• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

Jonathan Haupt was named the first Executive Director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center on October 22, 2016, during the first annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival. Jane Upshaw, Chair of the Center’s board of directors announced his appointment that evening saying, “In our discussions of what the Center needed, we wanted someone with experience in literary arts leadership—a person who was creative and innovative with programming, marketing and communication. We needed a builder who dreamed big but could translate those dreams into reality. We hoped to find someone who knew Pat personally and understood the magnitude of the opportunity of the Center. It was a daunting task, but I am very happy to share with you this evening that we found just the right person with all of those qualities and so much more in Jonathan Haupt.”
Jonathan gave thanks to the Conroy Center’s board of directors and the Conroy family for entrusting him with that responsibility saying, “The Center is striving to fill in that enormous Conroy-shaped hole in all of our lives and hearts. To play my part in that effort, in honor of my friend and my mentor, is more that an opportunity—it’s a calling…Pat Conroy’s lowcountry heart was big enough to include all of us. As a teacher, a mentor and an advocate, he wanted everyone to find her or his true potential. It’s in that spirit that the Center will take up our mission to continue Pat’s legacy of generosity with readers and writers alike, in and beyond our home here in Beaufort.”
I met Jonathan a year earlier on October 31, 2015 at Pat Conroy’s 70th birthday party hosted by Beaufort History Museum in the courtyard of the historic Arsenal. That event was truly a celebration of Beaufort’s beloved Prince of Tides, with 350 of Pat’s family, friends, and fans gathering from near and far to honor him and his lifetime of work. The birthday celebration was one of the highlights of the multi-day Pat Conroy at 70 Festival (a literary event also encompassing a book festival, writers conference, and film festival). It was an impressive literary festival created and co-chaired by Jonathan, then the Director of the University of South Carolina Press.
Those attending the festival in October 2015 to celebrate Pat Conroy’s life could not know that four months later they would be mourning him. Just days after Conroy’s death on March 4, 2016, his literary agent and long-time friend Marly Rusoff proposed the idea for a Pat Conroy Literary Center as a legacy to Pat. Plans to create the Literary Center began to unfold immediately with the blessing of Pat’s widow Cassandra King. Jonathan remade the original festival he had created to celebrate Pat’s life at 70, as the Pat Conroy Literary Festival—now the Conroy Center’s signature annual event. At the close of that inaugural Literary Festival in October 2016, Jonathan was named the first Executive Director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center.
A Literary Career
Born in Kentucky, Jonathan grew up in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois on Lake Michigan. When he was 17 his family moved to Martin, Tennessee, home of the University of Tennessee at Martin, where he earned undergrad degrees in English and history. During college, he also served as the assistant director at the campus museum. Jonathan attended graduate school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where he earned his masters degree in English. In 1999, after grad school, he took a marketing position with Southern Illinois University Press.
There he met Lisa Bayer, a mentor and friend with whom he’s had a friendly competition over the years—which one of them would achieve the position of director of a university press first? Jonathan joined the University of South Carolina Press in 2004 in a marketing capacity and over time rose to the positions of assistant director for sales and marketing and interim director, before being named Director of the USC Press in 2011. He laughed as he recalled that his first day as Director of the USC Press was also Lisa Bayer’s first day as Director of the University of Georgia Press—so their competition ended in a tie!
Jonathan says that he and his wife Lorene welcomed the opportunity to move to Beaufort in 2016 when he was named Director of the Conroy Center. “We visited Beaufort for years with USC Press events before we moved here, and it has always felt like home to us.” Under Jonathan’s leadership as Director, USC Press was honored with a South Carolina Governors Award in the Humanities, given in recognition of the Press’ commitment to education through humanities publishing. In 2013, he established the Press’ acclaimed Story River Books fiction imprint, edited by the late Pat Conroy and named by Garden & Gun magazine as one of the top 10 things to love about the South. He has also presented at book festivals, writers conferences, and library conferences on topics of small press and university press publishing, literary arts partnerships, and the writing and teaching life of Pat Conroy.
Pat Conroy—Friend and Mentor
Jonathan met Pat Conroy when he started at USC Press in marketing. “I’d call Pat to ask for endorsements for books we were publishing,” he says. “When I became Director of USC Press and Pat realized that I wanted to get serious about publishing fiction, poetry, and children’s and young adult books, and about sharing the stories of the South with readers in a way which could empower them and expand their viewpoints, Pat volunteered to become editor at large for Story River Books. He became our tribal elder.”
“Pat Conroy was a friend and mentor to me and so many writers,” says Jonathan. “Pat wrote about the teachers in his life, like his high school teacher Gene Norris, who recognized Pat’s untapped potential as a writer. Pat did the same for me—he had a way of bringing out a sense of ambition, purpose and responsibility in me that I didn’t know I had,” he explains.
“Pat knew that he could use his fame as a way to champion other writers and causes that mattered to him. He used it as a teaching tool and I want to continue that in my role as Director of the Conroy Center,” Jonathan states.
Leading the Pat Conroy Literary Center
Jonathan explains that the greatest challenge for the Pat Conroy Literary Center is sustaining the Center’s work—doing it well and supporting its programs through fundraising and grants. “We’re here to continue in the same generous spirit as Pat. Pat Conroy was always a teacher and mentor. Writing became a form of teaching for him, and love and teaching were interconnected; so for Pat, writing was a form of love.”
When asked about the Center’s accomplishments that he is most proud of, Jonathan answered, “That’s a difficult question because we’ve done so much so quickly—there’s not one thing in particular. I’m proud of the way that the Conroy Center’s board, docents and volunteers all work together to create a diverse calendar of events, programs and classes that make such a positive impact on the lives of writers and readers. We’ve created a tapestry of interconnected events that are all part of one still-unfolding story.”
On September 18, the book Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy was published, featuring “an illuminating collection of essays honoring the literary legacy of Pat Conroy” by 67 contributing writers. Among those writers are Rick Bragg and Kathleen Parker, both Pulitzer Prize winners (who will be featured at this November’s third annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival). The new book was edited by Jonathan and novelist Nicole Seitz, and published by Lisa Bayer, Jonathan’s first publishing mentor. Royalties from the book sales support the educational mission of the Conroy Center.
After two years at the Center’s location on Charles Street in an historic home, Jonathan says he’s excited that the Conroy Center is moving to a space three times larger at 905 Port Republic Street, the former site of the BB&T Bank. The new space will accommodate larger groups, touring exhibits, and more educational programs. The Center’s new location will open on October 5, coinciding with Shrimp Festival weekend and the second annual Lowcountry Book Club Convention on October 6.
The Conroy Center will present the third annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, in partnership with the USCB Center for the Arts, this November 1–4. The festival’s theme will be Celebrating the Foundations of Faith, Family & Friendship. “We see those topics as the foundation of Pat’s life and writing,” Jonathan explains. “We are fortunate that 24 of the 67 contributing writers for Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy will participate in this year’s festival, many teaching workshops or giving lectures. All 24 will also take part in a dinner on Friday, November 2. If you attend the dinner, you’re guaranteed to hear some good stories about Pat Conroy!”

