Spurrier looking to overcome the Gamecocks' recent bowl failures

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier (right) said he is looking to do something “different” this year, hoping to avoid three straight bowl losses.

Too many youths today don't know much about history, so one Citadel alumnus and his wife have put up a half-million dollars to help change that.

Henry and Jenny Johnson of Lake City have donated $500,000 to The Citadel to create an endowment in their name for historical studies.

The military college plans to use the money to finance conferences on historic events, public lectures and perhaps even build an archive of oral histories of the Lowcountry.

Bo Moore, chairman of The Citadel's history department, calls it an "extremely rare, if not unprecedented" gift, and says it's figuring out the best use for this much money is a nice problem to have.

"It's something you have to think about, though," Moore said Monday.

Johnson, a history major, graduated from The Citadel in 1975. He spent seven years on the Citadel Board of Visitors and currently serves on the board of The Citadel Foundation.

Johnson said The Citadel's history department has always been outstanding, and he only wants to make a great department better.

"It is alarming to read survey results indicating how little American students know about history. That statistic needs to be changed," Johnson said in The Citadel

Magazine. "Funds will now be available for The Citadel to host speakers, authors and other individuals who possess not only a knowledge of history, but a love for and appreciation of history."

Moore says the civil rights conference that the college hosted in 2003 might be a model for future conferences — perhaps focusing on bringing World War II veterans together with historians, or maybe a look at the impact of the 1960s on the South.

Moore said that he would like to see the college bring in authors of books that are both popular and significant to draw in audiences. And he hopes that the department could begin to record the oral histories of local folks who can talk about significant events or ways of life here.

"There's a good shortage of oral history," Moore said. "I would hope we could start an archive here."

Contact Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or bhicks@postandcourier.com.