Adam Siegfried Appointed to SMC Faculty



Dr. Adam Siegfried has been appointed to the faculty of Spartanburg Methodist College as Professor of Chemistry. Siegfried, who completed his doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Clemson University in May, has been employed at SMC as an interim professor of chemistry since August 2015.

Siegfried previously served as Adjunct Instructor at Anderson University and Tri-County Technical College. In addition to bringing extensive teaching experience to the position, he has a strong interest and background in supervising undergraduate research. From 2008 to 2010, he trained undergraduates in crystal growth and design as part of the Clemson University Summer Undergraduate Research Program. This summer, he supervised two SMC students in the design and growth of a new iodine crystal which could eventually lead to improved solar cell performance. Their research will be published next spring and was funded by a grant from Furman University’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program.

Siegfried received a Master of Science degree in inorganic chemistry from Clemson University in 2008. He received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Coker College in 2002.


Kristofer Neely joins SMC faculty as Professor of Art


Photo Credit: Mark Olencki, Wofford College

Kristofer Neely Joins SMC Faculty as Professor of Art

Kristofer M. Neely, a visual artist and creative writer, has been appointed to the Spartanburg Methodist College faculty as Professor of Art. Neely is also the owner and creative director of Wet Paint Syndrome, an art gallery and studio located in Spartanburg.

Best known for the angel paintings he calls “Guardians,” Neely is a painter who uses traditional surfaces, wood and other found objects. He has exhibited his works widely in South Carolina and the southeastern United States, and has participated in showings in New York, New Mexico and Canada. His art, creative writing and poetry have been featured in books, journals and publications, including The Underground Guide to Spartanburg by Joe Mullinax (2012), Artists Among Us: 100 Faces of Art in Spartanburg, by Edward Emory and Stephen Stinson (2011); The Minutia of Visionaries: Experiments toward Social Evolution, by Erica Eaton and Tara Smelt (2010); and Still Home: The Essential Poetry of Spartanburg (2008).

From 2011-2016, Neely served as a dean, assistant professor and coordinator for studio art at Wofford College, where he played a key role in growing the college’s studio art minor. From 2005-2011, he worked to enhance the student experience at the college through his positions as executive director of the Success Initiative, director of project development for student affairs and director of residence life. During this time, Neely developed a number of innovative programs that have become models for other colleges.

A brother in the Monastic Order of St. Edward the Confessor since 2011, Neely is actively involved in the Episcopal Church. He volunteers as chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America – Palmetto Council Troop #11 and has served on the development committee of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. He is also a member of the Northside Development Corporation’s neighborhood committee and is a past board member of Piedmont Care, Inc., and the Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg.

Neely received a master of fine arts from Goddard College in 2009 and a bachelor’s degree in religion from Wofford College in 2002.


SMC Appoints Six New Members to Board of Trustees


From left to right: Andrew Babb, Jerry Gadsden, Carl Gibson, Catherine Gramling, Derrick Huggins, Darryl Owings


Spartanburg Methodist College recently welcomed six new members to its Board of Trustees. The appointments were made in June at the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of South Carolina.

Andrew Babb lives in Spartanburg. He is a 1988 alumnus of the college and a commercial real estate broker with NAI Earle Furman, LLC. He is also President and owner of Mid-South Management Company, Inc. and Crescent Holdings, LLC. The companies own and rent residential, commercial and vacation properties in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. As a businessman, Babb has been active in the revitalization of Spartanburg’s downtown. He also sits on several boards of directors, including Carolina Alliance Bank, Glassock, Inc. and Spartanburg Day School. His family has supported SMC for many years.

Reverend Jerry Gadsden is pastor of Silver Hill Memorial United Methodist Church in Spartanburg. Before coming to Spartanburg in 2015, he served as pastor for several United Methodist congregations around the state of South Carolina since receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Duke University in 1989. He has also served on numerous boards and committees of the United Methodist Conference and of community organizations that address needs of seniors and of persons with disabilities. Gadsden is currently a member of the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance and is a life member of the NAACP.

