The Boeing Co. has provided the University of South Carolina with a $1.5 million gift to establish the James E. and Emily E. Clyburn Endowed Chair of Public Service and Civic Engagement Fund. This endowed chair, awarded to associate professor Bobby Donaldson, will allow the university’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research to further its programming and outreach initiatives within the university community and across the state of South Carolina.
University President Michael Amiridis was joined by Donaldson, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, leaders from Boeing and other university officials on Thursday (Oct. 20) to announce the gift.
“Boeing has been a valued and committed partner of our university for more than a decade, supporting academic programs, research innovation and community service,” President Amiridis said. “Through this generous gift, we are proud to join Boeing in honoring the outstanding civic contributions of Congressman Clyburn and his wife, Emily, and advancing their legacy of public service and outreach.”
Endowed chairs are the university’s most prestigious faculty recognition, and Boeing’s commitment to fund this endowed chair continues its philanthropic relationship with the university. In 2021, Boeing provided a $225,000 grant to support the university’s Veterans Legal Clinic and to expand the clinic’s free services to low-income veterans living in South Carolina. It then gave $125,000 more to the clinic in 2022. The company believes the Clyburn chair will further promote public service and civic engagement in South Carolina by allowing the university to attract and retain outstanding faculty.
“At Boeing, we have a profound respect for Congressman James Clyburn and Emily Clyburn’s civil rights activism and leadership,” said Ziad Ojakli, executive vice president of Government Operations at Boeing. “We are thankful to partner with the University of South Carolina to honor their legacy through this newly established endowed chair at the Center for Civil Rights History and Research. Chairs will have access to the resources they need to deepen their knowledge of and continue sharing civil rights history — a pursuit we proudly support.”
James and Emily Clyburn met in 1960 as students at then South Carolina State College after participating in a civil rights demonstration. The two were wed from 1961 until Emily’s passing in 2019. Throughout their 58 years together, they left a lasting legacy across the state of South Carolina and the nation — Emily as a librarian and civil rights activist, and James as a national congressman and majority whip.
James Clyburn hopes that this endowed chair, at the university where he attended law school and Emily earned her master’s, will spur the next wave of civic leadership within the Palmetto state.
“I am truly humbled by Boeing’s gift in honor of the contributions Emily and I have made to civic engagement, and I am pleased that their generosity will support the important work that Dr. Donaldson and the USC Center for Civil Rights History and Research is doing,” said Congressman Clyburn. “This center serves as the premier repository of our civil rights history in South Carolina, and will be a significant conduit by which future generations will learn lessons that hopefully help ensure we don’t repeat our past mistakes. Today’s announcement furthers the mission and reach of the center with a talented leader at the helm, who is dedicated to engaging the community in a public discourse about our past, present and future.”
The Center for Civil Rights History and Research was founded at the university in 2015 with the goal of chronicling the contributions of the state upon the larger American civil rights movement. That same year, Clyburn gave his congressional papers to the center, forming the cornerstone of its collection. These papers, its Justice for All exhibit and its partnership with the National Park Service have allowed the center to highlight South Carolina’s role in civil rights history.
As the first Clyburn chair, Donaldson plans to continue sharing this history through his scholarship as a historian and as the executive director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research.
“I am deeply honored by the appointment as the inaugural James E. and Emily E. Clyburn Chair of Public Service and Civic Engagement at the University of South Carolina,” Donaldson said. “Plans to develop a Civil Rights Center began with a dinner conversation with Congressman and Mrs. Clyburn eight years ago on the stage of the historic Booker T. Washington High School auditorium. Since that time, we have made tremendous strides by expanding our archival holdings, scholarly endeavors, public programming, and community engagement initiatives.
“This is an exciting and phenomenal moment for the center. I wish to extend my thanks to Boeing for joining us as a partner in this critically important work. The company's generous and significant investment enables us to take the center to higher heights as we advance our teaching, research and outreach mission.”