Izzy Stone
Making Her Way To An LPGA Tour
story by Nathan Livesay     photos by Susan DeLoach
Teenagers with big dreams are pretty common. But finding one who is doing what it takes to make those dreams a reality is not common at all.  Izzy Stone, a 16 year old golfer from Beaufort, is one of those rare people whose work ethic matches her dreams.  Her dream is to play college golf, join the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour and make the 2024 United States Olympic team.  And, she is dedicating her whole life to making that happen.
It only takes a few minutes with Izzy to recognize her determination and drive. You can see her passion for improvement and love for the game of golf.  Fortune may have brought golf to Izzy, but it is her competitive nature and grit that have allowed her to make an incredibly rapid progression as a player.
Izzy, the daughter of Bill and India Dickinson, found golf by chance.  In 2011, her family was chosen to be a part of ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover television series.  In addition to a new home, the family was gifted golf clubs and one free golf lesson.  These went in a closet only to be pulled out days before the lesson expired. It turned out to be quite the fortuitous find because Izzy was a natural.  Shane Lebron, the golf pro that taught the lesson, was blown away by her natural talent and encouraged her parents to have her continue to be trained, even offering to do it for free.  Those free golf clubs and free lesson turned into a lifestyle and in just five years of playing, Izzy has turned into one of South Carolina’s best female junior golfers.
Initially Izzy’s only goal was to get her scores low enough to play in college, but that all changed on March 15, 2017 when a friend mentioned the Olympics.  After this conversation, the idea took root and Izzy began researching what she had to do. This has become her driving goal.  Izzy’s life revolves around golf.  She has sacrificed many of the luxuries of an average teenage life because she is determined to prove her doubters wrong and achieve her goals.  There are no late nights out. She missed Beaufort High season opening football victory over A.C. Flora because she had a tournament the next day.  When asked what she does outside of golf, she hesitated before talking about going to her friends, sporting events or to the movies.
Izzy wasn’t just blessed with a natural swing.  She clearly has an undeniable work ethic and incredible determination to improve, to succeed and to reach her goals.  She said she loves the honesty and integrity of the game, the way the scorecard tells the truth.  “It’s hard and it’s mentally draining.  Sometimes you get better and sometimes you get worse, but when you see your score go down there is no better feeling,” she said.
Izzy and her family made the decision to homeschool to allow her to focus more time and effort on improving her game.
A typical day will have her on the range at Legends Golf Course on Parris Island around 8 a.m. working on a variety of shots for several hours.  After a break for lunch and studies, she heads back out to the course to play 9 holes before heading to the Sanctuary on Cat Island for her Beaufort High School team practice.  After practice, she does more school work and then prepares to repeat the routine again the next day.  Right now, she has high school team matches on Tuesday and Thursday before heading off to play an individual event on the Peggy Kirk Bell Tour on weekends.  Proving again that she is driven to be her best, she has been known to head out to the lighted Marine Corps Air Station range after a tournament to work on shots she struggled with that weekend.
When asked what helps her continue to improve, she mentioned her goal of playing in the Olympics, her work with coach Cody Carter and her sessions with Sea Pines Director of Performance, Matt Cuccaro, for helping her put all the pieces of her game together at the same time. According to Izzy, her biggest challenge is the mentally draining nature of golf and improving her ability to battle self-doubt and stay confident day to day and shot to shot while learning how to let go of a hole that didn’t go the way she wanted it to.
Carter, the 2017 Hilton Head PGA teacher of the year and current head pro at Savannah Quarters Golf Club, was glowing when he talked about his pupil.  He described Izzy as a hard worker, maybe the hardest working player he’s ever coached.  He went on to say that “her drive and motivation is phenomenal and her discipline to say hey my friends are going to a party but I’ve got to work on my game is unbelievable for a player her age.”  He added that she is extremely coachable and does exactly what she is asked to do all the time.  Like others, when asked what the best part of her game is, he quickly responded by talking about her swing, her ability to drive it off the tee. Carter was bullish on her future, saying that if she continues to work as hard as she is now, continues to progress the way that she has and continues to focus on the present and what is right in front of her, all her future goals are in reach.
Izzy has been a member of the Beaufort High School golf team since 7th grade and has been named to the all-region team each of the last three seasons. She says the pieces of her game have been falling into place more consistently and she has been shaving strokes off her scores consistently. Last fall she won the Parris Island Ladies Golf championship (the championship came with a reserved parking place with her name on it, but unfortunately since she was only 15 she couldn’t drive a car to park in it).  Also, last fall, she narrowly missed the all-state team but finished 16th in the 2017 South Carolina High School League Class 4A State Golf Tournament shooting an 82-80, an impressive pair of rounds for a 15 year old high school sophomore. This summer, she won the Hilton Head Island Junior Golf Association Summer League which earned her a spot in the South Carolina Junior Golf Association Tommy Cuthbert All Star tournament where she finished in 3rd place.  In that tournament, she broke 80 for the first time shooting a 79 on her way to that 3rd place finish.  Her success has continued this fall as she has been the low medalist in all three of her high school matches with Beaufort High School.  She continued to shave strokes with a career low 77 and come away with a 2nd place finish in the Peggy Kirk Golf Southeast Series finale at the Wescott Plantation in North Charleston.
You can follow Izzy with the Beaufort High girls golf team.  Find their schedule at bhs.beaufortschools.net/athletics