Catherine Gramling lives in Gramling, SC. She is a lifelong United Methodist, a former public school teacher, and an active community volunteer. She has many family ties to SMC. Her mother, former Congresswoman Liz Patterson, was a four-term SMC trustee, as was her father-in-law, John Gramling, II. She is the granddaughter of Olin Johnston, who graduated from SMC and went on to serve as Governor of South Carolina.

Derrick Huggins serves as vice president of facilities and transportation at the University of South Carolina where he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of housekeeping, landscaping, preventative maintenance and warehouse operations. Huggins is involved with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Diversity Leadership program and is a member of Journey United Methodist Church in Columbia.

Darryl Owings serves as superintendent of Spartanburg County School District 6. In addition to his work in the school system, Owings has served on numerous boards and committees. He currently serves is a member of the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) board, the Clemson LIFE Advisory Board, and the South Carolina ACT State Organization Council. He is also a member of the Liberty Fellowship Class of 2008.

Joseph “Carl” Gibson will serve as the 2016 Student Representative to the Board of Trustees. A 2014 graduate of SMC, he is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in music at Furman University. As a student at SMC, Gibson was awarded the college’s Trustee Medal.

SMC board members serve a term of three years and are eligible to serve up to four consecutive terms. All must be approved by the South Carolina United Methodist Conference.

In addition to the newly elected trustees, the following board members were re-elected to serve additional three-year terms: Rev. Mary V. Teasley, Phinnize J. Fisher, Marianna Habisreutinger; Ray Lattimore, John Ramsey, and James Fletcher Thompson.

The board also recently elected new officers for the 2016-2017 year: James Thompson, Chair; Kathy McKinney, Vice Chair; and Ray Lattimore, Secretary.

A full listing of the Spartanburg Methodist College Board of Trustees is available here.


Kirk Hansen appointed to SMC faculty


SMC is excited to announce that Dr. Kirk Hansen has been appointed to the Spartanburg Methodist College faculty as professor of History. Hansen, who completed his doctorate in history from the University of Dundee in Scotland in 2015, has been employed at SMC as an adjunct faculty member since January.

Outside of the classroom, Hansen’s research interests focus on the experiences of Scottish Jews in World War I. In Spartanburg, he plans to pursue similar research with local minority communities. At SMC, he’ll teach courses focused on U.S. and European history to undergraduate students.

Hansen earned master’s (2009) and bachelor’s (2007) degrees in history from Bob Jones University.


SMC Welcomes Dr. Jill Coyle to Faculty



Dr. Jill Coyle has been appointed to the Spartanburg Methodist College faculty as Professor of English. Coyle, an award-winning poet and essayist, served the college as a Visiting Professor from 2014 to 2015 and as an adjunct member of the faculty in 2016.

“Jill’s diverse academic interests and professional experience allow her to bring a creative approach to teaching English composition,” said Dr. Anita K. Bowles, vice president for academic affairs. “Her knowledge of classical studies brings a cultural and historical perspective to the material assigned to students and introduces them to a new, more versatile way of thinking.”

Coyle received her doctorate in classical studies from Duke University in 2002. She returned to school and completed a master’s degree in British and American literature at North Carolina State University in 2013. She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a bachelor’s degree in Classics in 1996.

Welcome, Professor Coyle!


Dr. Michael Burriss Joins SMC Faculty


Spartanburg Methodist College is excited to welcome Dr. Michael Burriss as Professor of Spanish. Michael brings 10 years of teaching experience in secondary and higher education settings to the position, as well as an intimate knowledge of Spanish culture gained from extensive travel and living abroad experiences.

Michael’s teaching interests include El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (“The Way of St. James”), a historic 500-mile pilgrimage to the tomb of the apostle St. James in northwest Spain. He’s completed the Camino three times.

