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Claflin Leadership

The Rev. Whitakker V. Middleton presents the Claflin University Leadership Giving Award to President Henry N. Tisdale and First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale in December 2017.

Claflin University honored more than 200 individuals who had made gifts to the university at the leadership level of $1,000 and above at the annual Leadership Giving Luncheon last month. The program has been a tradition at Claflin since 1996.

Each year at the luncheon, donors are given thank-you gifts and recognized by their categories of giving. Leadership gifts this year totaled more than $726,000.

The special honorees at this year's luncheon were President Henry N. Tisdale and First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale. The Tisdales' tenure at Claflin has been nothing short of remarkable and exemplary. Closing in on 24 years of service at the first historically black college or university in South Carolina, the Tisdales have led a transformation that has propelled Claflin to prominence in higher education for academic excellence and an uncompromising commitment to student success.

Upon his return to lead his alma mater in 1994, President Tisdale set in motion his vision that Claflin be recognized as a leading 21st Century institution of higher education that develops a diverse and inclusive community of globally engaged visionary leaders. Claflin is well on its way to achieving that vision. To illustrate that assertion, Tisdale doubled student enrollment and added several new academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Claflin consistently has been ranked among the nation's Top Ten HBCUs by U.S. News and World Report.

Under the president's, Claflin's historic campus has improved with the construction of new buildings, including the Kleist Living and Learning Center, the Student Residential Center, the University Dining Center, the University Music Center, the Molecular Science Research Center, the James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel and Claflin Commons. Through his tireless and strategic visionary leadership, Tisdale has earned the well-deserved reputation as a transformative leader among his contemporaries in higher education.

Moreover, Tisdale, in partnership with Claflin's Board of Trustees and the Division of Institutional Advancement, led the most successful Capital Campaign in the history of the university, a fundraising effort that raised more than $105 million and surpassed its initial goal of $96.4 million.

First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale has been exceptional in her own right. It was no accident that in 1996, Mrs. Tisdale was honored by the Claflin University Board of Trustees by the renaming of the university's honors program, The Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. The honor provided a platform for the First Lady to make a difference in the lives of many students selected for the Honors College. Under her direction, the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College has been strengthened and expanded to reflect Claflin's commitment to cultivating academically outstanding students. Admission standards were raised and measures taken to enhance the honors students' experience on every level to prepare them for success in graduate and professional schools, and as leaders in their professions and society.

Mrs. Tisdale's support and influence go beyond the walls of Claflin University. She has a ubiquitous presence on a slate of community boards and organizations. She serves on the Governor's Mansion and Lace House Commission. She also served as past national president and secretary/treasurer of the National Association of African American Honors Programs; past board chair of the Orangeburg County Salvation Army and past board chair of the Orangeburg County Community of Character. She is a member and co-founder/director of the "Praise Kids" Children's Christian Theater at Trinity United Methodist Church. She is a very popular motivational speaker for children and people of all ages.

Understanding the need for strengthening Claflin's academic profile in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines, the Tisdales established the Henry N. and Alice Carson Tisdale Endowed Professorship in STEM. The creation of this positon supports the growing reputation Claflin has earned for producing graduates from STEM programs. Claflin is one of the region's leading liberal arts universities, and its emphasis on STEM aligns with career opportunities in today's workplace.

The Tisdales have also established endowed scholarship funds. The Henry N. Tisdale Endowed Scholarship Fund assists students from Williamsburg County who are freshmen pursuing careers in STEM. The Alice Carson Tisdale Endowed Scholarship Fund assists students who are freshmen with a minimum high school GPA of 3.25 pursuing a career in elementary, middle or secondary education.

Having a keen eye for aesthetics, the Tisdales were instrumental in putting one of the final touches in the James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel. The rose window above the choir loft was a gift from them in honor of their parents, Walter and Willa M. Tisdale and Charles C. and Virginia L. Carson. The rose window was the last of the stained glass windows installed in the chapel during the 2007 fall semester. The window was created by nationally-renowned artist and Claflin graduate Dr. Leo Twiggs (class of 1956) at the request of President Tisdale. The colorful, artistic design of the window is a reflection of Twiggs' inspiration of the Tisdales' ability to complement each other in a very special way.


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