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Donor Darla Moore writes off USC after it fails to acknowledge her mother's death

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Darla Moore

COLUMBIA — University of South Carolina's biggest benefactor, Darla Moore, says she regrets all her efforts for her alma mater after the school failed to acknowledge her mother's death last week.

In a scathing letter sent to the USC board and administration April 5, Moore said her family received "deep expressions of appreciation and recognition from the faculty and leadership of Clemson University." 

The Lake City financier donated $10 million to Clemson for its school of education, which is named after her father. 

But Moore has donated more than $75 million to USC, where the business school bears her name. She wrote off the school in her latest letter, the second time she has taken USC to task in less than two years. 

"What did she receive from the University of South Carolina, the recipient of the most exceptional generosity in the history of this state by virtue of her life? NOTHING," Moore continued in her letter obtained by The Post and Courier.

"There is not a university in the country that would exhibit this degree of thoughtless, dismissive and graceless ignorance of the death of a parent of their largest donor," Moore wrote. "I continue to be embarrassed and humiliated by my association with you and all you so disgracefully and incompetently display to the community you are charged to serve and to whom you look for support."

She ended the letter saying, "The deepest regret of my life is the effort and resources I have expended on your behalf."

Moore declined comment when reached April 6. 

Lorraine Moore died April 1 at age 89. Her funeral was two days later in Lake City. Eugene Moore, Darla Moore's father, was a Clemson football captain and school principal who died in 2008.

USC expressed sympathy for Moore in a statement issued April 6, but the school declined comment on why it failed to acknowledge her mother's passing when it happened or how it would try to repair the relationship with a major benefactor.

"The University of South Carolina family mourns the recent death of Lorraine Moore, the mother of one of our most prominent alumnae Darla Moore," USC said in its statement. "We express our deepest condolences to Ms. Moore, who has done much for the university through her generous philanthropy and selfless service.

"President Caslen and the entire university community are grateful for her lasting contributions and our thoughts are with her and her family during this difficult time."

Moore has been split with USC leadership since the board voted to hire retired West Point superintendent Bob Caslen as president in 2019.

She was upset at the how the search was conducted and how it ended with choosing a new leader who some criticized for lacking a doctorate and research pedigree of previous presidents. Gov. Henry McMaster, a trustee himself, lobbied other board members to hire Caslen.

Moore sent a letter to the board on the day before their final vote on Caslen with a request to restart the search.

"As the largest donor to the university and the namesake of one of the largest schools with a broad national reputation, I’m making a final appeal to the board to reject the rank political influence in selecting the next president," Moore wrote at the time. "Notwithstanding the political nature of the board, the university is an institution of higher learning and the surest way to extinguish its integrity is to politicize it."

Caslen was hired in July 2019 after a contentious 11-8 trustee vote while a group of students and faculty protested outside the board room. 

Moore reportedly has not been in contact with the board or new administration since the vote. She still works with leadership of the business school.

Moore was a USC trustee from 1999 to 2011 in one of the two seats appointed by the governor.

She was replaced by Gov. Nikki Haley with a Lexington lawyer who had donated to her campaign. Haley's office said the governor wanted a "fresh set of eyes" on the board of South Carolina's largest college.

Moore was approached as a possible successor to USC President Harris Pastides after an aborted board vote on a new leader in April 2019. A trustee told The Post and Courier that Moore rejected his overture.

Moore said at the time that any overtures from trustees "were not that serious."

Follow Andy Shain on Facebook (andyshain12) and Twitter (@andyshain)

Columbia/Myrtle Beach Managing Editor

Andy Shain runs The Post and Courier's newsrooms based in Columbia and Myrtle Beach. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

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