New executive director named for SC’s Penn Center

Rodell Lawrence at Penn Center on St. Helena Island

ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. — A center that works to preserve culture on the South Carolina coast has a new director.

The Penn Center on St. Helena Island announced Thursday that Rodell Lawrence is the center’s eighth executive director. During the past 150 years, the Penn Center has been a school for freed slaves, a Jim Crow-era industrial school and a retreat center for civil rights leaders.

Lawrence is a Florida native and a 1970 graduate of South Carolina State University. He worked for more than two decades as an engineer for Xerox. He replaces Michael Campi who left the job a year ago for personal reasons.

The center works to tell the story of the Gullah past of the state’s sea islands and to preserve the culture that is now threatened by rapid coastal development.