Harbison Institute Alumna Returns to MTC to Celebrate 100th Birthday on Harbison History Day

Midlands Technical College President Ronald L. Rhames (left) and MTC Commission Chair Garry Powers (right) celebrate the 100th birthday of Harbison Institute alumna Rubie Schumpert (center).

(Columbia, S.C.) To commemorate Black History Month and Harbison History Day, Midlands Technical College (MTC) celebrated a significant birthday on its Harbison Campus, the site of the historic Harbison Institute. Rubie Schumpert, a retired math teacher and alumna of the Harbison Institute, celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by her family and alumni friends. Every February, MTC honors the long tradition of multicultural education offered at the MTC Harbison Campus.

“For almost 40 years, Midlands Technical College has continued to preserve the Harbison Campus for education,” said MTC President Dr. Ronald L. Rhames. “It is an honor that Ms. Schumpert, her fellow alumni, and her family members came here to celebrate the long tradition of open-door access to higher education offered here. This is one of those days when we can feel the great heritage and tradition of this campus.”

MTC invited Schumpert and her fellow alumni to its Harbison Campus to celebrate her birthday as part of Black History Month’s Harbison History Day. Shumpert, a 1937 graduate of Harbison Institute, said that during her 100 years, she has personally seen how the legacy of the Harbison Campus has taken root in the community.

“Harbison Institute really made some strong women and men in this area,” said Schumpert, who went on to earn degrees from Barber Scotia College and Benedict College, then returned to Harbison where she taught elementary math. “Without Harbison, I think we would have been at a loss for improving our status in life,” she said.

Other graduates of Harbison Institute went on to become distinguished teachers, lawyers, and civic leaders who greatly advanced the vitality and cultural heritage of South Carolina. Some returned to Harbison to help celebrate Schumpert’s 100th birthday and to ceremoniously ring the original Harbison Institute bell. MTC preserved the original bell from 1882, dedicating it in a new bell pavilion on the Harbison Campus.

“There is just something so uplifting about hearing the sound of that bell that makes us hopeful for the future,” said Rhames.

Over the past years, ringing the Harbison Institute bell has been symbolic of the outstanding educational opportunities afforded the African-American community at Harbison Institute. It signifies the importance of the college to South Carolina’s history.

“Midlands Technical College continues to fulfill the commitment to preserve the campus for education,” said Rhames. “We gather at Harbison each year to remember the significant role that the Harbison Institute played in the evolution of higher education for African-Americans. This is a time to celebrate the historic college that was established on this site, and that was recognized last year with a joint resolution by the South Carolina General Assembly.”

More than 120 legislators sponsored the resolution creating Harbison History Day to honor the long tradition of multicultural education found on the site of the Midlands Technical College Harbison Campus.

To Schumpert, the value of the education offered at the MTC Harbison Campus is generational, and having her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren beside her to celebrate her 100th birthday made the day that much more special.

“My family has benefited from Harbison,” she said. “There are four generations with a long line of education. Now I have a great-granddaughter at Midlands Technical College.”

Schumpert said she faced certain obstacles to education in the racially segregated 1930s that she can only relate in stories to her grandchildren.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “It was a struggle. We didn’t have transportation. We walked to school carrying our books. We didn’t have sufficient clothes. Umbrellas were for rich people, so we walked in the rain.”

With her family and fellow alumni gathered around her as she blew out the candles of her birthday cake, Schumpert reflected on the history of the Harbison Campus while feeling hopeful for the campus’ future.

“My birthday wish is that Harbison will continue to serve the community and educate young people, not only academics but in vocations as well,” Schumpert said. “I want to see students enter those important fields of service like healthcare – the ones that all humankind need. Harbison was started to help black people, but now the campus helps the whole community regardless of race or creed. It will always mean a lot to me.”

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About Midlands Technical College

Midlands Technical College (MTC) is a non-profit, six-campus, two-year public college serving Richland, Lexington, and Fairfield counties in South Carolina. MTC enrolls approximately 15,000 credit students annually making it the fifth-largest provider of higher education in South Carolina and one of the largest providers of transfer students to the University of South Carolina. The Corporate and Continuing Education (CCE) program is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the Southeast, with approximately 15,000 students and provides training to hundreds of area businesses each year. midlandstech.edu

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