Mary Alice Monroe 2014

NY Times Bestselling Author Mary Alice Monroe to headline SMC’s 2014 Convocation

Spartanburg Methodist College will mark the official start of the 2014-2015 academic year with its annual convocation ceremony to be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday September 10. The program’s keynote address, referred to by SMC President Dr. Colleen Perry Keith “as a celebration to welcome our new students to the college and gets the campus ready to move into a successful academic year” will be delivered by none other than New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe.

Monroe, author of sixteen novels and two children’s books, writes richly textured books that delve into the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the parallels between the land and life. A frequent on the New York Times, USA Today and SIBA lists, she has received numerous awards, including the Readers’ Choice, the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing and was featured at the National Festival of the Book. The Butterfly’s Daughter won the International Book Award for Green Fiction. Monroe also received the RT Bookclub Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year.

Monroe’s latest work, The Summer Wind, a New York Times bestseller, is the second installation in her the successful trilogy that calls attention to South Carolina’s Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in peril. It’s not unusual for an animal to be mixed among the cast of characters in a Mary Alice Monroe novel. It’s become part of her trademark—captivating readers’ hearts with memorable characters and at the same time awakening people to an important environmental issue. Monroe, who lives with her family on a barrier island off Charleston, South Carolina, is an active conservationist and serves on the Board of the South Carolina Aquarium, The Leatherback Trust, and Charleston Volunteers for Literacy.

Described as the “canary in the coal mine,” her convictions give her a deeper sense of purpose and serve to add richness and meaning to her novels. “I wanted to write a novel about the dolphin because we connect with that knowing, beguiling smile,” Monroe stated, whose novels often focus on the connection between humans and nature. “But the impetus for me to write this series now is the hard fact that 48 to 52 percent of the wild dolphins in South Carolina and Florida are sick. Coupled with the morbillivirus striking along the coast, it’s an alarming situation.”

Monroe uses the plight of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin as the undercurrent in her Lowcountry Summer Trilogy, with the perilous life of one wild dolphin as the trilogy’s keystone. While Monroe’s novels are set against issues facing our physical landscape, her stories explore the emotional landscape of contemporary human and moral issues through her characters. “I’m a story teller. I don’t tell or teach as much as create a story world that establishes a meaningful relationship with nature to make readers aware through the power of story.”

In book one, her New York Times bestseller The Summer Girls, Monroe introduced readers to the complex relationships among three estranged half-sisters who return to the family’s historic home, “Sea Breeze,” before it is sold and their grandmother, “Mamaw” moves to a retirement community. The Summer Girls is a perfect beach read and anyone who enjoys such fine southern voices as Pat Conroy will add the talented Monroe to their list of favorites.

The Summer Wind is a much anticipated follow-up to The Summer Girls. Monroe draws readers back to the unspoiled beauty of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina for the second installment in an emotional trilogy about sisterhood, second chances, and lifelong bonds. The Summer’s End concludes the Lowcountry Summer Trilogy and is set for release in 2015. “My greatest hope is that readers become involved with my characters and enjoy a great story. Then, when they close the book, realize that they’ve learned a lot about this important sentinel species.”

The trilogy is timely. The morbillivirus that killed a record number of dolphins along the Mid-Atlantic coast last summer is spreading southward as dolphins migrate down the coast. This measles-like virus killed 1000 dolphins in 2013 from New York to Florida. More than 10,000 dolphins are thought to roam the Southeast, and the numbers in South Carolina-Georgia are estimated between 6,000 and 7,000.

Currently there is nothing that can be done to prevent the infection spreading or prevent animals that get infected from having severe clinical disease. Marine mammal scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Florida Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, and nationwide are studying dolphins in Florida and South Carolina looking for signs of emerging diseases and heavy chemical body burdens that may be making the dolphins sick. Scientists also will test for diseases more common to people, but becoming more prominent in dolphins.