Michael received his Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from the University of Georgia in 2013. He completed a Master’s Degree in Spanish from Auburn University in 2008 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish from Erskine College in 2006.

Welcome, Professor Burriss!


“One Vision. One Spartanburg.” community event held at SMC June 14



The public is invited to attend the official presentation of the Spartanburg Community Assessment on Tuesday, June 14. “One Vision. One Spartanburg.” will be held in Gibbs Auditorium from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. The event is free; however, seating is limited so registration is required.


Read the original news release from the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce:

Spartanburg continues to keep moving forward, as the Spartanburg Vision Plan steering committee announces two opportunities that continue the efforts towards a unified community and economic development plan.

Last week, 28 delegates from across Spartanburg County – including representatives from the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Spartanburg Economic Futures Group, City of Spartanburg, and other organizations – embarked on an inter-city visit to Chattanooga, TN from May 19-21, 2016, as part of the community vision process.

“By the numbers, Chattanooga-Hamilton County is very similar to Spartanburg County. Like Spartanburg, the spirit of partnership and collaboration is alive and well in Chattanooga-Hamilton County,” said Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber. “We certainly don’t have all the answers and must continually seek new and innovative strategies. This, among many other reasons, is why we took a fact-finding trip to Tennessee. We could learn a lot from some of their economic development successes and many of their approaches could be easily duplicated here in Spartanburg.”

The research and strategic planning process of the Spartanburg Vision Plan is being led by Market Street Services, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, with a steering committee comprised of representatives from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, who are guiding this process to ensure that it lays a foundation that allows people and businesses to thrive. The six-phase process began in February 2016 and will last approximately nine months.

Market Street has already undergone four phases of the process, including Stakeholder Input and Community Assessment, with a community survey that resulted in over 3,100 responses. This is the third highest survey response rate on record for Market Street Services, who have done similar assessments for communities such as Austin, TX and Nashville, TN.

John Miller, CEO of Denny’s Corporation and one of the steering committee’s tri-chairs, stated: “We now have a clear understanding of the needs of Spartanburg County, and the information from the community assessment is important to the overall goal of having a defined vision and implementation plan. We would not have such critical data to move forward if not for the input of our dedicated community, and the steering committee is eager to share Market Street’s conclusions at the event on June 14.”



Dennis receives Archie Vernon and Margaret Wannamaker Huff Faculty Award



Dr. Litasha Dennis, Professor of English, is the 2016 recipient of the Archie Vernon and Margaret Wannamaker Huff Faculty Award. The award is given to a Spartanburg Methodist College faculty member who exemplifies outstanding professional qualifications and teaching ability. Dr. Dennis was presented with the award during the college’s Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 7.

Dennis was recognized for her deep commitment to her students and her outstanding ability to engage them in critical thinking through the use of masterful questioning and discussion strategies, says Dr. Ann Bowles, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “She has a wonderful way of instilling the belief in each student that they can accomplish their goals,” she said. “As an adviser, coach and mentor to her students, as well as a teacher, Litasha works right alongside each and every one of them.”

The Huff Award includes an $800 stipend for further study, travel for professional purposes or to defray the cost of publication expenses for scholarly work.

In 1970, Dr. A. V. Huff, Jr., a former SMC Board of Trustees member and a retired faculty member of the History Department at Furman University, along with his wife, Kate, established the endowed award in memory of his parents, Archie Vernon and Margaret Wannamaker Huff.

Dennis, who was awarded tenure by the college this spring, received her doctorate in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2005. She received master’s and bachelor’s degrees in English from Winthrop University in 1998 and 1996, respectively.


Hard Work Makes Clemson Dream A Reality

Growing up with ten brothers and sisters might sound like chaos to many, but for sophomore Brett Pucetas, a full house kept things fun.

