Charlie Way is turning 80 and says he is slowing down, honoring the wishes of his family. In his native Orangeburg, his resulting decision to retire as chairman of the South Carolina State University board of trustees has special significance.
The renowned Charleston businessman and S.C. Business Hall of Fame member has been leader of the trustees at the state’s only publicly supported historically black university since 2015, accepting an appointment to the board and election as its chairman amid a crisis that threatened to close the institution.
He did not have to take on the mission at S.C. State, which he described in his own way as “getting this ox out of the ditch.”
The 2-1/2 years since have produced a major turnaround at S.C. State. It was not without pain but the efforts by Way, the specially appointed board and a revamped administration have been successful. Today S.C. State is operating with a balanced budget, is no longer at risk of losing accreditation and is seeing enrollment back on the rise. The university is looking upward and outward.
Way is owed many thanks for being at the helm and for the loyalty he showed to the university, his hometown and the state.
Yet the biggest thank you that could be offered Way is to prove his work will not be in vain.
S.C. State has many needs, including infrastructure, and the challenges it faces are real in a competitive world of higher education. There can be no resting on the laurels of today and no return to the problems of the past.
The first order of business is the board of trustees. The present members, including Way, were appointed with a legislative mandate to conclude their service in 2018. A new board is to be elected by the General Assembly in the coming session, though Way and others (including The Times and Democrat) have urged lawmakers to change the plan and retain present board members willing to continue serving.
Otherwise, an entirely new board of trustees will take over in 2018, with no continuity other than President James Clark, selected by the board from among its ranks to lead the school.
Already the filing process for the board seats resulted in only one application, with the state then going the unusual route of reopening the application process. Today is the new deadline for persons to apply.
As much as we expect the slate ultimately will include a candidate for each seat – and the people seeking to serve may be fine individuals – it is unwise to make a wholesale transition to another board.
As Way might say: No one wants the ox back in the ditch.
When he was named T&D Person of the Year in 2016, Way said, “S.C. State will probably be my last hurrah because of my age. I just want to do as much for S.C. State as humanly possible before I go on.”