Updated Photo of Dr. Penny Fisher

Dr. Phinnize Fisher keynotes SMC’s 2013 Convocation

SMC marked the official start of the 2013-2014 academic year with its annual convocation ceremony held on Wednesday, September 4th.  Dr. Phinnize J. “Penny” Fisher, current chair of the SMC Board of Trustees, served as the keynote speaker.

Dr. Colleen Perry Keith, the 7th President of Spartanburg Methodist College, commenced the event and shared that on September 4, 1911 the Rev. Dr. David English Camak opened Textile Industrial Institute  and welcomed the college’s first student…a 33 year-old married man who lived around the corner from the college’s first location at the corner or Farley and Brawley Streets near downtown Spartanburg.

“In spite of everyone telling President Camak to close down the college and quit, he persevered and 102 years later we are opening our doors to 525 new SMC freshman and 818 students overall,” shared Dr. Keith. “The little school that began as a ‘cumbersome old wooden tenement, surrounded by others about as attractive…with no inside plumbing’ has blossomed into a full-fledged respected college that sits on a 110-acre campus with 20 buildings, a fully accredited and rigorous academic program, 15 winning varsity athletic teams, a well-credentialed faculty and staff and this year boasts of 453 LIFE Scholars in its student body … that’s nearly 56% of the student body! We have gone from a school that educates students for the textile industry to a College that educates students for a knowledge economy…and we do it well!,” Dr. Keith exclaimed.

The annual convocation keynote address, referred to by Dr. Keith as an ‘inspirational pep talk” that gets the campus ready to move into a successful academic year, was delivered by Dr. Penny Fisher and carried forth the message of perseverance.  Before Dr. Keith welcomed Dr. Fisher to the podium she shared that “Dr. Fisher is one of her personal heroes.” She elaborated that “although Dr. Fisher had achieved professional recognition on the local, state and national levels, she did so after overcoming some incredible personal adversity; explaining that when she was a very tender 12-year old, her mother died of stomach cancer. A year later, her father died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage. Many children would have fallen apart in such circumstances, and I suspect that Dr. Fisher had her moments of doubt. But her parents had instilled in her a faith and a work ethic that meant she was well positioned for success. She also had a community who cared for her. And education has factored prominently throughout her life – that’s a thread that I want you to appreciate,” stressed Dr. Keith.

Dr. Fisher, a native of Virginia, opened her remarks by stating this was the most emotional speech she had ever delivered and shared it was her very first time talking to college freshman.  She proceeded to give a quick overview  of her life…stressing the importance of students finding themselves.  After her parents’ passing, Dr. Fisher’s older sister took her in and a high school teacher drove her to school. She did well in high school, and was known as a “good kid” and a “teacher’s pet and even  graduated from high school as the salutatorian (yet to this day, she thinks she could have been the valedictorian) of her class.

As Dr. Keith had shared, the odds were stacked against her, especially going to college. Yet there was something inside of her, instilled early on by her parents that guided her to take charge of her life.    For instance, two weeks prior to graduation, a school advisor/mentor pulled her aside and encouraged her to “get married…don’t even think about college…you need security.”  Rather than heed those words, Dr. Fisher used them to galvanize her future, and recalling a Dr. Seuss quote “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” she took control of herself and persevered.

Dr. Fisher made sure she was on a path for college and acknowledged the important role one particular Western Civilization professor’s teachings had had upon not only her the education but her life.  The end result?  She received a bachelor’s degree in post-secondary education and graduated early from St. Paul’s College in Virginia.  And in 1969 she earned her “own security” as an employed teacher in New Jersey earning a $5000 yearly salary.

Dr. Fisher, rather than just making a living, made a difference.  She went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate from Rutgers University and completed post-graduate studies at UCLA and the University of Utah.  Over the years she served as a teacher, reading supervisor, principal, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent of operations, chief of staff and most recently served for eight years as the superintendent of South Carolina’s largest school district, the Greenville County School District with more than 70,000 students and a $440 million budget, before retiring in May of 2012 after a 43-year career in education.

Recognized by her colleagues across the state and nation, Dr. Fisher was honored as the 2011 Superintendent of the Year by the South Carolina Athletic Administrators Association;  the 2009 Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club Public Servant of the Year; as Outstanding School Superintendent by the Career and Technology Education Administrators Division of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators; and was selected as a finalist for the 2011 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

However, Dr. Fisher’s most treasured recognition came after she announced her retirement, when Greenville’s School Board announced the construction of The Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School.   Located on the Millennium Campus near the CU-ICAR (Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research) campus, the 179,000 sq. ft. three-story $42.3 million facility will serve 1000 students and feature indoor and outdoor learning spaces that demonstrate specific applications of math, science and engineering.

Dr. Fisher currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Spartanburg Methodist College and has served on the boards of the United Way of Greenville, the Alliance for Quality Education, and the Board of Commissioners for Greenville Technical College. She is also a member of various civic organizations and the Silver Hill United Methodist Church.  She is also the wife of former Spartanburg Public Safety Director Tony Fisher, who retired on August 2nd.