Dolphins are a sentinel species. “If dolphins are not doing well, it says something about what humans may be exposed to,” stated Dr. Pat Fair of NOAA. Monroe participated in the Charleston study with Dr. Fair on a floating “doctor’s clinic” that ran a battery of medical tests on dolphins. This is modus operandi for Monroe, who goes beyond academic research and interviews. She immerses herself in the subject by rolling up her sleeves as a volunteer to work shoulder-to-shoulder with professionals. For the Lowcountry Summer Trilogy (The Summer Girls, The Summer Wind, The Summer’s End), Dr. Fair served as a mentor for Monroe. Monroe also is a volunteer at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida and works with dolphin programs designed for special needs children and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Monroe’s efforts to re-connect human nature with the natural world resonate with her readers.
“Mary Alice Monroe has become the premier nature writer among southern novelists. In The Summer Girls she sings a song of praise to the bottlenose dolphins that bring so much joy to the men and women who gaze at the creeks and rivers of the lowcountry each evening. Like all her books, The Summer Girls is a call to arms.” — New York Times bestselling author Pat Conroy.

Leah Pruitt, Director of Alumni Relations, who secured Monroe for SMC’s upcoming convocation, shared “Mary Alice is a familiar voice to many in SC, and after September 10th she will be a familiar face to Spartanburg. Mary Alice found her true calling in environmental fiction when she moved to coastal South Carolina and was captivated by the beauty and fragility of her new home. Her experiences living in the midst of a habitat that is quickly changing give her a strong and important focus for her books. Our hope is that she will inspire our 800+ student body to find their true calling and strive to leave the world a better place no matter where they roam.”

For information, videos, podcasts, and more, go to www.maryalicemonroe.com and Facebook.

Methodist Cross and mission

Life After School Summit helps dreams come true

An event organized by a United Methodist Church in Taylors, S.C., shows the positive influence churches can have in encouraging young people to continue their education. More than 150 youth and family members attended the Life After School Summit at St. Mark UMC in Taylors, S.C., on May 17, 2014, for presentations and exhibits by representatives from colleges and universities, the armed forces and other organizations.

For the past decade, St. Mark has sponsored an annual education program about scholarships and college testing requirements typically attended by 7-12 students and their family members from the congregation. This year, however, the program was opened to anyone in the community, and about 125 students and 45-50 parents participated, including several busloads of participants from other churches. “One of the most powerful things we had was nine of our [church’s] college students, ranging from freshmen to first year out of college, who were on a student-only panel,” said church member Derek McGowan, a corporate campus relations manager and former U.S. Air Force recruiter who chaired the church’s program committee. “They opened up and talked about anything those students needed to know about going to college. That received the highest marks.”

Representatives from seven colleges and universities, the military and other organizations were present for workshops, counseling sessions and other presentations. More than $280,000 in scholarships were offered to students attending the event. Melanie Overton, assistant general secretary for Schools, Colleges and Universities at the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry, said the St. Mark event is a great example of how churches can help high school students. “The church has a role to play in mentoring students,” Overton said. “Some students need the help of a community to explore their options and prepare themselves to make the best possible decision about their future.” Churches are a part of young people’s lives long before they begin thinking about college, Overton said. “Churches are there when kids are in middle school and high school, and they are the ones who can help nurture their aspirations and help them think about financial planning and those kinds of things,” Overton said.

Six workshops ran simultaneously in church classrooms on topics such as job enrichment opportunities, military careers and parenting first-year college students. A representative of the Workforce Development Agency in nearby Greenville talked about summer jobs for students. A panel of parents discussed how to help students get through their first semester. Other speakers talked about how to fill out job applications and how to be successful in interviews.  One standing-room-only session featured college coaches and players who spoke about NCAA rules and requirements. “A lot of students were thinking how easy it is to be on scholarship and go to college, so some of the high school coaches sent their football teams to the meeting,” McGowan said.

“We didn’t want to exclude anyone in our congregation by focusing on academia only. That’s why we called it the Life After School Summit,” McGowan said. “Traditionally, churches have a college program or something that’s college-focused, [and] there is nothing there for people who want to go to technical colleges, two-year schools, trade schools or the military. So adding that component made it a much more successful program because those rooms were filled, as well.”

Retired teachers and educators in St. Mark’s congregation served as part of the support team for the summit, and 7th and 8th grade students wore “Ask Me” t-shirts and helped participants find their sessions. The church’s hospitality committee provided free lunch to everyone attending.

One college participating was Spartanburg Methodist College, a two-year liberal arts institution in nearby Spartanburg, S.C., where more than half of its 800 students are the first in their families to attend college.