“It was always interesting,” Pucetas says. “Up until the 9th grade, all us boys lived upstairs. We called it the ‘Bunkhouse’ because we had a bedroom with three sets of bunk beds.”

Pucetas was adopted by his parents, Marsha and Randy, when he was just two weeks old – they’re the only family he’s ever known. In addition to their six biological children (five boys and one girl), the Pucetas family also includes Brett, his two adopted sisters and two adopted brothers. The children range in age from 31 to 10.

In the Pucetas household, education is important. So are sports. Pucetas’ parents and his brothers all play high school and college sports, and as a boy, he dreamed of following in their footsteps.

“I grew up with my heart set on playing sports at Clemson,” he said. “Starting in the seventh grade, I played soccer and football, and I started wrestling in the ninth grade.”

When it was time to go to college, Pucetas had a solid grade point average, but didn’t have the standardized test scores to qualify for entry into Clemson. It was a hard knock, and he was unsure what to do next. When SMC offered him a place on the wrestling team, he accepted, but wasn’t sure it was the right decision until after his first semester.

“I love it here now,” he said. “The students are all so close-knit. It’s really like a family.”

His parents work hard to provide for their large family, and they wanted to instill that work ethic in their children, Pucetas says. “My mom and dad pay for my tuition, but they expect all of us to pay for our living expenses during school.”

Pucetas paid his housing costs by working as a sous chef in a local restaurant, sometimes getting in 35-40 hours per week. After his shifts ended at nine or ten p.m., he’d hit the library until midnight most nights. And he managed to maintain a 3.5 GPA.

“I was able to balance it all because working and wrestling made me careful about managing my time,” he said.

After two years and plenty of hard work, Pucetas’ dream of attending Clemson is coming true. This fall, he’ll enroll as a junior transfer student and major in special education.

“I did a lot of service learning in high school, and I always enjoyed working with the special needs students and helping with the Special Olympics,” he said. “I’d like to manage or direct a center that provides services for people with disabilities.”

On Saturday, as Pucetas walks across the stage to accept his SMC diploma, his entire family will be in the audience cheering him on. From there, he’ll spend the summer working his restaurant job, as well as another job with a local pest control company to save money for Clemson. This fall, he and his brother, John, who will be a sophomore at Clemson, plan to get an apartment together.

“I’m really excited about the fall,” Pucetas said. “And I know that without coming to SMC, Clemson wouldn’t have happened for me.”


Life Had Other Plans For SMC Graduate



When Corin Hewins graduated high school in 2012, she enrolled in college to start on a path toward career success. On the advice of friends and family, she decided to pursue nursing because it was a solid profession.

“Everyone told me I’d always have a job as a nurse,” she said.

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Hewins’ plan involved becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and then paying for college by working in the profession part-time. But just after her first semester at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, life had other plans. Her mother became seriously ill and was hospitalized shortly after Christmas, leaving Hewins’ younger brother and terminally ill grandmother without care.

“I could have gone back to school, but I was needed at home. I had to figure out what to do,” Hewins explains.

As her friends returned to college, Hewins stayed behind to care for her family. At the same time, she stuck with her original plan, earning a CNA certification from Greenville Technical College in 2013. With her credentials, she was able to begin working full-time as her mother’s health

When her grandmother passed away, and as her mother’s health improved, Hewins knew she had a choice to make: she could continue working as a CNA or she could move forward toward her goal of finishing her college education.

Because of costs and the distance from home, returning to Voorhees College (over two hours away in Denmark, South Carolina) no longer seemed practical. “But I said, ‘I’m not going to settle,’” she recalls. “I had friends who had gone to SMC, so I applied.”

In the fall of 2014, Hewins began taking classes to earn an associate’s degree in biology, continuing to work part-time as a CNA, and sticking to her original plan to become a nurse. Money was tight, and even though she had family members who helped with tuition, Hewins was determined to be as independent as she could. During her sophomore year at SMC, she went home every weekend to work, in addition to holding down a work-study position in the campus library.

