University of South Carolina

40 years and counting

By Liz McCarthy,, 803-777-2848

Peter Kilmann, Dan Reger and Charles Fugo have worked at Carolina for 40 years. The professors are three of the longest-serving employees at the university, a distinction they share with seven other system-wide faculty and staff members.

The professors, from psychology, chemistry and music, came to USC for a variety of reasons, but they all stayed simply because they liked the university, Columbia and their colleagues. 

Peter Kilmann, psychology

In January 1973, Peter Kilmann visited USC from Utah, where he was finishing his graduate degree. He thought he was visiting the sunny South where “winter” was entirely different from his previous homes in the Northeast or the West. Instead, he arrived during a blizzard.

But he was warmly welcomed by the university’s psychology department. Forty years later Kilmann continues teaching psychology. Although he could have moved on to other academic opportunities, he decided to stay. And it was an easy decision.

“I like the area. I like the university,” he says. “This is a positive atmosphere. The simplest way to say it – I liked it here.”

In the ’70s, psychology faculty members had close bonds, playing team sports together. There was a lot of camaraderie, he says. 

Kilmann’s research focuses on relationships – why people choose certain companions, what makes relationships difficult or how to prevent relationship distress. But he mostly enjoys teaching students and talking about their relationship experiences.

“I like teaching students about relationships and having them ask me questions about their own relationships,” he says. “It’s a practical course. Even though the class is in an academic framework, it’s one of the more practical courses students can take because relationships cut across every part of life.”

USC has seen a lot of changes in 40 years – from the growth of campus to a larger student body -- and Kilmann’s been around to watch.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth changes – the department has grown and so has the status of the university,” he says. “Students ask more challenging questions and seem more comfortable asking challenging and sensitive questions.”

Dan Reger, chemistry

Dan Reger began his career at USC after receiving his doctorate from MIT. That was more than 40 years ago. 

When Reger first joined the Carolina faculty in 1972 in the chemistry and biochemistry department, he was teaching freshmen chemistry classes to about 120 students. Today the introductory chemistry classes can exceed 280 students. 

That’s just one small thing that has changed through the years. Overall, Reger says teaching chemistry at USC today isn’t much different, although the students are better prepared now.  The chemistry department hasn’t changed much either, he says, always focusing on research, teaching and teamwork.  

“The culture in this chemistry department is unusually good,” he says. “People work hard and are supportive of each other. And teaching is very important to us all.” 

Through the years, he has taught more than 5,000 undergraduates and had 33 doctoral students graduate. 

“It’s been neat to continue to work with people who are really interested in science and help them develop into high quality scientists,” Reger says. “I love the science, but what makes it really fun is working with young people as they’re developing their own skills.” 

Forty years ago, he didn’t realize he’d found a place – a lab, a university, a department – he wouldn’t want to leave. 

“It turned out to be the perfect fit for me. I really love to teach and do research,” he says. “This has been a place where I’ve been able to do them both and be successful at both.”

Charles Fugo, music

Charles Fugo first came to USC 40 years ago as a graduate student, preparing for his first job in academia. The School of Music was his first interview.

“I really liked the place so I came here,” says Fugo, a piano professor.

And he didn’t leave -- he never had a need to. Fugo found his niche teaching applied piano almost immediately, and he had found a place that gave him the freedom to teach and perform.

“The faculty is extremely collegial and very accomplished and that has only increased with the years,” he says. “I thought it was a very good situation. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do.”

In the 41 years he has been teaching at USC, he has seen quite a change in the music school at Carolina.

“It’s grown in stature. It’s grown in volume,” he says. “The students are at a completely different level. It’s been an exciting time to be here. When I came in, I was told we might be on the ground floor of something big. And that’s exactly what’s happened.”

Fugo says he hopes to continue to be a part of a music program that continues to get better.

“It’s a wonderful place to be working and teaching and I hope to be able to continue it,” he said. 

40 and counting

The Division of Human Resources honors individuals who have been working for the university for 20, 30 and 40 years. This year’s recipients of the State Service Awards for 40 years of service are:

  • Michael Felder
  • Helen West
  • Donna Ford
  • James Cox
  • Charles Fugo
  • William Pirkle
  • Daniel Reger
  • Bobby Gist
  • Katherine Hepfer
  • Peter Kilmann

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Posted: 04/11/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 05/14/13 @ 10:43 AM | Permalink