story by Cindy Reid
photos by Paul Nurnberg

Meet Dr. Robert LeFavi, PhD, DMin, the newly appointed Dean of the Beaufort campus of the University of South Carolina Beaufort. Dr LeFavi has the honor of being the first Dean appointed to the USCB Beaufort campus and is excited about his mission to enhance programs on the campus. He comes to Beaufort by way of Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus, where Dr. LeFavi was Head of Health Sciences and Kinesiology, a department with roughly 2,000 students.
Dr. LeFavi has an impressive Curriculum Vita, having received his Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance from Auburn University, a D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry) from the University of the South, M.Div. (Master of Divinity) from Erskine Theological Seminary, M.B.A. from Nova Southeastern University and a B.S. in Health Education, from the University of Florida.
Dr. LeFavi says, “I was in the university system of Georgia for twenty-eight years, and I genuinely enjoyed my time there. I had absolutely no intention of leaving. But, when I came across this position it hit an entrepreneurial nerve in me and I was immediately drawn to it. In fact, it now seems to me that everything I have done to this point has prepared me for the task of fostering the new programs on the Beaufort campus. I can approach it as an entrepreneur, an academic, a community member, and even a parent. This position is extremely exciting to me. I don’t even feel as if I am going to work when I pull up to campus.”
He says, “USCB has provided resources in order to re-focus energies to the Beaufort Campus. As I see it, what this campus needs is student life. USCB’s Beaufort Campus is a great place for students to study, work and have fun. Part of that is going to be creating an environment in which students will want to be on campus, hanging out on the lawn, throwing a Frisbee, simply enjoying being here. The resources – the landscape, city, academic buildings, walkability and beauty – are already here. I wish I had the option, years ago, of attending a beautiful university on the water, where I could have personalized attention in small classes from outstanding professors, walk everywhere and enjoy the history and natural resources of a place like Beaufort!”
Academic Programs
“The USCB Beaufort campus has excellent academic programs, such as Studio Art, and we will undoubtedly look at other academic programs that would be a natural fit to be developed and strengthened in Beaufort. Added to that, we now have Honors Biology and Honors Nursing programs in Beaufort, and I expect us to broaden our honors offerings,” Dr. LeFavi continues. “And that can all happen as we create a more vibrant campus environment. We now have a great start to creating such an environment; with the new dorms and their proximity to the campus we have a place for students to hang out, socialize and engage the community in an intimate campus feel.”
Community Support
“We are so fortunate to have the support of the community. It is extremely important to have local, experienced and interested community members step up, to provide support in various ways, including new and creative ideas, such as the dorm project,” Dr. LeFavi says, “Many individuals have been genuinely supportive in assisting us as this campus returns to not only its ‘glory days,’ but to even more glorious days.”
“Both the campus and the community rely on each other, and in fact need each other. I have become immensely impressed with the unequivocal and broad-based support for the new programs on this campus throughout the entire community. The well-regarded Center for Fine Arts and the highly successful OLLI program have brought many to the Beaufort campus. And while these points of contact strengthen the ties between town and gown, it is now time to start engaging these bright students with the community,” Dr. LeFavi says.
New Dorms
Next time you are on Boundary Street, take a look at the beautiful new dorms recently constructed at the intersection of Boundary and Newcastle, “In partnership with the University of South Carolina Beaufort, 303 Associates is developing a three-story, 24 apartment complex at the intersection of Boundary and Newcastle Streets that will have room for 92 students in USCB student housing,” (from the 303 Associates press release.)
Dr. LeFavi says, “I am so thrilled to have a new housing complex as part of the Beaufort campus. In addition to students, the new dorms will also house Dorm Directors and Residence Advisors, and it is in easy walking distance to the campus.”
Jewel in the Crown
“If I were a high school senior and I had the opportunity to tour a campus like this, I wouldn’t visit another one! We have a beautiful campus on the water in a historic city filled with friendly people, where you can walk to everything, where your teachers know you on a personal and mentoring level and in an intimate small campus environment. We have an involved community that hosts multiple events on any given day, and we have every kind of water activity from boating and sailing to fishing and the beautiful beaches. Not to mention that Charleston and Savannah are a short drive for students to also explore. I truly believe that the Beaufort Campus is a jewel in the crown of USCB.”
Fitness
Dr. LeFavi is an expert in the fields of health, nutrition, sport science, sport medicine and psychology and has published over 725 articles (scientific and popular press) in his various fields of expertise. He is also co-owner of a CrossFit franchise in Effingham County and a previous owner of Gold’s Gym for 15 years. In 2013, he competed in the World CrossFit Games in the master’s division. More locally, Dr. LeFavi has studied the biomechanics of Beaufort weightlifting phenomenon C.J. Cummings, and was recently quoted by National Geographic on his findings.
Off Campus
Dr. LeFavi and his wife, Sue, have three children and have relocated to Beaufort in a home off Broad River Blvd. while they build in the Habersham community. He is ordained in the Anglican and Lutheran Churches, is the Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Springfield, Georgia and is a columnist for the Savannah Morning News. Dr. LeFavi and his family have dual citizenship with Italy, and he is the liaison for the development of a sister city agreement between Beaufort County/Hilton Head Island and Verona, Italy.
Favorite place in Beaufort?
“The view at the end of the campus where Carteret meets Boundary,” says Dr.LeFavi, speaking of Bellamy Curve, “That view out into the water, to me, is stunningly beautiful. Just think of a student being able to walk past that view from the dorms to the campus everyday!”
Looking Forward
Dr.Le Favi concludes, “We have a rich history, which we honor as we move forward. Things constantly change throughout history, and this campus has always adapted to situations and events it faced. We will continue to do so while we work together to develop a thriving campus, so everyone can see this jewel.”

