Upcoming gala to honor SC public school graduates and educators

Columbia, SC—Three accomplished South Carolina public school graduates and three lifelong educators are going to be honored at an upcoming gala.

The South Carolina Foundation for Educational Leadership, South Carolina Association of School Administrators’ (SCASA) non-profit arm, is hosting its third annual gala on Friday, March 29, 2019, at the Columbia Marriott at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate the impact of public education and how it contributed to the personal careers and achievements of the six honorees.

2019 Distinguished South Carolina Public School Graduates:


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Craig Melvin

Craig Melvin (Columbia High School, Richland District One) of NBC News’ TODAY describes the significance of his public education, “If it weren’t for my public school teachers and administrators in South Carolina, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be ‘distinguished’ at anything. As a student at H.B. Rhame Elementary, St. Andrews Middle, and Columbia High, I reaped the benefits of having a support system that was genuinely interested in seeing me thrive. They were patient nurturers who cultivated my curiosity. Several of my teachers were especially patient with the kid who didn’t always raise his hand, sit still, or keep his thoughts to himself. Many saw something in me before I saw it in myself. I’m forever thankful for them… I dedicate (this recognition) to them—the underappreciated, over worked, but impactful group of SC educators who lifted a kid from Columbia, SC, and gave him the confidence and skills he needed to become a journalist.”

Lou Kennedy (Lexington High School, Lexington District One), president, CEO, and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, also discussed her connection to public education, “I am honored to receive the South Carolina Distinguished Public School Graduate award. It is particularly humbling to be included with such remarkable peers. This recognition allows us to highlight the success that may be achieved with a fantastic public school system. I am forever thankful for my Lexington County education, and certainly the foundation I received from my years at the University of South Carolina. Many teachers are responsible for inspiring me to do my best, none more so than my mother. As my first-grade teacher, she encouraged me to excel, not only with grades but in all things. My father was a 15-year night instructor with Midlands Technical College, so you could say that education is truly a part of my DNA.”

Dr. Anne Lamb Matthews (Lake City High School, Florence District Three), the first woman to be named Vice President of Rotary International, and the first woman to serve on both the Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees and the Rotary International Board of Directors, said of her South Carolina public education, “In all honesty, I received the very best public education one could possibly receive. The public school preparation has given me a rewarding life, having reached the pinnacle of a career where I served as the leader of several national education organizations and in key leadership roles in Rotary International. In addition, I have traveled and worked or spoken in 68 countries and all 50 states. The foundation for my wonderful, rewarding career and life must be attributed to the academic preparation given to me by teachers. My sincere and humbling appreciation for this tremendous honor must be dedicated to my teachers.”

In addition to honoring these distinguished public school graduates, the SC Foundation for Educational Leadership is inducting three public school leaders into the South Carolina Educator Hall of Fame.

The 2019 South Carolina Educator Hall of Fame Inductees:

Dr. Cyril Busbee (posthumous)
A graduate of Wagener High School (Aiken County) in 1924, Dr. Busbee was a lifelong educator and was elected SC Superintendent of Education three times. As SC Superintendent from 1966–1979, Dr. Busbee oversaw the integration of South Carolina’s public schools.

Joseph Kenyon “Ken” East (posthumous)
A graduate of Lineville High School (Lineville, AL) in 1929, Mr. East started the first public kindergarten program in South Carolina. He was greatly responsible for the founding of what is now Coastal Carolina University and is considered the “Father of Adult Education in South Carolina.”

Dr. Karen Woodward
A graduate of Greenwood High School (Greenwood District 50) in 1960, Dr. Woodward has 31 years of experience as district superintendent for Union County Schools, Anderson District Five, and Lexington District One. She is a lifelong educator and has been recognized nationally by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) with the 2014 Women in School Leadership Award.

Tickets are sold out for the “Seasons of Love Gala: The Story Never Ends,” but you can still support the SC Foundation for Educational Leadership by purchasing a heart at scleadershipfoundation.org to celebrate, thank, or honor someone who has helped write your story. Funds raised from the gala and the sale of hearts support the Foundation’s school leadership development programs.