‘Tough minds and tender hearts’: How they made it to Penn Center’s 1862 Circle

Clyburn leads dedication of Reconstruction Era monument

The dedication of the Reconstruction Era National Monument at Penn Center on St. Helena Island. With U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, March 18, 2017.
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The dedication of the Reconstruction Era National Monument at Penn Center on St. Helena Island. With U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, March 18, 2017.

Penn Center has honored two local educators and civic leaders with its highest honor, induction into the 1862 Circle.

Ervena Faulkner of Port Royal and Julius S. Scott Jr. of Hilton Head Island were inducted Saturday night at the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head.

The Penn Center on St. Helena Island established the honor in 2003 to recognize leaders “who embody the spirit of Penn Center and who serve as national advocates for the enduring history and culture of the Sea Islands.”

Penn, founded in 1862 as a school to educate freedmen, was an important gathering place during the civil rights movement and now focuses on preservation of the Gullah-Geechee culture.

Ervena Faulkner

Faulkner and Scott join national figures in the 1862 Circle, including Andrew Young, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Marian Wright Edelman and Juan Williams, as well as local leaders including Emory Campbell, Roland Gardner, Thomas C. Barnwell Jr. and Jonathan Green.

Faulkner is a native of Columbia who came to Beaufort County right out of Allen University in 1959 as a biology and math teacher at St. Helena High School. Nearly 39 years later, she earned a master’s degree and served the local public schools in many capacities for more than 30 years.

For 20 years, she wrote a food column in The Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet, focusing on Lowcountry food and culture, including many stories of local people, traditions and history.

Her book, “Christmas Letters: An African American Story,” shines a light on cultural and family values through her husband, retired educator Willie R. Faulkner, and their children, Tonya, Tracye, William and Chad.

Faulkner’s work in the community involves many organizations centered on education, history, the arts, church, college alumni and sororities. She has been a Penn Center board member, volunteer and grand marshal of its Heritage Days parade.

The Faulkners were named South Carolina Family of the Year in 1989.

Julius S. Scott Jr.

Scott retired to Hilton Head more than 20 years ago from a career in leadership of historically black colleges and universities as well as the United Methodist Church. He is a Texas native who left retirement a number of times, continuing to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was both a pastor and college president.

Scott taught at Brown University and Atlanta University and Spelman College; was a chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas Southern University and Brown; and was in administration at Spelman College, Paine College, Albany State University and Wiley College, his alma mater in Texas.

He has been a college president and interim president on numerous occasions, including two stints as president of Paine College and interim president of the Medical College of Georgia, both in Augusta, where he was a civic leader.

A congressional resolution cited him for “teaching students the importance of developing ‘tough minds and tender hearts.’“

Scott holds a Ph.D. from Boston University and additional degrees from Brown and the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. He was named a distinguished alumnus of Boston University in 1987, and he also holds more than a dozen honorary degrees.

Scott served as secretary of the members of the United Negro College Fund; chair of the secretariat and secretary of the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and as the executive director for higher education for the United Methodist Church with primary responsibility for 128 schools and 623 campus ministries.

Scott met Martin Luther King Jr. at Brown University in the 1960s and served for three years as the director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

On Hilton Head, he has been a founding member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, a trustee of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, and a consultant to the Native Island Business and Cultural Affairs Association.

Last fall, he was elected as pastor emeritus for St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church of Hilton Head and Bluffton. The vote was unanimous and met with a standing ovation.