Looking Back at the Path SMC Paved – Alumnus Gary Cooper
By Baker Maultsby
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2019 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
Most high schools these days have robust counseling programs to help their students decide on a college that’s best suited to their interests and qualifications. There was little of that kind of support at Conway High School when Spartanburg Methodist College Board Member Pat Henry was a senior there in 1962.
“We didn’t have guidance counselors,” he recalled. “However, we had a teacher who kept brochures for the various colleges. I was in her class one day, and she handed me a brochure for what was then Spartanburg Junior College. Little did I know that that little brochure would change the course of my life.” With encouragement from his mother, Henry enrolled at the College. It would be the launching pad for a meaningful and successful life.
He says he wasn’t much of a student in high school. But at SJC, he said, “I made two lifelong friends, Mike Clayton and Robert Roberts, who did something I did little of in high school — they studied. I decided I would try it and found out what my mother had tried her best to drill into my hard head: ‘If you study you will make good grades.’”
Meanwhile, professors at the College “knew each student by name and encouraged studying and were always there and available to help.” Henry was also exposed to the field of law while at SJC. He credits an early morning Business Law class with spurring his initial interest in a career as an attorney.
With newfound confidence and seriousness about his academic direction, Henry would go on to Wofford College and then the University of South Carolina Law School, where he was a member of the national legal honor society, the Wig and Robe, and served as research editor of the South Carolina Law Review.
“I credit SJC with instilling in me the will to do my best,” he said.
Along the way, another major life event occurred — also made possible by his time at SJC — Henry married his wife, Marvis. They’d met as students at the College.
Henry and Marvis settled back in his hometown of Conway, and he established a long and rewarding career in law. He was a leader in his field, serving as president of the Horry County Bar Association and the South Carolina Commission on Lawyer Conduct, before retiring in 2017.
Henry has enjoyed the opportunity to give back to Spartanburg Methodist College. It’s his second stint on the Board. He began a 12-year term after being approached by then-president Charles Teague.
He is currently the Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and Board Vice Chair. Henry has also served on the Board’s Planning and Development committee — a role that has given SMC Vice President for Institutional Advancement Jennifer Dillinger the opportunity to work closely with Henry. She admires his giving spirit as well as his experience and judgment.
“My team and I always appreciate his attendance and thoughtful support,” Dillinger said. “I truly enjoy working with him, and I value his questions and ideas.”
She believes Henry’s fellow Board members value his insights as well.
“The other Board members deeply respect his opinion,” Dillinger said. “During the Board’s consideration of a bachelor’s degree, Pat kept the group focused on making the best decision for our students, faculty, and staff. He sought to ensure that the life-changing educational experience he enjoyed would be available to other young people for decades to come.”
Dillinger described both Pat and Marvis as the kind of alumni who consistently demonstrate their dedication to the College, both through gifts and personal involvement.
She said, “Pat and Marvis Henry are incredibly special people, evidenced by their continued support for SMC, both as donors and leaders. They attend as many alumni and College events as possible, even driving up from Conway for short visits, clearly demonstrating their continued appreciation, love, and support for the College.”
Indeed, it is something of a love affair for Henry. “It has been one of the highlights of my life to serve on the SMC Board,” he said.
Henry, who previously served on the Coker College Board of Trustees, is impressed by the leadership of President Scott Cochran and believes that the plans underway to expand the College’s impact with four-year programs will result in “great things ahead for SMC.” He added, “I am honored to be a part of it.”
Though he’s excited about SMC’s future and the innovations the College has embraced, Henry remains grateful for values that have remained true at SMC.
“I enjoy serving on the Board because I believe in the mission of the College and the fact that the entire staff of the College puts the guidance of the hearts and minds of the students as first priority,” he said.
He knows firsthand what a difference that makes. “My time as a student as SJC formed a large part of the person I became,” he said. “It was the best two years of my life.”