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."

VENDOR CITY STATE DONATION AMOUNT
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
         
      TOTAL $ 260,238.80
 

Diane Knich of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.

Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.