Our Journey Forward

April 8, 2014

Dear Carolina Family,

Last Sept. 11, 2013, with a deep sense of history, we invited Dr. Henrie Monteith Treadwell and Mr. James Solomon to the University of South Carolina to retrace their remarkable steps. It was 50 years to the day that Henrie, James and Robert Anderson had quietly but courageously become the first African-American students since Reconstruction to enroll at Carolina.

Prior to 1963, qualified African-Americans had been denied admission to the state’s flagship university. That was a grievous wrong. It took much too long, and it was much too hard, to make it right. Last September, with that in mind, we were all moved when Henrie eloquently said, “So many people walked up those steps with me—carried me up those steps. I was confident, I was supported, and I’m still supported.”

Throughout this academic year we have been honored by the generosity, wisdom and talent of faculty and staff members, students and our many guests who were eager to help us commemorate this important milestone. We were inspired by civil rights pioneers Andrew Young and Diane Nash. We watched in awe as Alvin Ailey II danced. We honored the anniversary through our MLK Days of Service, and we applauded as three new bricks, dedicated to Henrie, James and Robert, were installed on the historic Horseshoe.

This weekend USC’s formal commemoration draws to a close with two special events. On Friday, April 11, at 11 a.m., the 1963 Desegregation Commemorative Garden will be dedicated. This reflective spot, just steps away from the Osborne Administration Building, acknowledges the past while anticipating a future of unity and growth. The garden will feature living sculptures created by topiary artist Pearl Fryar and poetry penned by professor and poet Nikky Finney. I anticipate the garden will become a beloved place for me and also for many others in the Carolina family.

Saturday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. we will celebrate “Our Journey Forward” at the Koger Center. This event offers a multimedia performance with original choreography performed by Wideman/Davis Dance, new compositions by Professor Bert Ligon and performances by the USC Gospel Choir and Carolina Alive. Admission is free. What a magnificent tribute to our ongoing journey forward!

As we look ahead to the 2014–15 academic year, our students have elected Lindsay Richardson as the new student body president. Her moving inaugural speech reminded me of Henrie’s comments not so long ago. Lindsay said, “I want to thank those who went before me, who paved the way for another African-American woman to become president. We are all Gamecocks at heart, but there is something to be said about the importance of acknowledging those who came before us and who paved the way for us to thrive and lead at the university. As we celebrated the 50th anniversary of desegregation this past year, a special thank you to the brave pioneers who are the reason I am standing here today.”

I couldn’t say it better.

Harris Pastides