When she wasn’t working or studying, Hewins got involved in campus life at SMC, participating on the cheerleading squad, the year book staff and even competing for Miss SMC (she was second runner-up).

At the same time, she was beginning to realize that nursing wasn’t for her.

“It wasn’t as rewarding as I’d hoped. I don’t think you should pick a career based on salary and stability if you don’t also love it.”

A different plan was beginning to take shape for Hewins. In high school, she’d had some experience working with children with developmental disabilities, including her brother, who’d been born prematurely. In Dr. Mary Jane Farmer’s psychology class, Hewins enjoyed discovering how learning takes place – specifically for disabled children.

“It reminded me of those times with my brother and how fascinated I was by how the therapists helped him learn. These children, like my brother, couldn’t help being different from others,” she said. It was really stressful for their parents; most of them didn’t know what to do.”

“In my Developmental Psychology class, Corin was always ready to pipe up – whether to volunteer any information that enhanced our class discussions or to ask questions,” says Farmer. “Like many of my students, it was a joy and a delight to have Corin Hewins.”

Drawn to a career that will allow her to both help and teach others, Hewins listened to what life was telling her and changed her plans. This spring, she was accepted to USC-Upstate, where she’ll complete her education – not in nursing, but in early childhood education (with a minor in psychology).

To help pay for school, she’ll work as a paid intern for the Greenville Family Partnership.

“It’s been hard to pay for my education, but I’m happy I’ve been through it. I gained a lot of strength,” Hewins said. “I hope to find a job, like everyone, but I really hope to meet someone who is in my shoes, and help them. I’m an advocate for people who haven’t had such an easy path.”

Shameia Web

Outstanding Student Leader Plans Career Helping Others

Shameia Web

When Shameia Rosier was born, doctors said her life would be marked by all the things she wouldn’t be able to do.

“They said I’d never walk or eat without a tube,” Rosier says.

On Saturday, May 7, after a lifetime of proving her doctors wrong, Rosier will walk across the stage to accept her associate’s degree from Spartanburg Methodist College. From there, the sunny 20-year-old plans to continue her education at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina.

“I’m getting a degree in psychology, and I hope to be a licensed therapist,” she says. “I like to help people, to listen. You don’t necessarily need to talk all the time.”

Born with arthrogryposis, a congenital disease causing joint deformities, Rosier, who grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, spent the first years of her life in and out of hospitals. She underwent multiple surgeries on her hips and heels, and even endured a full body cast for weeks. Until the fifth grade, she wore braces on her legs.

Rosier credits her grandparents, who raised her, with instilling in her a determination to push beyond her physical limitations.

“When I was a baby and on the feeding tube, my grandmother just kept giving me tiny little bits of food, day after day, until I could swallow on my own,” she recalls. “And when I decided I wanted to walk, she encouraged me to keep trying until I could do it.”

Rosier’s “Papa” was a staunch advocate for his granddaughter – his attention to her needs and care made all the difference in her success, she says. “My Papa has always been there for me. Kids with disabilities need an advocate to make sure they’re getting the right services and help, otherwise they can fall through the cracks. Papa was always on top of it, and I will always be grateful for that.”

With her grandparents’ example of selfless commitment to her welfare, it’s not surprising Rosier was drawn to programs that focused on leadership and volunteerism. As a participant in Ladies of Distinction in middle school and Bridges to a Brighter Future (a Furman University program) in high school, she spent hours working outside the classroom with other students who were passionate about improving themselves and their communities.

“In Bridges, I was surrounded by a very diverse group of kids, and I learned that everyone has a story and not to judge a book by its cover,” Rosier says.

At SMC, everyone knows “Meia.” She just finished a year as president of the Student Government Association (SGA). She helped found and manage the school’s first hip hop dance team. She’s on the board of the college’s service fraternity, Kappa Sigma Alpha (KSA). And those are just a few of the clubs and activities she’s been involved in during her two years at SMC.