story by Cindy Reid     photos by Paul Nurnberg
Meet  Stacey Canaday, the  63rd Annual Beaufort Water Festival  Commodore. The Commodore and her talented team of Coordinators and Directors put on South Carolina’s premier festival, the Beaufort Water Festival, which really is , “10 incredible days of Lowcountry fun and memories that last a lifetime.”
That is not an overstatement as the renowned Beaufort Water Festival is a community event, staffed entirely by approximately 400 volunteers,  taken to the highest level.  The events are a combination of annual traditions, new ideas, and world class entertainment. Above all it is a celebration of Beaufort’s  lively waterfront and friendly hometown community.
The events start with the Parris Island Marine Band concert and Fireworks, the exciting Raft Race, the Children’s Toad Fishing Tournament, and the always great Ski Show. Don’t forget the country music Concert in the Park, perennial favorite Motown Monday, Hometown Tuesday, the sweet local Talent Show, the Lowcountry Supper and the Commodore’s Ball.
Let’s not leave out the sporting events, the Water Festival Grand Parade, the sponsor’s expo, the Festival Arts and Crafts Market, the Blessing of the Fleet and the Parade of Boats.  And then there is the Whistlers ( you have to see it to believe it), the popular Teen and River Dances, the non-profit expo, the thrilling air show, bed race and shrimp boat tours.
The list of fun and entertaining things to do at the Water Festival is so long that we can’t even put it all here- you will have to check out the schedule of events to see the full list of activities available.
When she not wearing her Commodore’s jacket, Stacey is a practicing attorney and a partner in the law firm of Tupper, Grimsley, Dean & Canaday, PA in Beaufort. Recently Beaufort Lifestyle caught up with Commodore Canaday to talk about this year’s Water Festival.
Traditions play an important role in the events but the Water Festival stays current by adding new and exciting events from time to time. What is new or different at this year’s Annual Beaufort Water Festival (BWF)?
We will have three acts for Concert in the Park this year, and so we are opening gates at 6:00 pm for a show time of 7:00pm.

One of the Commodore’s many tasks is to design the popular annual tee shirt. Tell us about this year’s tee shirt design.
I had a clear vision of the theme for the 63rd Water Festival, and how I wanted it conveyed through the official artwork.  I knew I wanted my sister to create the painting, and fortunately for me she obliged!  Amanda captured Beaufort in that painting and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do.

How long have you been involved with the BWF?
16 years.

How did you first get involved?
I was a Pirette many, many years ago.  When I returned to Beaufort after law school. I joined a few civic organizations – Zonta, The Rotary Club of the Lowcountry, and Young Lawyers – all of which participated in the Festival.  Once I joined my current firm, my now partner, Erin Dean, suggested I help with Children’s Day back in 2002.

Why did you continue as a volunteer with the BWF?
The people and the fun kept me coming back, with the bonus of having learned organization and leadership skills along the way.
What is your BWF favorite memory?
There are too many memories and moments to count!  One of my favorites, though, was watching my two children steal the show during Commodore’s Ball when Chris became the 61st Commodore.  Our normally reserved Hayden just went all out on stage and performed dance moves we didn’t know he had!

