USCB historic campus receives healthy boost

Three Beaufort men deserved the recognition they received recently for helping build a brighter future for an important institution in Beaufort County.

Former Lt. Gov. W. Brantley Harvey Jr., former Beaufort County Council Chairman Colden Battey and Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling were cited for raising scholarship money for the University of South Carolina Beaufort's historic campus in Beaufort.

USC President Harris Pastides came to town to drive home the importance of their accomplishment: They went into the community to raise 25 $1,000 scholarships for the Beaufort College Art Scholarship Fund, and came back with even more than that, Pastides reported. They got 54 pledges for a four-year commitment of $1,000 a year, more than doubling their original goal.

"We know that their ongoing commitment will inspire more people to give their support to making the Historic Beaufort campus a full-service residential arts campus," Pastides said.

It also was announced that retired attorney David Lott of Beaufort has issued a challenge grant that could bring the scholarship fund total to more than $350,000. If the challenge is met, Lott plans to donate $30,000.

This is the degree of community support it will take for the campus that dates to 1795 to remain a vital part of Beaufort.

Scholarship money is a good way to increase enrollment in USCB's new bachelor of arts in studio arts program. The program gives the old campus new vision and purpose. It is a focus that can bring great economic and cultural benefits to the city and region.

The program is already showing positive signs in only its second school year. It has grown from 28 students to 40, a rising arc that could some day result in a complete college of the arts that could include music and drama.

Support from USCB Chancellor Jane Upshaw's administration is strong. More than $2 million has been invested in the program over the past year. A historic home near campus was purchased to house 16 residential students next year.

Art education is a natural for Beaufort, a city rich in environmental beauty overlaid with architectural excellence and historic preservation. It is a city with strong arts interests, including many private galleries, an orchestra, youth orchestra, the Beaufort International Film Festival, the USCB Arts Center, and the USCB Festival Series, which begins its 33rd season on Nov. 6.

As Mayor Keyserling points out, the scholarship pledges made by residents and businesses will multiply local ownership in the success of the school.

Scholarships will enable the school to compete not simply for students, but also for the best students, who will determine its future.

The scholarship fund successes, and its continuing challenge for more pledges, indicate a healthy degree of local support, which will make or break a program with great promise.