Claflin University’s artist-in-residence lauded the university for 150 years of accomplishments at its Founders’ Day convocation ceremony at Tullis Arena on Nov. 18.
Through a brief narration of the university’s history, Leo F. Twiggs spoke about the university’s successes in art, music, architecture, leadership and academic prowess.
He celebrated the leadership of the president and first lady of Claflin University, Henry N. Tisdale and Alice Carson Tisdale, for their work at the university for the past 25 years.
Twiggs said Henry Tisdale started working quickly at the start of his tenure to improve the university.
“Within the first month, he created the Center for Excellence in Science and Math,” Twiggs said. “Mrs. Tisdale revitalized the Honors College.”
At its establishment in 1994, the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College enrolled 84 students. According to Claflin’s website, there are more than 250 students registered in the program today.
Earlier this year in April, Henry Tisdale announced that he would be retiring on June 30, 2019. Alice Tisdale will be retiring with her husband as well.
Twiggs said the couple deserved the retirement because “they poured their heart and soul into Claflin.”
“We weren’t just getting Dr. Tisdale, we were getting a dynamic duo,” Twiggs said, “a dynamic duo called Alice and Henry.”
Among other things for which Twiggs commended the president was the improvement of the university’s choir.
“One of the first things he did when he got here was hire a good choir director,” Twiggs said. “That was Dr. Isaiah McGee.”
Under McGee’s leadership, the choir earned a $1 million donation from philanthropist Darla Moore, who was moved by the choir’s performance in 2012.
“So, we’ve got a million-dollar choir!” Twiggs said.
McGee served for 18 years as the choir director before Jason Dungee succeeded him in August of this year.
Twiggs also talked about the accomplishments of Charles Bates, the first black architect registered in America and the author of the first architectural book published by an African-American.
“Tingley Hall is the most distinguished building in Orangeburg,” Twiggs said when he talked about the work of the architect and Claflin alumnus, William Cooke, who designed the hall.
Cooke studied under Bates, who was also a Claflin alumnus and faculty member at the university.
Twiggs earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Claflin University in 1956. After his address, he dedicated a painting of Cooke to the university to be hung in Tingley Memorial Hall.
At the convocation, James Bennett received the 2018 Bythewood Award, an honor given by the university’s board of trustees for remarkable contributions to the university.
Bennett served as the chair of the capital campaign that earned the university over $105 million.
“Wow! I can’t think of any greater honor than to be recognized by Claflin University,” he said in his acceptance speech. “It has been an honor to serve alongside Dr. Tisdale.”
Bennett has been on the university’s board of trustees for 12 years. He said it was a journey.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Alice Tisdale for that journey,” he said, “to thank Dr. Tisdale for the journey and to thank you, the Claflin family, for being a part of my journey.”
The chairman of the board of trustees, James Lehman, presented the award to Bennett. Lehman applauded the awardee’s work as a “really a remarkable expression of leadership.”
The theme of the sesquicentennial was “150 years: Celebrating Academic Excellence and Visionary Leadership,” Henry Tisdale said in his welcome speech.
He said the university will continue to strive to maintain its successes in financial discipline and academic achievements by faculty and students.
“Claflin has much to celebrate on this day and the days, weeks and months that will follow,” he said. “We owe it to this great institution to ensure that her legacy lives and spreads throughout the nation and the world.”