What is your favorite event?
Choosing one is difficult.  Opening Ceremonies is always exciting, what with the fly over, the Parris Island Marine Band and fireworks.  Knowing how many moving parts are involved with Opening Ceremonies, and watching it go off without a hitch, is fantastic.

What entertainment do you have lined up for this year?
We’ve got wonderful and exciting acts this year!  Our headliner for Concert in the Park is Grainger Smith, featuring Earl Dibbles, Jr. (check him out on YouTube and ESPN), with opening acts of John King and Walker County.  To accommodate all three, we are opening gates at 6:00 pm.  We will also have crowd favorites Deas-Guyz for Motown Monday and Steel Rail Express for Tuesday (which is also a FREE night), Zac Brown tribute band 20 Ride will join us Thursday for Lowcountry Supper, Groove Town Assault will get the party started Friday, and rounding out the week on Commodore’s Ball will be Emerald Empire Band.

Tell our readers something they may not know about the BWF.
We can’t say it enough: all of our staff are volunteers, and we work year round to put the Festival together.  Even with an all-volunteer staff, Water Festival makes a significant economic impact upon the City of Beaufort during the ten days of events, bringing thousands of visitors to Beaufort to stay in our hotels, enjoy our wonderful restaurants and participate in the many activities we have to offer.

Tell us something about yourself we may not know.
We have chickens; in fact we have five chickens, which are more like pets than farm animals. We have White Leghorns, Americanas and Bard Rocks.  My son Hayden takes care of them, we call him the ‘chick wrangler!’ Another thing you may not know is that I absolutely love working out at Crossfit.

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Tennessee, but raised in Beaufort since about the age of three.

How did you come to live in Beaufort?
My parents moved here with my sister and me after my dad retired from the Air Force.

Tell us about your family.
My husband, Chris, was the Commodore of the 61st Annual Water Festival.  He is the government finance officer for the Town of Port Royal and has been there for about fourteen years.  Chris and I attended school together since elementary school, though never dated until our last semester in college! We have two boys, Hayden who is 14 years old and a rising ninth grader at Beaufort High School, and Rowan who is ten years old and a rising fifth grader at Riverview Charter School.  Both boys have been around Festival since they were born, and they usually pitch in during set up and take down.
My father, Charles, served in the Air Force during Vietnam, and was a police officer for the City of Beaufort for about twenty years before retiring.  I remember when he used to work extra shifts at the Water Festival.  My dad passed away in 2007, and we miss him daily.  My mom, Paula, worked many years in human resources for the National Water Lift plant that existed at what is now the industrial park before moving to Hargray where she retired as Human Resources manager several years ago.  She is now remarried to David Hoffman and they live in Bluffton.  My sister, Amanda Paige, lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband Jeff and my niece, Savannah.  The last few years they have indulged me and have come to visit us during Water Festival!  Finally, my brother, CB Patterson, lives in Kathleen, GA with his wife Kim and my three nieces Katherine, Caroline and Charlie.  CB followed in our dad’s footsteps, and is a Technical Sergeant at Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.  I’m also fortunate to have my in-laws, Kelvin and Linda Canaday, here in Beaufort, too.
Beaufort is fortunate to have our newest Commodore and if you see Commodore Canaday at the Water Festival be sure and stop and say hello!
The 63rd Beaufort Water Festival is held July 13-22, 2018. Most activities take place at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Beaufort SC. For further information visit the website,  www.bftwaterfestival.com, on Face Book (Annual Beaufort Water Festival) and on Instagram (Annual Beaufort Water Festival).

Dr. Marlena Smalls 

story by Cindy Reid

photos by Susan DeLoach

Dr. Marlena Smalls is truly the Voice of Gullah. Founder of The Hallelujah Singers, an internationally known vocalist and entertainer, a cultural ambassador from the lowcountry to the world, she has been there and done that twice over and then some. She continues to educate, to entertain and to expand our horizons. A true American treasure, she sat down with us to share some of her wisdom on the business of culture and entertainment.

What are some of your current musical projects?

     Two successful shows at USCB Center for the Arts, collaborating with vocalists Elaine Lake, Velma Polk and the Lowcountry Jazz Band, under the direction of David Hershey, have kept me busy. Together we performed a Tribute to Etta James, Motown and More; with a third show, Ain’t Nobody’s Biz, coming up this year. I greatly value working with USCB and it is a great joy to get on stage with Elaine and Velma.

How did your career in music start?

     Interestingly enough, I started out founding a school of music with my mother where we taught voice, piano and dance. From our original five students, we eventually built the school to one hundred and ninety five pupils. Now from the school came out something even bigger. You see we did a wonderful play called “Hail Mahalia” with the music school students, and the parents of those children formed the first nucleus of ‘The Hallelujah Singers.’

Tell us about The Hallelujah Singers

     I founded The Hallelujah Singers in 1990 specifically to preserve the melodies and storytelling unique to the South Carolina Sea Islands. We were the first Gullah Ambassadors. The Hallelujah Singers use entertainment to inspire, celebrate, and preserve the West African heritage which has shaped today’s Gullah culture.

Other important firsts?