During the college’s award’s night in April, Rosier received the KSA Thomas R. Bailey Humanitarian Award in recognition of her outstanding leadership, commitment and service to humanity. She also received the SGA Leadership Award, a Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges Achievement Award in Leadership and the Olin D. Johnston Good Citizenship Award, which was presented to her by President Scott Cochran.

“Shameia is one of the most determined individuals I have ever had the pleasure to work with,” Cochran said. “She’s bright, focused and a community builder. Success favors hard workers and Shameia is an exceptionally hard worker. She’s going to change the world.”


Coast Guard Connection Bonds Student and Professor


Coast Guard Connection Bonds Student and Professor

by Baker Maultsby

Spartanburg Methodist College professor Barry Ward knew Randy Duncan as a hard-working student, a leader and “just such a real friendly guy.”

SMC is a place where classes are small, office doors are open and students and faculty develop meaningful relationships. But following the college’s awards program in late April, Ward found a deeper personal connection to his former student in health and physical education classes.

Duncan was honored with the American Legion Award and is heading into the United States Coast Guard after graduating this Saturday. Ward received the same award 37 years before as a student at SMC, where he landed after serving in the Coast Guard before enrolling.

“I’m biased, but I think the Coast Guard is the ‘elite branch’ of the military,” Ward said, noting that the Coast Guard is tasked with essential functions in both wartime and times of peace.

The American Legion Award honors young people who demonstrate courage, patriotism, scholarship and service.
“It was awesome – I had no idea I was getting the award,” Duncan said, though his credentials are certainly impressive.

A male and a female student receive the award each year. Along with Duncan, sophomore Brittany Halter was honored. Both of these students exemplify what SMC works to instill in its students: leadership, hard work and a commitment to making the world a better place, said Kim Caton, Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development.

“Randy is a student with a heart that longs to serve others,” Caton said. She pointed to a t-shirt fundraiser he coordinated to support South Carolina flood victims in 2015, as well as numerous leadership positions on campus.
“He is always willing to help, willing to serve, willing to make a difference,” said Caton.

Looking toward his service in the Coast Guard, Duncan said he is excited about seeing new places and having opportunities to help people. Among the duties of the Coast Guard is responding to boating accidents at sea and carrying out search and rescue missions.

Each branch of the service has many mouths to feed, and Duncan hopes to have the chance to develop his skills as a chef. Although he was born in Columbia, South Carolina, he spent his early childhood in Connecticut in “a big Italian family” and learned to appreciate authentic recipes – marinara is a favorite – at an early age.

“I love to cook,” said Duncan, who majors in business and hopes to one day open his own restaurant.
Duncan’s family returned to Columbia, South Carolina, when he was nine. Years later, he became interested in SMC when a friend was being recruited by the school to play baseball, and they both decided to attend. Duncan feels that it was a great decision.

“It’s small, and you’re able to meet with your professors and develop a one-to-one relationship,” he said. “They want you to do well. They aren’t just here for a paycheck.”

Ward finished his undergraduate education at USC-Upstate after graduating from SMC. He taught and coached at Landrum High School for several years before completing a master’s degree and returning to SMC as a professor. In addition to teaching health and physical education, he manages intramural programs at the college. He appreciates getting to know students in the classroom and on the field.

“I enjoy the relationships with students,” Ward said. “I love helping them to develop a healthy lifestyle, and I tell them that I want them to live better longer.”

And Ward is pleased to see one of his students following his footsteps into the Coast Guard. He believes Duncan has what it takes.

“I hope it will be a great life adventure for him like it was for me.”


SMC student, singer and scientist looks to a future in medicine




SMC student, singer and scientist looks to a future in medicine

by Baker Maultsby

Bret McAbee likes to be where the action is. And he’s found plenty to be part of as a student at Spartanburg Methodist College. He works as a tutor for other students, serves as an orientation counselor and sings tenor as part of the Troubadours choral group – all while earning a GPA that’s a whisker away from 4.0.

