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Lifelong Learners Give Back

Scholarship established at USC Lancaster

Sandra Edwards, posing with her husband, in a cap and gown, celebrates graduating with a master's degree from the Darla Moore School of Business.

Academic support, tuition and supplies, housing, and transportation are often only the beginning of a series of hurdles first-generation college students face as they embark on their higher education journey. If they pursue a master’s or medical degree, the hurdles can grow even more daunting.

Sandra Edwards, posing with her children, celebrates graduating with a master's degree from the Darla Moore School of Business.
Sandra Edwards with her children

Daunting, however, does not mean impossible, as evidenced by Dr. Malcolm and Sandra Edwards, who, without the University of South Carolina Lancaster, believe they would have never been able to land the opportunities that have enabled them to give back today.

As first-generation college students, the two understand the struggle firsthand. With all the costs associated with transportation, tuition, books and housing, a move to Columbia was not feasible. 

Enter: the University of South Carolina Lancaster.

For the high school sweethearts, attending college in their hometown allowed them to continue to spend time with each other as well as their families and friends, keep part-time jobs and prepare themselves for adulthood.

“It was a great opportunity for me because I could stay home and work and commute,” Sandra says. “I am very appreciative because I would have never had that opportunity without it.”

Once it was time to hit the books, Malcolm realized it would take more than class attendance to be successful. If he wanted a biology degree, he needed to learn how to study. Without prior examples to guide him, his professors stepped in with encouragement. Whenever he felt tempted to quit, they were there to tell him to keep pushing forward.

“They see something in you that you don’t see yourself,” Malcolm says.

We hope that it changes a life, and that person's life changes a generation.

Malcolm Edwards

The perseverance paid off. When Malcolm graduated from USC Lancaster in 1979, he and Sandra moved to Columbia so he could attend the School of Medicine. Since the completion of his medical degree in 1984, the Edwards family has lived in Lancaster, where Malcolm works as an ophthalmologist.

Their children, Brandon and Kristen, followed in their parents’ footsteps and also attended USC Lancaster.

“It was comforting knowing they could be close to home,” Malcolm says. “I can’t say enough about how [USC Lancaster] helped my entire family.”

Although Sandra got her bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Winthrop University, she knew her time at USC wasn’t over. In 2017, she earned her master’s degree from the Darla Moore School of Business, a pivotal moment and point of pride for the family, Malcolm says.

Going back to school with much younger peers could have been discouraging, but she rose to the occasion, determined to prove that education was important — and achievable — no matter the age or life stage of the student.

Sandra Edwards, posing with her grandchildren, celebrates graduating with a master's degree from the Darla Moore School of Business.
Sandra Edwards with her grandchildren

Their life after USC has just “fallen into place,” Malcolm says. With their children grown and starting families of their own, the couple began reflecting on their young adulthood, with all the struggles and triumphs therein.

To celebrate their successes, they decided to give back to the campus that gave them so much.

Their decision to fund full-ride scholarships for USC Lancaster students came from personal experience. Having a college campus so close to home made all the difference for them. All they want now is for others to have the same opportunities they did — and maybe, go beyond.

“We hope that it changes a life,” Malcolm says, “and that person’s life will change a generation.”


This story first appeared in Carolina's Future magazine. Learn more about giving at the University of South Carolina.