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  • Joe Siren

After nearly five decades of service, Siren announces retirement

After serving the Salkehatchie community for nearly 50 years, Professor Joe Siren has announced his retirement as speech and history instructor for the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie.  

“USC Salkehatchie and Allendale couldn't be more grateful for the time Joe Siren has devoted to our campus, our students and our community,” Dean April Cone said.  “Joe is full of knowledge and wisdom that is simply irreplaceable. He's been a staple on our campus and in our local communities, yet his impact reaches far beyond.”

Professor Siren arrived in Allendale in 1974 as a teacher for Allendale-Fairfax High School, never intending to stay more than a year.  He joined the USC Salkehatchie family in 1975 when he became part of the concurrent high school program.  During his time at Salkehatchie, students selected Siren USC Salkehatchie Professor of the Year six times (1982, 1995, 2005, 2013, 2014 and 2016).

As a nationally recognized high school debate coach at Allendale-Fairfax High School, Professor Siren prepared teams that routinely defeated larger, wealthier schools at competitions held around the country including Harvard, Stanford and UNC. His debate team members were accepted to some of the most prestigious universities in the country including Yale, Princeton, Duke, Boston College, Georgia Tech and the U.S. Air Force Academy.  He inspired and changed the lives of hundreds of students, both in high school and in college, and helped them discover that they could compete with anyone.  

“If you see the list of people who came from Allendale and came through that debate program and where they are and what they're doing now, it is just simply amazing. Thank you, Joe, for everything you've done, and especially for two of my children,” Wilbur Cave said. 

Professor Siren’s extensive international travels to over 150 countries not only inspired and educated his students, but also are the foundation for one of USC Salkehatchie’s most visible features – the flags of the Atrium.  Today, the collection is still growing as international students and faculty add their flags to the souvenirs from Siren’s journeys. 

Even with all his achievements and the lives he has impacted, Siren is known as one of the humblest people you could meet. 

“Sometimes you get some undue attention that some of my hard-working colleagues should have received.  So that’s kind of unfair,” he said.  “I don’t care much for the hoopla.”

If it were up to Professor Siren, he would stay in the classroom, but medical circumstances expedited his retirement. 

“I would keep on going. It's been fun. It's never been labor. And I appreciate all of you. You have given me some great children, siblings or whatever to teach, so I appreciate it,” he said. “I'm sorry it's ending. I've had enough flattery. It's going to be hard.”

Those who wish to honor Professor Siren can make a donation to the Joe Siren Endowed Scholarship Fund (B11496) through which his influence will continue.  The scholarship is awarded to a graduate from Allendale-Fairfax High School or Barnwell High School, with the preference for a student majoring in history