     I worked for the City of Beaufort as the Arts Coordinator, and in that capacity I created the first Gullah Festival in 1984. The festival came about because I was trying to create a project where we could fund raise for the arts, particularly children’s projects, and highlight Black culture at the same time.

How did you become the “Voice of Gullah?”

     Even before the first Gullah Festival I was getting the word Gullah out there. Based on the work I was doing, there became quite an interest. Media outlets were contacting me for interviews and information on Gullah culture, the BBC filmed me three times and I did several interviews with NPR. At that point, then South Carolina Governor Riley and Senator Strom Thurmond were contacting me, essentially the state of South Carolina said ‘we need to talk to you!’ That is really how I became the ‘Voice of Gullah’ and I continued to represent South Carolina and conduct interviews on ABC, NBC, at the Atlanta Constitutional Journal and so forth.

In addition to being an artist, you were also in charge of the business of your work.

     The creation of The Hallelujah Singers was the opportunity of a lifetime. As a troupe, we went to Japan, Germany, France, Spain, England and Scotland. We travelled the world. However it was very time consuming; it grew so fast so quickly that cash flow became a problem. I had a wonderful friend whose husband was a retired banker and he worked with me to complete a prospectus which helped me obtain a business loan. That was very unusual in the entertainment business, because you have no tangible assets. Keeping up with the business side of entertainment is a rollercoaster.

What do you want people to understand about Gullah?

     I want people to understand Gullah is not stuck in time. It’s more than just being born somewhere from Wilmington, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. It’s the DNA. It’s the West Indies, Brazil and Africa. We cut the culture of Gullah short when we think of slavery and slavery alone. By doing that we exclude essentials such as diet, wisdom and religion. The Gullah was wise and creative enough to accept the culture so they could survive. The African survived. He entangled himself like a vine on a tree. The culture of Gullah is bigger than Beaufort.

What do you think about the current focus on Reconstruction?

     When we look at Reconstruction, which we are starting to do here in Beaufort, we see it never completely took because it took fifty one years for the African to achieve equality. Fifty one years for the right to housing and education and healthcare. We are still not equal in how the African is perceived. This is a lack of education. We must be vigilant in making sure all Americans are educated. A campaign of diversity. A campaign of ‘See me’- to see what we have each brought to this country. We can do this by including a truer picture of history in the classroom.

This leads to your involvement in children’s education?

     Yes, this is why children’s education is important. When I do cultural presentations in a classroom I start with a world map and work through food. I ask the children ‘do you know even if you have never left your hometown, you have travelled the world?’ We go through the origins of pasta, of frankfurters, of sweet potatoes and rice, of various spices. I ask the children to talk to the oldest person you can, to ask them to give you something to represent your heritage. Over the years I have gotten Irish war beads, a coffee cup from Peru, French bread made at home, various combs, a piece of a kilt, all sorts of things.

What is your current children’s project?

     I have adopted the Mossy Oak Elementary School. At the end of this year the children will be collaborating with me and illustrating my children’s book. Next year I will have the children involved with music. The children are wonderful and I get great joy from the classroom.

What would you tell a young woman embarking on an entertainment career? 

     I would tell her, ‘You need to be kind.’ Because kindness has worked for me. I would say to her, surround yourself with positive and wise people. That’s what I did and that helped me to build my business. As I look back one person in particular was so meaningful in my life, and that was Harriet Keyserling. She had me come to her home. We had tea and talked. ‘Let me help you’ she said. She was kind and open. Also Jayne Leigh Powell was very important to me, she became my business partner. We were like sisters, and then she was a surrogate mother to me until she went on to Glory.

     So I say you need to be kind, you need to be helpful, you need to share with mankind. Be kind.

Your favorite place in Beaufort?

     The waterfront park. I have been here long enough to see the changes in the waterfront, and they correlate with the changes in my life. In the past, I worked with the city of Beaufort, and I planned events there, and now I am not working for the city and I occasionally sing from the stage. Now I get in the swings and I watch people, some I know, some I don’t, and I have quick conversations. God speaks to me there.

Feeling Blessed and Grateful

     I would like to say I am very thankful to Beaufort South Carolina. They embraced me and my children when I arrived here and I will forever be eternally grateful. I was able to share Gullah and could not have done it without them.

     I was blessed with so much after as I matured in my music and life.  God allowed me to sing with my daughters, Tracey McGhee and Sumitra Stewart, and my sister Gladys Jenkins shared her gift of song with us. They were a blessing and inspiration to me over the years as we performed and kept Gullah in the forefront.

     Also, I found my best friend and Sister, Peggy Bing-O’Banner, in this beautiful Lowcountry.  The Hallelujah Singers produced five CDs over the years that I pray will forever leave an imprint on the lives of all who hear them.  It is my desire that our music will speak for itself as it lays the path for future generations to hear and learn of our wonderful Gullah culture. Life is good.

story by Cindy Reid

photos by John Wollwerth

“Seaside Grown’s Bloody Mary mix is made from hand-picked, vine ripe tomatoes, so fresh we can even tell you the acre of the field they came from,” says Ross Taylor, creator of St. Helena Island’s newest success story, Seaside Grown Bloody Mary Mix . Although this is their first commercial food product, Ross’s family, the Sanders, are no strangers to the tomato business. As befitting a true Beaufort story, it really starts way back when. Long time commercial farmers, the Sanders have  been growing tomatoes on St. Helena Island since the  early 1900s. “It all started with Gustav ‘Gus’ Sanders, who began the first commercial tomato farm in the area,” says Ross.

