Letter to editor: Thank you to Morris College for helping students succeed in life


Dear President Leroy Staggers,

As I reached out from the nation's capital to write this letter as a professor of English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., I am grateful to Morris College for allowing students who otherwise would not have had an opportunity to succeed in life to be admitted to this historic college in Sumter. Morris College has given me the opportunity to excel in life in three compelling ways that no other institution of higher education in the United States gave me.

A few weeks ago, I marched across the stage at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, to receive a post-graduate executive certificate in higher education administration. When my good friend, Frank Avinger, from Holly Hill, South Carolina, called me from Boston to congratulate me upon reaching yet another milestone, he sternly reminded me of the message my mother and grandparents taught me: "Never forget where you came from. Never forget Morris College. Morris College was the gateway to your success," he said. After we reminisced about our freshman and sophomore years at Morris College, I had no other choice but to construct a letter of gratitude to Morris College - the institution that made the greatest impact on my life.

Approaching the 40th year anniversary of my high school graduation, I can recall the day when I went galloping through the neighborhood in my hometown of Eutawville, South Carolina, showcasing my admissions letter from Morris College during the summer of 1983. I was elated to be accepted into Morris College with a 1.7 grade-point average from high school. Morris College took a risk by admitting me to the university with a remediation plan in place. Morris College overlooked my fault of dropping out of high school as a ninth-grader and saw my need for an education. With the mercy of God and the compassion of President Luns C. Richardson, I was able to enroll into college during the fall semester 1983, after graduating at the bottom of my high school class at Holly Hill-Roberts High School, which is known as Lake Marion High School today.

While I made the headlines in my historical 2021 Johns Hopkins University graduation ceremony by being the first African American male to graduate with a Master of Arts in Teaching Writing from the university, I recognized that it was Morris College that gave me the foundation to pursue, dream, hope and excel in life.

After graduating from high school in 1983, my critics suggested that I should turn Morris College down because I did not have what it took to get through college, that I was not college material and that I should consider going to Job Corps. I turned a deaf ear to the critics. I picked up a copy of then-United States Secretary of Education Terrell Bell's 1983 report, "A Nation at Risk." In reading it, I decided that I wanted to change the trajectory of my academic path and pursue higher learning.

I am grateful that I matriculated higher education at Morris College. Today, as I reflect on three grand opportunities Morris College provided me with, I am grateful to all the staff that worked with me at Morris College from the late Dr. Luns C. Richardson to the late Mrs. Margaret Bailey White, who was my mentor. They each shaped me in different ways and encouraged me along the way.

I am grateful to Morris College for giving me three essential opportunities in gaining my first experience as a college student, in serving as a student leader and in gaining my first experience as a professor. No other institution has done this for me. It was Morris College that set the stage for me to grow professionally.

Here are three reasons I am grateful for Morris College.

1. Morris College accepted me as a student when no other college did.

2. Morris College gave me my first opportunity to develop my leadership by allowing me to serve as vice president of the freshman class and president of the sophomore class.

3. Morris College gave me my first opportunity to become a college professor.

President Staggers, as I close, I wish to thank you for hiring me as an adjunct professor of Political Science at Morris College. That experience opened doors for me to become an English professor at Howard University. I enjoyed working at Morris College during my seven-year tenure from 2007 to 2012. Please pass on my gratitude to Dr. Jacob Butler, who served as my chair, and let him know that I appreciate the guidance, coaching, collaboration and inspiration he shared in shaping me as a professor.

I am grateful that I attended Morris College. For I love its motto, "Enter to Learn: Depart to Serve." This is exactly my testimony today. Lest I forget, thank you, Dr. Staggers, and my entire Morris College family for giving students opportunities to succeed in life.