Wednesday, November 6, 2013

By Thomas C. Keith -- Guest Columnist

COLUMBIA, SC -- Although Benedict is just down the street from my office, it had been several years since I visited the campus. So maybe it’s not so surprising that I had an “aha moment” when the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina was invited to visit recently to receive the School of Business’ 2013 Community Leadership Award.

Our board chair, Dee Dee Chewning, along with Sister Nancy Hendershot and all foundation staff attended the special ceremony. President David Swinton was extremely hospitable, and I found the faculty, staff and students to be engaging, kind, professional and truly interested in the work of the foundation and the individuals and families we serve. And I learned quite a bit that surprised me.

Perceptions oftentimes overshadow reality when people look at an institution like Benedict.

For example, did you know that Benedict College is home to the nationally ranked, award-winning Benedict College Gospel Choir, honors debate team champions, men’s and women’s basketball champions and men’s cross country champions?

Benedict College also has several nationally accredited programs. The social work program was the first such program at a historically black college or university in South Carolina to be accredited by the national Council on Social Work Education. Benedict is the second historically black college in the nation and the first in South Carolina to receive accreditation for its environmental health program by the Environmental Health Accreditation Council. The child development center, which serves more than 70 children, is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The School of Business and Economics and the School of Education also are accredited.

Two Benedict programs have been recognized as tops in their fields. The school was ranked No. 1 in the nation in producing African-Americans with an undergraduate physics degree, and the college’s service-learning program is a national model that serves more than 114 non-profit organizations around the Midlands; it recently won the 6th Annual Commission on Higher Education’s Service Learning Competition.

Benedict College also is in the business of community development. The Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation was established to acquire, rehabilitate, resell or lease substandard housing and remove blight from surrounding college neighborhoods. And the Business Development Center recently partnered with the FDIC to implement its Money Smart program, which teaches people how to understand credit and personal budgets and assesses the cost and benefits of consumer and home loans.

Benedict College’s students and faculty are committed to learning and teaching, and collectively, they are embracing higher education in exciting ways. I witnessed the magnificent choir, stellar student leaders, confident and poised, and young people from all across the country who chose Benedict College for its mission and value added for being part of a historically black college or university.

I hope you will join me in applauding President Swinton, Dean Gerald Smalls and all of Benedict College for their contribution to the Midlands and the state. I now realize more than ever what we have here in Columbia.

Benedict College is a hidden gem that often does not get credit for the education it provides or for the impact it has on preparing students as future leaders. The reality is that this is a great institution that I’m proud to call my neighbor.

Mr. Keith is president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation; contact him at

Source: The State Newspaper