“A two-year school [like Spartanburg Methodist] is really a great place for people to start, especially if they are first-generation students, because of the one-on-one attention that our students receive,” said Dr. Colleen Perry Keith, president of the 103-year-old United Methodist-related college. She said because the college focuses on the first two years, faculty and staff really understand the challenges these first-generation college students face. “And we work to try to make those challenges manageable for them,” she added. Nationally, about 20 percent of students who start two-year colleges complete their four-year degree elsewhere, but that percentage at Spartanburg Methodist is more than four times greater, Keith said. “Our mean graduation rate for the last nine years is 41.3 percent for those who actually go for the full two years and meet all of the degree requirements to graduate,” she said. But Keith said 82 percent of Spartanburg’s students either graduate or go on to pursue their education somewhere else.

Following on the summit’s success, McGowan said St. Mark is planning another educational event later this year.

SMC Athletes of Distinction per NJCAA

Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce the release of the NJCAA Athletes of Distinction Academic Student-Athlete award winners for 2013-2014.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) serves as the national governing body for two-year college athletics in the United States and is the nation’s second-largest national intercollegiate sports organization (second to the NCAA). Each year nearly 60,000 student-athletes from 525 member colleges compete in 28 different sports.

The following eight SMC  sophomore student athletes were recognized with this honorable distinction:

 AutonLindsey Auton was awarded Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Softball I. Auton maintained a 3.6 GPA. She is the daughter of Kathy Auton, resides in Morganton, NC and attended Freedom High School.

EubanksWilliam Eubanks was awarded the Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Men’s Cross Country I. Eubanks maintained a 3.65 GPA. He is the son of Lisa and William Eubanks, resides in Lyman, SC and attended James F. Byrnes High School.

FarottoJenna Farotto was awarded Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Volleyball I. Farotto maintained a 3.6 GPA. She is the daughter of Carter and Jimmy Farotto, resides in Greer, SC and attended Eastside High School.

GambrillSarah Gambrill was awarded the Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Softball I. Gambrill maintained a 3.65 GPA. She is the daughter of Cherie and Milton Gambrill, resides in Charleston, SC and attended Fort Dorchester High School.

HugginsReagan Huggins was awarded the Superior Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Tennis I. Huggins maintained a 3.9 GPA. She is the daughter of Angela and John Huggins, resides in Pauline, SC and attended Spartanburg Christian Academy.

OliverAlexandria Oliver was awarded Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Softball I. Oliver maintained a 3.65 GPA. She is the daughter of Kimberly and William Oliver, resides in Clemson, SC and attended DW Daniel High School.

CourtneyTutterowAlex Tutterow was awarded the Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Soccer I. Tutterow maintained a 3.73 GPA. She is the daughter of Michelle and Mike Tutterow, resides in Boiling Springs, SC and attended Boiling Springs High School.

WheelerAeriel Wheeler was awarded the Superior Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Volleyball I. Wheeler maintained a 3.85 GPA. She is the daughter of Jaci Shuette, resides in Woodruff, SC and attended Woodruff High School.

SMC

SMC Announces New Staff and New Responsibilities

Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce the addition of new staff and staff with new responsibilities.  Jeanette R. Dunn, Director of Human Resources for the college shared “SMC knows the quality of these individuals’ work ethic and their commitment to SMC.  It is a blessing to have these individuals share their talents with our campus.”

After an absence of six years, Sharon Wilborn Sharon Wilborn 71514 has resumed the position of Administrative Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.  While her family lived out of state, Wilborn worked as an Energy Supply Cost Analyst with HKA/Duke Energy. Wilborn and her husband, Charlie, are now residing in Spartanburg.

In June, ten-year SMC employee and SMC Class of 1999 alum, Scott Deskins Scott Deskinsassumed the  position of Facilities Event and Administrative Coordinator.  In addition to assisting the Director of Facilities Management with administrative tasks, Deskins is responsible for the set up and take down of all campus events.   Deskins is married to Nadia and they reside in Greenville, SC with their three children.

On July 1, Cheryl Somerset Cheryl Somerset officially assumed the role of Administrative Assistant to the President, after the retirement of Vicki Kennedy.  Previously Somerset served as Administrative Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs for six years.   Somerset resides in in Moore with her husband Larry.

Dunn Jenny Dunnhas also assumed a new role with the college.  In addition to her duties in Human Resources, she will also serve as Special Assistant to the President.  She and her husband, Joe, reside in Spartanburg.