Good things come in threes
By Katherine Waters
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2018 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
David Clyburn, Jr.’s wife, Eloise, answered the phone when I called for an interview. She told me that he was outside working, but that she could take a message. I introduced myself, told her about the article, and said I’d call back at a better time. “No,” she said, “Let me go get him. This is important.”
It is important because the Clyburn family has played as vital a role in Spartanburg Methodist College as SMC has in their family. Patriarch David Jr. served as Vice President of Student Affairs for over 20 years, then as chaplain for a few years before retiring. He also taught psychology at a time when it was common for administrators to teach classes.
“When working here, most of the faculty and staff lived on or close to campus, everyone from the president to the maintenance director,” said David Jr. “We shared the space, our children grew up together, and everyone was very close. It wasn’t unusual for children of faculty and staff to attend SMC as students for two reasons: It’s close and convenient, and children of employees got additional scholarships to attend.”
The Clyburns certainly took advantage of the benefits given to children of faculty. David Jr.’s son, David Clyburn III, began attending SMC in 1985, before graduating and transferring to UNC Asheville for his master’s degree. He now works in Spartanburg as an audio engineer, at the same company that did audio and video for certain buildings on campus. While attending SMC, he also lived on campus with his father.
“I was proud to be able to go to SMC while my father worked there,” said the younger David Clyburn. “He encouraged me to begin my education at SMC. It gave me a solid education and taught me how to learn and what would be expected of me in college. SMC provided a good stepping stone between high school and college.”
David III feels the same way about his son, Jacob, a sophomore at SMC. Both David Jr. and David III acknowledged Jacob’s enthusiasm about being a student at SMC and his excitement about the school’s plans to begin a four-year program.
“I chose SMC because it was really close to home,” said Jacob. “I grew up in Spartanburg and I wanted to stay. I really liked the school when I first came here in October to tour. What my grandfather did here so influenced me to go here. A lot of my professors know about his career at SMC, and I wanted to keep the tradition going.
“I’m glad that my son can have the same solid foundation that I did after graduating high school,” adds David III. “The transition to college can be difficult, but SMC makes it easier. I like the way that SMC fits him and provides a good education with individual attention. Students don’t get lost in the shuffle like they would at a larger university.”
But the family hasn’t only contributed to SMC by attending; the Clyburns have established three scholarships in memory of their parents to provide financial aid to future students. Rev. and Mrs. David Clyburn Jr. started the David A. Clyburn Sr. Memorial Scholarship in memory of Rev. David A. Clyburn Sr. (the grandfather of David Clyburn III and great-grandfather of Jacob Clyburn), who served the SC United Conference from 1930 to 1955. They also established the Franklin and Mary McMeekin Memorial Scholarship in memory of Eloise’s parents and the Louis Clyburn Scholarship, named after David Jr.’s paternal uncle.
David Jr. cites the mission of SMC to make a quality education more accessible as the primary reason why he wanted to start the scholarships. When recalling the purpose of the scholarships, he explained that his wife’s parents strongly supported both of their educations, and his own parents connected to SMC’s mission as well. He in turn wanted the scholarships to give the same assistance to students that they had, keeping the family’s legacy alive while furthering the mission of the school that they all love so much.