McAbee’s career plans, too, reflect his taste for the fast pace. He wants to work as a doctor in an emergency room, where caregivers are constantly on the move and the pressure is intense. “The idea that someone’s life can be in your hands, and it’s up to you to do what needs to be done – that’s essential,” he says.

A chemistry major from Campobello, in northern Spartanburg County, McAbee appears to be well on the way to reaching his goal of a career in medicine. Chosen by his classmates to be the graduation speaker at this Saturday’s commencement ceremony, he will head to Presbyterian College next fall with nearly a full scholarship.

But first, he and fellow student Austin Miller will join chemistry professor Adam Siegfried in a prestigious summer research program at Furman University. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation and engages students and professors in state-of-the-art chemistry research.

McAbee’s team will study halogen-bonded crystals during the ten-week program.

With long-term goals in mind, McAbee says he’s excited about the REU opportunity because it could strengthen his resume for medical or graduate school. In the short-term, he’s glad to have the chance to continue working with Siegfried, whom he describes as a terrific teacher. “He explains things really well – gives a lot of examples of the concept we’re studying.”

McAbee says Siegfried is like the majority of faculty members at SMC – engaging, friendly and always willing to offer extra support. “I doubt there are a lot of places like this, where the professors keep their door open anytime they’re in their office,” he said. “They give you the tools to succeed.”

In addition to studying chemistry, McAbee has particularly enjoyed singing with the Troubadours. The group sings religious songs, patriotic music and the occasional pop or folk song from the 1960s.

“I just love hearing all the harmonies come together,” said McAbee, adding that director Lanny Lanford is an inspiring leader and the kind of educator whose impact goes beyond the classroom (or stage). “He’s one of the smartest men I’ve ever met,” he says. “It’s great to work with someone who you respect everything they say. He not only knows about what’s in the book, he just knows a great deal about life.”

McAbee plans to continue singing at Presbyterian. The choral group there is slated to take a trip to perform in Europe next spring. It will be McAbee’s first trip abroad.

McAbee is a first-generation college student. He was a strong student at the small Christian school he attended and always expected he would attend college. “I don’t see it as that big a deal,” he said. Still, he acknowledges, “My parents are pretty proud of me.”

Vice President for Academic Affairs Ann Bowles says McAbee is a great representative of the college and its mission. “Bret is one more example of a student who has come here and taken advantage of and immersed himself in opportunities to learn and grow,” she said. “He’s well-
rounded and clear about what he wants to do, and there’s no doubt he will be a success.”

McAbee is excited about moving on to Presbyterian and eventually pursuing post-graduate studies. But he’s developed a deep loyalty to SMC. He says he will always feel connected to the college.

“It’s one of the things I plan to say in my graduation speech: Once a Pioneer, always a Pioneer.”

A selfie of Cody, taken inside the Fairchild Metroliner cockpit.

The Sky’s The Limit For SMC Graduate

For as long as he can remember, Cody Downey has loved to fly. As a child, he traveled extensively by airplane with his father, a FEMA agent who didn’t want to be separated from his family on long assignments.

“We flew on big commercial jets to Ireland, to the Bahamas, all over the country,” Downey recalls. “We also had a big field in front of our house, and my Dad’s boss used to land his plane in it all the time. For a little kid, that was the coolest thing ever.”

By the time he was eight, Downey, who grew up in Inman, South Carolina, knew he wanted to be an airline pilot. He took his first flight lesson at age 14. On his 16th birthday – a day most high school students are excited about getting their driver’s license – Downey performed his first solo flight. And by age 17, he had his pilot’s license.

When it was time to choose a college, Downey looked first at schools with flight programs. There were good ones in the region, but cost was a factor. And time.