As their website says, “Over a century ago, Gus Sanders discovered that the soil on St. Helena Island was just right for producing plump and juicy tomatoes. That’s because the soil is just a tad bit warmer than that of inland farms, which makes it perfect for harvesting the best tomatoes. “Their longevity can be attributed to the superiority of their crop, because as Ross says, “We are known for growing the best tasting, mouthwatering tomatoes on the East Coast.”

And while that’s true,  it is one thing to grow a food crop and it is quite another to create, market and sell an entirely new commercial food product. In this case, it started when Gus’s great grandson Ross was at Clemson University. Ross says, “It happened to be harvest season and my college buddies came to town – one thing led to another and that’s how our hearty and delicious Bloody Mary Mix came to be.” Ross says the secret recipe is based on a long held family recipe that just needed a few tweaks to make it shelf stable. Seaside Grown is different from most Bloody Mary mixes because it is a “real Bloody Mary mix, made from  red ripe tomatoes and not tomato paste.” says Ross ,” We can tell you exactly what field each tomato in any given jar came from. We compare this to the bottling of rose wine. Not only do we know what field, we know the day and date the tomatoes in every jar of mix was picked.”

He says, “This is a family grown, handpicked, farm to table product.” People are noticing and the mix is selling out. Last October, they made 350 cases and they were sold out by December 31, 2017. Ross says, “Being certified South Carolina Grown is not just a necessary part of production. To us, it’s an honor and a matter of taste. We are blessed to be able to grow God’s finest tomato in a beautiful part of the world with our family and friends—there is truly nothing better than that. Seaside Grown Bloody Mary Mix is a natural extension of this attention to quality and pride in producing the very best product possible.”

Seaside Grown also has the added benefit of utilizing tomatoes that are too ripe, misshapen or not perfect enough to be sent to market. Ross says, “We sell, pack and ship tens of millions of pounds of tomatoes in the month of June and approximately twenty percent of the crop doesn’t make the grade. Of those, ninety percent are fine and by creating a food product we can make use of what would otherwise go to waste.”

Their current label is fun- “One taste and we think you will agree- it’s finer than frog’s hair! If it ain’t fresh, it ain’t’ in our pot!” Upcoming will be a new label which will show St. Helena Island on a nautical chart because people want to know exactly where Seaside Farm, Frogmore South Carolina is located.

Ross will also be adding information on the website regarding a popular food use for the mix- using it to make local favorite  Savannah Red Rice. Of course the mix can be enjoyed as a “Virgin Mary,” a non alcoholic version, as well. Future production plans include adding salsa, salsa verde and other fresh tomato products to the Seaside Grown label. First up will be  “Gus’s Spicy Mix,” a Bloody Mary mix that has more of a kick to it. Ross says, “We are that rare combo, a successful commercial farm that is still small enough to create our own products. At the end of the day, we are a family grown product.”

MacDonald MarketPlace

Another family production is the MacDonald MarketPlace, located on Sea island Parkway, St. Helena Island. Ross is the General Manager of the store, which was built by James Ross Macdonald in 1877. Although it had been in several different hands over the years, the Sanders are now running the store their ancestor founded. The MarketPlace features “Antiques, Home & Art,  The Essence of Lowcountry Living” as well as the Seaside Grown line in their cozy kitchen room. Ultimately, the MacDonald Market Place brings together many local artisans, giving them a beautiful and historic space to market their work. One can find everything from local paintings to antiques, lamps to photographs and much more. It is a giant jewel box of artisan treats.

Taylor Offshore

By land and sea, Ross is also an entrepreneur in another coastal endeavor.   As co-creator of Taylor Offshore, he and two other classmates from Clemson invented a quick connect system specific to off shore sport fishing rigs. Their website says it is “The easiest and fastest way to catch fish.” He says, “ We spent eight years in research and development to make this the best quick release system on the market. Our product is represented all over the world, Panama, Costa Rico, South Africa, all the big off shore locales.”

When asked why this product, he says, “Off shore fishing is very much a passion of mine. I try to go every other month.” He says his favorite off shore fishing spot is the Zane Grey Reef in Pinas Bay, Panama, “There nothing close to it!” He also likes the fishing in Los Suenos, Costa Rico.

Ross and his wife, Lisa, make their home in Beaufort. They recently celebrated their five year anniversary and Ross says although they love downtown Beaufort, they may well move out to the island in the near future. He says, “We love the peace and quiet of the island.” When asked what his favorite place in Beaufort is, this busy entrepreneur answers, “There is a creek off Station Creek on the island and it is a good place to get in the boat and be alone. That’s where I go to get away from it all. It’s quiet and beautiful out there.”

“When you mix family, six generations of tomato growers, great friends, the warm sea, summertime harvests and God’s finest tomatoes, you have just uncovered the magic behind Seaside Grown!”

Seaside Grown Bloody Mary Mix can be found at Bill’s Liquors & Fine Wine on Lady’s Island and MacDonald Marketplace on St. Helena Island.

