Dignitaries honor Hollings, celebrate library dedication
By Peggy Binette, email@example.com, 803-777-5400
In near record-breaking heat, a crowd of 1,240 had an even hotter ticket in town --- one that got them into the dedication of the University of South Carolina's new Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, where Vice President Joe Biden entertained the audience and paid homage to his friends and former colleague.
The noon ceremony, attended by friends and family of former Sen. Ernest F. Hollings as well as dignitaries and university faculty, staff and students, took place inside the Thomas Cooper Library, which is connected to the Hollings Library by a glass-enclosed walkway. Biden spoke affectionately of Hollings, whom he sat next to for 36 years in the U.S. Senate, and congratulated the university on its new library. U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, Hollings and USC President Dr. Harris Pastides also spoke.
"I congratulate the University of South Carolina on the brand new Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library," Biden said. "I'm told you have some pretty incredible volumes, and I was able to see some of them. I saw a first edition of ‘Paradise Lost,' the original galleys of Ernest Hemingway's ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls' and the South Carolina Political Collections, which are some of the finest political archives in the country."
Biden spoke about Hollings as his mentor and a leader passionate about the health and education of children. He credited Hollings for being ahead of the curve for establishing a technical college system in South Carolina, for his key role in helping to create NOAA and for his 1970 book, "The Case Against Hunger," which propelled children's nutrition to the forefront of public and policy discussion nationally.
"I think he (Hollings) is the most significant national figure to ever come out of this or any state," said Biden who conveyed Hollings' deep love for his home state. "South Carolina owns his heart. No one cares more about this state than this man."
Expecting to hear an outspoken and passionate Hollings on policy and politics, people in attendance were not disappointed. Hollings treated the crowd to rousing rhetoric and a fiery talk on the economy and trade.
But his deep love for the state, and his loyalty to the university, also were on display.
"Mister vice president, the University of South Carolina is the first and oldest publicly funded university in the United States," Hollings said. He enumerated other university achievements, including its standing as a Carnegie research university, its international rankings and its College World Series championship.
And, showing his trademark humor, Hollings said, "Any association with the University of South Carolina is an honor, and to receive this distinction -- to almost quote our distinguished vice president - ‘this is a big blinking deal,'" he said.
The guest list read like a who's who in state and local leadership. Among the recognizable faces were Sen. Lindsey Graham, whom Hollings invited on the stage; Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal, former Gov. Jim Hodges, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, as well as members of the USC Board of Trustees and the S.C. General Assembly.
Pastides welcome guests and honored Hollings, calling the new library a fitting tribute to his lasting commitment to the university and its library collections.
"This library, which we may affectionately call ‘the Fritz,' is a testament to his commitment and to the belief that the road to success is through learning, and therefore this library will open up new and greater opportunities for all who enter," Pastides said.
The Hollings library, which is connected to the Thomas Cooper Library by a glass-enclosed walkway on the main level, was completed in June. In addition to the S.C. Political Collections, the $18 million, 50,000-square-foot facility will house the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and Digital Collections.
Hollings was instrumental in securing the $14 million in federal funds for the building. The cornerstone of the S.C. Political Collections is Hollings personal papers, which he gave to the university in 1989. In addition to the library, a second building on campus bears his name. The Ernest F. Hollings National Advocacy Center, a training facility for the Department of Justice, opened in 1998.