Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, will deliver the keynote message at Claflin University's Founders' Day Convocation at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Jones T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.

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Founders' Day is an annual celebration of Claflin's legacy as the first historically black college/university in South Carolina.

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Claflin University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate and master’s degrees. Every 10 years, all accredited colleges in the southern states must be reaffirmed to demonstrate that they continue to meet the accreditation standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Claflin University was first accredited by SACS in 1948. The next reaffirmation is 2021.

Wheelan is the first African American and the first woman to serve as president of SACSCOC. Her career spans more than 40 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and secretary of education. In several of those roles, she was the first African American and/or woman to serve in those capacities.

Wheelan received a bachelor's degree from Trinity University in Texas (1972) with a double major in psychology and sociology, her a master's degree from Louisiana State University (1974) in developmental educational psychology and a doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Austin (1984) in educational administration with a special concentration in community college leadership.

She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including six honorary degrees; the Distinguished Graduate Award from Trinity University (2002), and from the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin (1992); Washingtonian Magazine's 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C. (2001); the AAUW Woman of Distinction Award (2002); the Suanne Davis Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development's Distinguished Lecturer Award (2007); the John E. Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development's International Leadership Award (2010); the AACC Leadership Award (2011); the John Hope Franklin Award from Diverse Issues in Higher Education for outstanding leadership in higher education; the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Terry O'Banion Prize in Education from the League for Innovation in Community Colleges; and in 2017, Central Virginia Community College named her president emerita.

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She holds and has held membership in numerous local, state and national organizations, including Rotary International; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; the American College Testing Inc. Board of Directors; American Association of Community Colleges Board of Directors; the Lumina Foundation for Education Board of Directors; the President's Round Table of the National Council on Black American Affairs; the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Board of Directors; Excelencia in Education Board of Directors; National Society of Collegiate Scholars Community College Honorary Board; Next Generation Learning Challenges Advisory Panel; Project GOALS (Gaining Online Accessible Learning Through Self-Study); and the National Student Clearinghouse Board of Directors.

Wheelan attributes her success to hard work, endurance, tenacity and being in the right place at the right time. She recognizes that prayer and support from family and friends make anything possible.

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She is the mother of an adult son, Reginald.

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