Penn Center's legacy reflected in honorees

The Penn Center 1862 Circle continues to enlarge, and for that we are grateful.

Two Beaufort men were added to the circle April 28, joining a strong list of honorees since Emory S. Campbell of Hilton Head Island and Vernon Jordan were the first inductees in 2003.

This year, Louis O. Dore and John Gadsen were honored, along with the University of North Carolina's Wilson Library in Chapel Hill.

The Penn Center board of trustees honors inductees "for their outstanding contributions to the preservation of the rich legacy and history of the Gullah/Geechee culture and their efforts to protect and preserve this culture as a national treasure."

The Penn Center was founded in 1862 on St. Helena Island as a school for formerly enslaved children. Its role has changed through the years to tackle vocational education, preservation of land held by African-Americans, and conservation of the history and culture of the Sea Islands.

Dore is a Beaufort native cited for his work as an attorney, businessman, civic leader and politician. His involvement with Penn Center dates to its land-preservation program in the 1970s. He was a board member for eight years and has advised Penn Center on legal matters. He acted as a legal officer for the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services to bring about changes in health care and economic development in the Lowcountry. He was chairman of the state Board of Education when the Education Improvement Act was enacted.

Gadsen was Penn Center's executive director from 1969 to 1976. Under his leadership, the York W. Bailey Museum was created and Penn Center's 50-acre campus was recognized as a National Historic Landmark. He has continued to serve the community in civic and educational roles. For this honor, Gadsen was cited for "emphasizing the long-term effectiveness of working with people, enabling them and their communities to affect conditions in which they live."

The Wilson Library's Southern Historical Collection is the keeper of Penn Center's papers dating to 1862. The awards are solid reflections of Penn Center's effort for 150 years to improve education, leadership and service in the Lowcountry.