One of Dr. Fisher’s favorite quotes, which she very lovingly shared with Dr. Keith three years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer is: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Dr. Penny Fisher dances beautifully in the rain and continues to teach others to do the same.

Her message was well received by the college’s nearly 40% minority representation. Freshman Korri Dawkins, son of Terry J. and Keisha Dawkins-Hardy (a cancer survivor) of Spartanburg, enjoyed Dr. Fisher’s speech; in particular, he especially liked hearing from a successful minority professional as he himself begins his studies hoping to eventually pursue a career as an art education instructor or graphic designer.

After Dr. Fisher’s keynote address, Dean of Students, Ron Laffitte, oversaw the installation of sophomore David Preston Morton as President of the Student Government Association at SMC.  Preston is the son of David and Phyllis Morton and is a 2006 graduate of Loris High School in Loris, SC.  The ceremony also featured a special performance by SMC’s choir group, the Troubadours, led by Director of Music Dr. Lanny Lanford. Serving as Faculty Marshals for the event were Dr. Katherine Cann, Chairperson of the Division of Social Sciences and Professor of History and Dr. Mark Gibbs, Chairperson of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Religion and Philosophy.

SMC_Seal Reflex Blue

SMC’s Dr. Benjamin Sloop to present at SCCTM Conference

Dr. Benjamin Sloop, professor of mathematics at Spartanburg Methodist College is scheduled to present at the upcoming South Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference.

Dr. Sloop will present “Reflections on a First Attempt at a Flipped Statistics Class: A discussion of an on-going attempt at a flipped classroom, which increases contact time for collaborative learning by moving lecture to online videos”   and  “Programming in Statistics with Casio Graphing Calculators: Students blend the efficiency of built-in subroutines and traditional formula-and-table procedures as they create their own programs for various simulations, intervals, and tests in statistics,” at the October 24th and 25th conference.

Dr. Sloop also recently published in the Journal of Mechanical Design 125(10), 104502 (August 7, 2013) with “Cutting Plane Methods for Analytical Target Cascading with Augmented Lagrangian Coordination.”  Vice President for Academic Affairs, Ann Bowles, stated “SMC’s long tradition of excellent teaching is evident in the innovative instructional strategies of faculty members like Dr. Ben Sloop. This is the second year that he has been selected as a presenter at the SCCTM conference, and we are proud of his consistent publication record from 2008 to the present.”


Dr. Sloop holds a bachelor of arts in mathematical science, a master’s in mathematics education, a master’s in mathematics science,  as well as a PhD in mathematics education from Clemson University.   While a student at Clemson, Dr. Sloop served as a graduate teaching assistant and a graduate teacher of record.  He also served as a high school mathematics teacher for Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, in Atlanta, Georgia, teaching pre-algebra, algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry and a number of IEP-based money management courses to students who were deaf or hard of hearing using American Sign Language.

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Dr. Robert Stinson joins SMC  

Following a national search for a microbiology, anatomy and physiology candidate, Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce the faculty appointment of Dr. Robert Stinson.

Dr. Stinson, a Missouri native, has extensive college teaching experience, most recently at  Barstow Community College in California.  Previously Dr. Stinson taught at Community College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas; Bainbridge College in Georgia, where he also served as Chairman of the Division of Arts and Sciences; and South Texas Community College, in McAllen, Texas.  Dr. Stinson also worked for thirteen years as Laboratory Director, Vice President for Continuous Improvement with Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation in Pittsburg, Texas.

Dr. Stinson has published twenty-five full length research articles, thirty-eight abstracts and has been honored with numerous teaching excellence awards.  Among Dr. Stinson’s instructional strategies is the use of Learning Styles Inventory to help him construct classes to appeal to all types of learning.  He has also developed web-based tutorials for students and is experienced in assessing student learning outcomes and program level outcomes.

“Dr. Stinson brings a strong commitment to academic excellence as a scholar and teacher. We are fortunate that he accepted our invitation to become a member of a faculty dedicated to preparing our students for their career,” shared Dr. Ann Bowles, Vice President, SMC Academic Affairs.

Dr. Stinson earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in biology from Missouri Southern State College and University of New Mexico, respectively.  His PhD in Microbiology studies was completed at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with postdoctoral research in Avian Immunobiology at Mississippi State University.    Dr. Stinson joins SMC as a tenured Professor of Biology.

DWR Front

American Idol’s Charly Lowry and Dark Water Rising to perform at SMC

Being a semi-finalist on American Idol is a huge accomplishment but where does an artist go from there? For many, post-idol fame hasn’t been much of a reality. So how does an artist bounce back after all the fame and attention?

For some, like the gifted Charly Lowry, you must continue to have faith in your abilities and be willing to start from scratch and grind your way back to the top. Being a successful artist/band in this business is no easy task. Not only do you need to be talented musically, you also need the motivation and mindset.