“Everything is about seniority when you work in the airline industry,” he said. “I realized going the traditional route to a degree would set me back a hundred grand and cost me three years.”

For months, says Downey, Bob Seawright – the pilot who landed in his front yard – encouraged him to consider SMC. “When I finally listened to him, I realized SMC offered me the fastest track to the airlines for the most affordable, debt-free price.”

Downey enrolled at SMC in 2014, determined to get an associate’s degree for credibility while completing pilot training on his own. He continued flight lessons in Hendersonville, North Carolina, earning a commercial pilot’s license for single and multi-engine airplanes and an instructor’s license.

To pay for lessons, he worked as a ramp agent for Delta Airlines in Greenville, South Carolina, and as a waiter. He also taught flight lessons and even started his own air tour business – all to earn the flight hours needed to be competitive for a job after graduation.

As much as he was driven to reach his goal of becoming a commercial pilot, Downey took time to enjoy life. He directed the choir for his church and sang in SMC’s Troubadours choral group. He continued following another passion: playing the guitar.

And Downey excelled academically. When he walks across the stage to receive his diploma at Saturday’s graduation ceremony, he’ll be in the top 5% of his class. He appreciated the close attention from SMC faculty and advisers during his two years at SMC. “People like Dr. Kris Pratt, they relate to you on a human level. It’s not just a job for them,” he said.

Pratt, who directs advising at SMC and teaches religion courses, says he was impressed by Downey’s determination to reach his career goals while balancing work, school and extra-curricular activities. “From the day he set foot on campus, Cody knew he wanted to be a pilot. He’s been an important part of the SMC community, and we’ll miss him.”

Downey’s years of hard work have paid off. On May 12, the 20-year-old leaves for Laredo, Texas, where he’s accepted a job as a first officer with a charter service. For a year, he’ll fly a Fairchild Metroliner to destinations in the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico and South America – as well as the United States. All the while, he’ll build additional flight hours and jet time, earning the seniority that should get him well on his way to a first officer position with a major airline – and well ahead of where he might be had he attempted a more traditional degree.

“l’ll finish my Bachelor’s degree online while I’m working,” Downey said. “I’ll have the degree and the job, and no debt.”

Looking back over the past two years, Downey acknowledges that at times it was tough. “That’s a lot of work for someone my age,” he said. “I was always told as a child to aim for the moon but shoot for the stars. To me, that means you can do anything you set your mind to. Just don’t expect it to be handed to you.”


Holycross receives 2016 SCICU Excellence in Teaching award



Mark Holycross, Professor of Physical Science and Physics, was honored with the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCICU) 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award at a reception and dinner April 12.

The Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes dedicated and committed faculty from 20 SCICU member institutions who work one-on-one with students whom they also serve as advisers, mentors and friends.

Holycross came to Spartanburg Methodist College in 2007 after a distinguished 20-year career as an engineering scientist in the private sector. His research led to numerous publications, presentations and patents for the imaging industry.

“We are fortunate that Mark’s career path led him to the college classroom where he encourages and enables students to study science and pursue careers in science and technology,” said Dr. Ann Bowles, Vice President for Academic Affairs at SMC.

Holycross’ creativity in teaching difficult concepts, consistent involvement in campus life outside the classroom and engagement with the students he advises were cited as additional reasons he was deserving of the SCICU award, which includes a $3,000 professional development grant.

“Among an outstanding faculty, Mark’s quiet leadership and steadfast devotion to his students, advisees and the college are characteristics worthy of not only this award, but the admiration and respect of the community,” said President Scott Cochran. “It’s a pleasure to work with a colleague of his caliber.”

“I am honored to be Spartanburg Methodist College’s recipient of the SCICU Excellence in Teaching award this year,” said Holycross. “It means a great deal to be recognized by my peers for this award.”

Holycross holds B.A. degrees in physics and mathematics from the University of Findlay and a Master of Science in physics from the University of Toledo.