TransformingSCsDestinyOnline - page 7

F I R S T 5 0 Y EAR S
“What brings you to Charleston,” I asked.
“Boeing,” he said.
I asked what his name was.
“Mark,” he said, “Mark with a ‘k.’”
Mark thumbed through
Reflections of South Carolina.
“This looks like a book I need to get.” He went on to tell me he was an engineer
who had graduated from Cal State Fullerton. His work at Boeing involved keeping composite aft fuselage materials frozen until the assembly
process needed them.
Suddenly, everything came together. In my book are photographs of cotton fields in Jasper and Lee Counties. In one photo, automated
harvesters gather cotton and holding that book was a man who helps assemble Boeing’s super-high-tech 787 Dreamliner. South Carolina’s
past, present, and future merged then and there—I saw farms, cotton, mills, and people desperate for work, and there I was in the hometown
of Fritz Hollings. As I signed Mark’s book, I thought about how Hollings had literally seen the light back in Dayton, Ohio. Then I thought of
the leaders of the technical college system whose work over the previous fifty years had led this Californian to stand before me.
“I want to show the folks back in California how pretty South Carolina is,” he told me as I signed his book and handed it to him.
Governor Hollings made good on his promise. From the tech system’s humble beginning as a desk in the State Development Board the
South Carolina Technical College System would grow to sixteen technical colleges. The story of how this modern system came to be is one of
overcoming challenges and resistance and resolving conflict. Textile leaders opposed the new educational system, and political kingpins who
insisted on building training centers in their home counties had to be denied.
Transforming South Carolina’s Destiny
is a story of hard work with anecdotes aplenty. From converting a landfill to the state’s first technical
college campus to political deals sealed by liquor and raids on other state’s businesses, this book chronicles how the years from 1961 to 2011
rewrote this state’s modern history. Those first fifty years turned a largely agricultural and textile workforce into highly skilled workers.
Today’s South Carolinians build BMWs, develop pharmaceuticals, and rethink how to build airplanes. And Mark, I realized, would never
have walked into the Preservation Society of Charleston’s bookstore had men and women not resolved to transform South Carolina’s destiny.
One man’s vow from over fifty years ago has South Carolinians literally flying into the future. His vision and resolve led to a technical college
system that propelled South Carolina’s economy into the age of high technology.
Those first five decades did something else. They touched lives. South Carolinians no longer have to leave home to find good work. A more
competitive, more diverse South Carolina exists, and this is its story. It’s not a tedious story of legislation. It’s a colorful story of what went on
behind the scenes. It is a South Carolina story, and the time to tell it has arrived.
Tom Poland
Columbia, South Carolina
October 2013
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