New board member, a Gamecock from birth
By John Brunelli, 803-777-3697
Family means everything to Paula Harper Bethea. After high school, she chose to stay close to her Estill, S.C., home and attend the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie.
Bethea's father died during her freshman year. She says it was her fellow students and the faculty and staff at the two-year campus in Allendale who helped her through the difficult time. They also taught her a lesson that she remembers more than 35 years later.
"I learned about the way you treat people. And the way you nurture people and the way you care for people," she says. She also realized she was part of the Gamecock family.
Bethea's Gamecock family and love for Carolina grew after marriage. Her husband, Bill, was elected to the board of trustees and served for 11 years.
During her husband's service, Bethea immersed herself in university life. She met dignitaries such as Jehan Sadat, the astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and Pope John Paul II. The experience gave her great insight into the university's operation. "I was able to see how every person makes a difference at a university this size," she says.
"This university is as much a part of me as what I've done in my profession. It's just who I am."
Bethea was elected president of the My Carolina Alumni Association, which means she follows her husband as a member of the board of trustees. Her two-year term coincides with the construction of the alumni center. The 60,000-square-foot building will open in the summer of 2015.
The $27 million center is being paid for with private donations. Bethea is helping raise those funds because she knows the Gamecock family, like all families, needs a home.
"For the first time, all of our alumni will have a place that they can come, where they can celebrate weddings or reunions, where they will really feel at home," says Bethea. "The alumni represent everything that is right about this university."
But it's not just alumni affairs, which excites Bethea about Carolina's future. She welcomes endeavors such as the university's online degree program, Palmetto College. "We're all in different places in our lives that require that we get our education in different ways," she says.
And the importance of being with family while becoming a member of the Gamecock family is something Bethea understands.
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