State humanities award documents local assets

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 3, 2013 

Historian Stephen Wise of Beaufort has long been known in this community for his contributions to humanities research, education and scholarship.

Now it is good to see these contributions appreciated on a larger stage. He is to be one of three recipients next month of the Governor's Award in the Humanities given annually by the Humanities Council of South Carolina.

It goes to people who have promoted public understanding of the humanities and have demonstrated excellence in defining South Carolina's cultural life to the nation or world.

As director of the museum at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Wise is a leader in explaining Beaufort County's unmatched history. The museum not only documents the military history, but traces our roots to the days of Native Americans and the first European colonization in 1562.

He has written and edited books on Civil War activities in the Lowcountry, including the acclaimed "Gate of Hell: The Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863."

He has taught history at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, and helped document and preserve the history of his Old Commons neighborhood in Beaufort.

Most people may know him, however, for his willingness to share his research and knowledge in countless talks and symposiums.

We appreciate his work as a fact-finder, a seeker of the truth through primary sources. Beaufort County's history is so rich, it does not need embellishment. It needs the verification and documentation that Wise has spent his adult life pursuing. We all are richer for that.

Wise also is a key figure, along with Larry Rowland, in writing the definitive history of Beaufort County, with the newest volumes anticipated soon.

Rowland, history professor emeritus at USCB, is himself a previous recipient of this award. Other winners from our community include authors Pat Conroy and John Jakes and the late state Rep. Harriet Keyserling.

Twenty years ago, Keyserling was instrumental in the Humanities Council of South Carolina holding its first statewide humanities festival. Beaufort was selected as the host city for the first three festivals. Keyserling wrote that Beaufort was chosen "for several good reasons: a strong arts council, attractive inns and restaurants, a university and our many cultural resources, including the unique African-American community of St. Helena Island, which would be featured." A performance at the festival by the Hallelujah Singers helped put that group -- and the Lowcountry's Gullah culture -- on the international stage.

Let us not take for granted the local talent and traditions, represented in this case by Stephen Wise, that others appreciate once they see it.

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