Board Member Spotlight: Catherine Gramling

A Heart for Education, a Passion for Student Success

By Samantha Wagner

This article appeared originally in the fall 2021 issue of Frontiers Magazine


Gramling’s connection to SMC began many years ago before she was even born. Her grandfather, Olin D. Johnston, attended the College in the early 1900s when it was still known as the Textile Industrial Institute. He received his diploma from the Institute in 1915 and later completed a bachelor’s degree at Wofford College. His education at both schools served him well and set his family up for future success. As one of the school’s more notable alumni, Mr. Johnston served terms as South Carolina’s Governor and as a United States Senator. Catherine Gramling standing on porch

Gramling had long been familiar with both Wofford and SMC as schools affiliated with the Methodist church, the denomination of her faith. She selected Wofford as her college. It was there she would discover her true passion lay not with politics but in working with students. While there, she took an intro-to-education course and fell in love with teaching.

“I knew I needed an elective, and the education course seemed like a good fit. To my surprise, I loved it, and I graduated from Wofford with my English degree, my teaching certificate, and a job at Dorman High School,” Gramling said. She loved being in the classroom and feeling like she was making a direct impact on young students. She taught for several years before stepping away to focus on raising her own two children.

This emphasis on family life, however, did not stop her outreach; instead, she focused on supporting local children’s nonprofits and volunteering with the Methodist church.

“I wanted to be there for my family and also be involved in the causes I cared about,” Gramling explains. “I served for years with the Children’s Advocacy Center and Julie Valentine Center - both organizations that help children recover from the effects of abuse.

” The volunteer work was emotionally heavy, but also incredibly rewarding. She realized during that time that her work was critical to shaping the next generation of leaders.

While Gramling loved her volunteer work, her tenure in education was far from over. In 2017, she decided to re-enter the world of public education as a career development facilitator for Spartanburg County School District One, where she still works today .

“I enjoy helping the kids figure out what comes next whether that’s college, the workforce, or the military,” Gramling explained. “Not every student has the same path, and I enjoy being the liaison between businesses, colleges, and students.”

Her position with the public school is an incredible asset to her work on the SMC Board of Trustees. In fact, her first few years serving on the Board revolved around the student affairs committee - the part of the board that considers all student-related concerns from dormitories to campus security to extracurricular activities. Her counseling and parenting experience provided her with valuable insight into the mindset of students, and she was able to speak to the issues concerning them most.

“I do my very best to stay unbiased with my work at the school district when I recommend colleges,” she laughed, “but Spartanburg Methodist is such a great school, and now that it’s a four-year college, it has even more going for it.

”With this wealth of experience to draw on, Gramling’s voice on the Board is invaluable. Her grandfather’s attendance gives her a deep appreciation for the roots of the college, while her involvement in education gives her a modern perspective of students. Her personal faith and church involvement help her understand the Methodist foundation of SMC, and her time volunteering with child-advocacy groups has strengthened an already compassionate nature.

In short, she is thriving both professionally and personally as she continues to serve her community. When asked what she would tell SMC students, she answered with enthusiasm, “Get involved and embrace all the fantastic things SMC has to offer! It really is a jewel of a college, and it provides students with so many wonderful opportunities."

What lies next for a woman committed to education is hard to tell, but her life thus far has been extraordinary, and her future seems as full of potential as the students she serves.

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