History of the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education
By Jim Smith ('72)
The 1967 South Carolina Legislature, by Act #36, created the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education (SCCHE) and charged it with specific duties including the encouragement of higher education in Spartanburg County and adjacent areas and the establishment of facilities to offer standard freshmen and sophomore college courses and other courses as necessary. The SCCHE was empowered to enter into contracts, make binding agreements, negotiate with educators and educational institutions and to take any necessary actions to fulfill their mission.
With this charge from the Legislature, the Commission contracted with the University of South Carolina, and USC Spartanburg came to life with a freshman class of 177 students, originally housed in the old nurse's residence hall of Spartanburg General Hospital. The late G. B. Hodge, MD was the first chairman of the Commission and served tirelessly in that role for 28 years. The second chairman, businessman Jim Smith, ('72), a freshman at USCS in 1968, was appointed to the Commission in 1991 and served as Chairman from 2001 to 2011. Thomas "Tommy" R. Young, III became Chairman of the Commission in August 2011. Members of the Commission are nominated by the Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation and appointed by the governor, for a term of four years. (A list of the current members can be found here.)
With support of Spartanburg County Council, the Commission arranged for the acquisition of the first 40 acres of for the Spartanburg campus in 1968. A portion of that original purchase came as a gift from the Gramling Family, with the balance being paid through a Spartanburg County bond issue. The administration building, featuring its iconic gold dome, is located on this parcel of land.
During the years since, the Commission has acted to assemble our present campus -- 320 +/- acres, sought out and supported funding for campus facilities -- now over a million square feet of classroom, academic and support buildings. In addition, the Commission enthusiastically participated in expansion to Greenville and development of the Johnson College in downtown Spartanburg.
The roles of Commission members include a number of important duties including serving in an advisory role to the Chancellor on all matters of institutional importance, providing recognition of service contributions to the University, assisting with the acquisition of land, supporting capital facilities development and participating in the campus master plan design and approval process. Commission members are also called upon to bring greetings and congratulations at spring commencement exercises and December convocations for graduates.
The Commission has established several awards to recognize outstanding service to the University, including the G.B. Hodge, MD Lifetime Achievement Award, Founder's Day Award, CHE Distinguished Service Award and CHE citations.
Over the life of our University, the Commission has maintained a close relationship with members of Spartanburg County Council and the Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation, for the purpose of keeping these key leaders informed and engendering support regarding the opportunities and challenges facing USC Upstate.