played politics, giving dollars to political allies or fundraising entities. The college's and McConnell's goals are often tied to the Legislature and its leadership.
But McConnell said he decided against that route. "I'm looking at these students, I'm looking at their struggle, they have the will and the ability but don't have the money."
C of C has struggled to increase diversity among its student population of about 11,600. Despite several diversity efforts in recent years, black enrollment hasn't budged beyond 6 percent and other minority numbers have remained low.
Robert Oldendick, a government professor at the University of South Carolina, said the donations highlight McConnell's unique path to the president's office. Few, if any, longtime former elected officials with a formidable campaign account have been in a similar situation to donate campaign funds to their new employer.
"Given the unusual path that's been taken from the Senate to an institution ... that could benefit, it's very atypical, and because of that it is a story," Oldendick said. "This is just one other aspect of kind of the unique transition (former) Sen. McConnell has made."
Charitable donations only go so far. McConnell also wanted to send another message, sure to be repeated throughout his tenure: He said the state should allocate more funds toward its colleges.
"The problem," he said, "is the state has to re-engage in public education."
|College of Charleston Foundation||Charleston||SC||For scholarships and buildings||$110,000|
|Church of The Holy Communion||Charleston||SC||For robes, capes, and building repairs and improvements||40,000|
|Pi Kappa Phi Foundation||Charlotte||NC||For charitable foundation||15,000|
|St Stephens Episcopal Church||St Stephens||SC||For maintenance and improvements||15,000|
|Civil War Trust||Washington||DC||For battlefield foundation||10,238.80|
|Sustaining Our Seniors of SC Inc.||Columbia||SC||For foundation for senior services development||10,000|
|The Citadel Foundation||Charleston||SC||For the Civil War Society Reenactor Fund||10,000|
|Pet Helpers||Charleston||SC||For animal charity||7,500|
|Charleston Animal Society||North Charleston||SC||For animal charity||7,500|
|College of Charleston Cougar Club||Charleston||SC||For athletic charity||5,000|
|College of Charleston Alumni Association||Charleston||SC||For scholarship||5,000|
|SC Battleground Trust||Charleston||SC||For battleground preservation||5,000|
|Charles Towne Landing Foundation||Charleston||SC||For historical reinactments||5,000|
|Lowcountry Pregnancy Center||North Charleston||SC||For birth||5,000|
|Keeper of The Wild||St. George||SC||For animal rescue||5,000|
|Halie Hill Inc.||Ravenel||SC||For animal charity||5,000|
Diane Knich of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.
Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.