Spartanburg Methodist College’s Eighth President
On Friday, November 4, at 11 a.m., the Spartanburg Methodist College community will celebrate a new chapter in its history during the Inauguration of W. Scott Cochran, the college’s eighth president since its founding in 1911.
The Inauguration is free to attend and open to the public. The media are invited and encouraged to attend. The event will take place in Bridges Arena on the SMC campus.
Cochran was chosen by the college’s board of trustees after a nine-month national search that resulted in a pool of highly competitive candidates. He began serving the college in his new role Nov. 16, 2015, and will be officially installed as president November 4 by Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher, member of the SMC Board of Trustees and chair of the search committee.
The college has installed three presidents since being renamed from Spartanburg Junior College in 1974, all of whom served with energy, vision and dedication, including Dr. George DeWitt Fields, who served from 1976 to 1997; Dr. Charles Porter Teague, who served from 1997 to 2009; and Dr. Colleen Perry Keith, who served from 2009 to 2015.
Spartanburg Methodist College was founded as Textile Industrial Institute (TII) by Dr. David English Camak, a visionary Methodist minister. As a work-study cooperative, TII served young adults working in area textile mills by offering high school level courses in preparation for advanced education or employment. In this first cooperative education program in the country, students worked a week and then took classes for a week. In 1927, college level courses were added to the curriculum and, in 1942, the college was renamed Spartanburg Junior College. Today, it continues to offer students a strong foundational education in the liberal arts, granting six Associate degrees in arts, fine arts, business, criminal justice, religion and science. 90 percent of the college’s students transfer to other institutions to complete their degrees.
“I am very pleased with the direction the college has taken since Scott began leading it,” says Fisher. “We knew when we brought him on board that he valued Spartanburg Methodist College’s rich history and mission, but also that he had the energy and creativity to expand upon the good work done by those who led before him. I’m thrilled by our choice and excited for the future of SMC.”
Since his arrival on campus, Cochran has explored new ways to fulfill the mission of Spartanburg Methodist College. A Professional Development program has been established to assist students in preparing to be successful in their future career endeavors. The program, housed in the new Ballard Center, reflects the original mission of TII. In December, the college’s first Winter Term will be offered, consisting of online courses to help students at SMC and other colleges take classes they need to stay on track for graduation. A ten-year master plan for campus facilities was recently completed and includes new facilities to improve upon and maximize the use of the college’s 110-acre campus.
Cochran has also been instrumental in the exploration of new and in-demand academic programs to be offered beginning in 2018. And students who prefer to stay at SMC while continuing their bachelor’s degree online may now do so through partnerships established with Palmetto College and The Medical University of South Carolina.
“SMC will continue its mission of preparing students for what comes next, whether that’s a senior college experience here or elsewhere or immediately entering the workplace, and I look forward to continuing to work with our outstanding faculty and staff to deliver the kind of personalized education experience that only small liberal arts colleges can provide,” says Cochran. “I’m excited to build upon a history of giving students the opportunity to find their path and to succeed in life, and I look forward to seeing SMC thrive in the coming years.”
Throughout Cochran’s eight years of higher education leadership experience and throughout his distinguished business career, he has demonstrated a commitment to courageous, visionary and ethical leadership and to making those around him better. He is an outstanding leader, mentor and teacher, whether leading consulting projects for students, teaching a professional development seminar or counseling students on starting a business. Cochran has engaged himself in every aspect of SMC life.
“Scott brings to the SMC Presidency enthusiasm, drive and heart,” says James Fletcher Thompson, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “Our college’s mission is unique, and we have found an equally rare leader. Our future looks bright, indeed.”