Today Charly Lowry is the lead singer in the band Dark Water Rising, a band she helped form back in 2008, and on Tuesday, September 10th at 7 p.m. she and Dark Water Rising will perform in the Gibbs Auditorium at Spartanburg Methodist College.

The DWR band has certainly come a long way from their humble beginnings. “Humble” in this sense isn’t an understatement. The other members in the band basically picked up and learned how to play their chosen instruments as soon as the idea of forming a band became a reality. And just a few short years later they all now play multiple instruments and have become even more confident in their abilities as musicians. There is always more room to improve as a band. It’s what motivates you to become better as an artist.

Dark Water Rising (Charly Lowry (lead singer/rhythm guitar), Aaron Locklear (keys/guitar/bass), Corey Locklear (lead guitar), Shay Jones (drums) and Tony Murnahan (bass)) continues to grow and amaze each time they perform. They are constantly developing their sound, song writing, and instrumentation. This is a band that possesses the talent, motivation and mindsets to be major players in a business oversaturated with wanna-be performers.

Indy Week’s Sylvia Pfeiffenberger describes DWR as “Native Americans who piece together Southern rock full of gospel harmonies, hip-hop inflections and Motown soul with a journeyman work ethic. With bold songwriting and bewitching arrangements, DWR breaks rules effortlessly.” Lyrically, Dark Water Rising explores all themes of life, whether it is love, heartbreak, sacrifice, celebration, despair, or pain; all the while expressing their sentiment on issues affecting Native American communities. Dark Water Rising coined the genre of their music as “Rocky Soul”, which is about as original as the songs that they create.

DWR’s most recent album, “Grace & Grit: Chapter I,” is just as engaging and intimate as watching one of their live performances. Dark Water Rising has garnered considerable radio air play on college radio and stations throughout Indian country, appeared on NPR’s “The Story with Dick Gordon” and “The State of Things”, and has earned a Native American Music Award for “Debut Duo or Group of the Year”(2010).

Make plans to experience Dark Water Rising for yourself on Tuesday, September 10th at 7 p.m. in the Gibbs Auditorium at Spartanburg Methodist College. The public is invited and admission is free of charge; and as J. Evan Wade with Home Grown Music Network shared “A fan of strong, heartfelt lyrics will find much to chew on.”  For more information, please contact Yvonne Harper, harpery@smcsc.edu or 864-587-4278.

psi beta

SMC Psi Beta chapter earns 2012-13 Chapter Excellence Award

Psi Beta, the National Honor Society in Psychology for community and junior colleges, has recognized the Spartanburg Methodist College chapter of Psi Beta with the prestigious Psi Beta Chapter Excellence Award for 2012-13. This is the second year in a row the college has received this honor.

Psi Beta provides students with opportunities to acquire leadership skills, interact with faculty outside the classroom, learn more about the professional and educational choices available in psychology, meet outstanding professionals in psychology, participate in community service, meet peers with similar interests, and be involved with Psi Beta on the national level.

The award challenges chapters to engage in activities reflecting Psi Beta’s four-pronged mission of leadership, scholarship, community service and research.  Few of the nation’s Psi Beta chapters achieve this level of distinction.

The SMC Psi Beta chapter, chartered on September 1, 1988, is under the direction of psychology professor Dr. Mary Jane Farmer, with assistance from Pete Aylor, psychology professor and Director of SMC’s Counseling Center, and college Counselor Sue Onken.  To date, there have been 376 SMC students who have achieved life-time membership to Psi Beta.

Membership to PSI BETA is by invitation only.  To be considered students must have at least 12 college credits, earn a B or higher in PSYC 101, maintain a 3.25 GPA and be of good moral character.

During the past academic year, SMC’s Psi Beta students volunteered at various schools for the Mobile Mentors Program, reading to 100+ kindergartners and talked to, motivated, and answered the questions of at least 250 middle school students.  They also sponsored seminars and events that tackled numerous issues and hot topics in psychology such as, “College Relationships”, presented by Roger Rhoades, D. Min., LPC; “Do Daddies Matter”, presented by Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright; “What’s Love Got to Do with It?: A Look at Teen Pregnancy in 2012”, presented by Ms. Dana Becker, M.Ed., “PTSD: Not All Wounds are Visible”, presented by Dr. Craig Burnette, and “Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia: Help Anyone” presented by Dr. Eric Winter, MD, Senior Staff Psychiatrist of Spartanburg Mental Health.

The SMC Psi Beta chapter strongly advocates research not only among her members but the entire student body.  Last April, two SMC Psi Beta members participated in VIVA ACADEMIA, a platform organized and sponsored by the SMC chapter to allow students to present their research findings and papers to the student body; and in the Ninth Annual SC Upstate Research Symposium hosted by Milliken & Company. Michael Clevenger presented “Sleep Deprivation Amongst College Students” and Phillip Wolfe presented “Perception and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder”.  SMC Psi Beta members also collected children’s books to benefit Arcadia Elementary School and shoes for “Shoes for Africa” in support of the advocacy project of Miss SMC 2012-2013.