A list of those who helped Mayor Joe Riley shape the Charleston of today would not be complete without the name of Theodore Sanders Stern. Ted Stern came to Charleston in 1965 to head the Navy base’s supply center. Over the next 48 years, he became the most important non-elected individual in the city’s modern history.

When Ted retired from the Navy in 1968, he was appointed the president of the College of Charleston, a struggling private school with 482 students on the verge of bankruptcy. By 1978, at the end of Ted’s 10-year tenure, the school was part of the state system of higher education and had grown to 5,198 students from 35 states and five foreign countries.

The school’s expansion helped fuel the economy that was the backbone of Charleston’s renascence.

Ted worked behind the scenes to keep the hospital strike from erupting into violence.

He helped Mayor Riley overcome stiff resistance to the building of Charleston Place and aided in the private fundraising for Waterfront Park.

When Spoleto was about to die at its birth, Riley asked Ted to save it. Ted agreed, chaired Spoleto for its first eight years, saved it a second time in the early 1990s, and the rest is history.

Ted helped create what is today the Community Foundation of South Carolina and Palmetto Goodwill Industries and was instrumental in securing major grants for the South Carolina Aquarium where he served on the board.

Ted’s cousin was Robert Moses, who, as head of the New York Port Authority, helped shape today’s New York City. Called the “Power Broker,” Moses built parks, bridges, public housing and highways. Ted Stern built institutions, organizations and people and partnered with his close friend Joe Riley to shape the vibrant, urban model that will be Joe Riley’s legacy for generations to come.


Director Emeritus, Museum of the City of New York

Vice Chair Emeritus

South Carolina Aquarium

Island Walk East

Mount Pleasant