“Forging & Welding Historic Railroad Parts into Words of Art”

story by Cindy Reid     photos by Susan DeLoach

To enter Cathy Pender Emmert and her father Jim Pender’s blacksmith workshop is to enter a wonderland of fire and noise, steel and iron, anvils and forges. Out of the midst of much machinery and who knows how many tools, Cathy and Jim have created an entire art form from previously discarded historical artifacts. And they have also created something else. They have forged a true father and daughter friendship.

Railroad Remnants 

     Cathy comes by her facility with tools and machinery by way of eighteen years of working at the family’s business, Pender Brothers Inc., a plumbing, welding and HVAC business established in Port Royal in 1985 by Cathy’s father Jim Pender and Johnny Pender, his brother. Cathy runs the welding office and she and Jim run the welding shop.

     The Railroad Remnants story really starts in 2014 when Pender Brothers, Inc. bought the contract to remove the last two and a half miles of the Port Royal railroad track.  From Railroad Remnants, “The Port Royal, SC Railroad…The railroad was chartered in 1856. Construction began in 1870 and was completed to Augusta, GA in 1873. It ran from 1870 until 2003 when it was abandoned. Then in 2011 the demo of it began to build what is now known as the Spanish Moss Trail, a bicycle/walking trail. For over 100 years it carried passengers, freight and future Marines to Port Royal.”

     Jim Pender says “We bought that contract to take up the tracks because it was right outside the shop and we could keep all the remnants from the rock to the spikes, crossties and rail. After we pulled it all up, we sold the crossties and rail.” But there were still thousands of spikes and other metal pieces left over.

     Cathy says, “I said don’t scrap it- we can do something with it.” So they repurposed industrial containers and stored about 25,000 railroad spikes and various metal clips and plates from the tracks for an undefined future use. And there they sat.

Word Spikes

     The idea to create art from the discarded spikes was born when Cathy was scrolling through Facebook two years ago. She says, “I saw a Christmas tree made from welded horseshoes and thought ‘I could make that,’ so I went in the shop and I made the Christmas tree. Then I started messing around and I made the words ‘Joy’ and ‘Love’ out of the old railroad spikes.” She took pictures of her work and put them on Facebook. She says, “Next thing I know I was taking orders.” Her Dad Jim chimes in, “She made one or two words and it made me jealous. So I joined in.”

     The process they use to create words from spikes starts with the bead blaster, a large piece of machinery which ‘blasts’ the metal with glass beads and takes the rust off. But Cathy says, “We like keeping the patina on the spikes so we have to be careful how much we blast them.” After the spikes come out of the bead blaster it is time to ‘heat and beat.’ The ‘heat’ part comes from putting the spikes in one of the two forges in their workshop.

     Cathy says, “Dad should have been born in the horse and buggy age, because he already had a coal and propane forges here at the shop, in fact they have been here for about 30 years.” They generally use the propane forge, which enables Cathy and Jim to control the temperature better than coal forge. After being in the forge for about 5 minutes, the spikes are around an astounding 2000 degrees hot.

     The ‘beat’ step is exactly as it sounds-  they beat the long part of the spikes in order to draw them  out from their original six to six and a half inches to eight inches, the length needed to make an individual letter. Have you ever tried to change the length of a piece of iron or steel by hand? It is as hard as it sounds. Jim was able to track down the only piece of equipment they bought, a ‘trip hammer’ which they use to lengthen the red hot spikes. Before the trip hammer, they would laboriously beat the spike on the anvil until they got the desired length. The trip hammer does the ‘beating for them,’ making the process significantly easier.

     They only have a short window of time to beat the spike into the desired shape of a letter or number. Those moments go rapidly and Cathy and Jim have become very adept at creating a letter quickly. These skills took hours of work to develop, as Jim says “It took time, and trial and error, to develop the letters from then to what we do now.”

     What they do with the finished letters is create names, all kinds of different names. They create family names, place names, business names, even pet names, that can hang on a wall, stand alone on a mantle or table, or even have stakes welded to them so they can stick in the ground.

Words of Art

     Every ‘word of art’ is a one of its kind because every letter created is distinct. One “A” is different from the other “A”’s because each spike is different, before and after it is forged and transformed into an individual letter. In addition, the two blacksmiths bring their own artistic sensibility to each piece. Cathy says, “I get excited with every word I start, even if I have made it before. Each is unique.”      Jim makes the point with several versions of the letter “E,” illustrating perfectly the individuality of each and every letter created. The letters then create words and as Jim says, “Much more go into a word than creating each letter. You have to keep the same height, make it look right, make it so you can hang it or put it on a stand. You need to gauge where it will balance, where to weld a hook.” A typical word takes four to six hours to create.

     Their work is more than the repurposing of old railroad spikes. “These are Port Royal artifacts,” Jim says, and “We turn history into heirlooms.” Jim also says, “We have a lot of pride in what we do. A letter we make might be acceptable to a lot of people but if we don’t like it we don’t use it.”

     In addition Cathy and Jim have created new and interesting projects that go beyond a family or place name, such as a five foot long sign for a local plantation, numerical coordinates and bottle openers and oyster knives. Cathy and Jim recently made two sets of deer antlers from the railroad spikes, both as gifts for retiring Marines. Jim also makes mini anvils using the railroad iron.

     They have also donated words of art to CAPA and to the SC Water Fowl Association for fundraisers. Their work is reaching all corners of the world, including Japan and Australia. Pretty good for a two person operation that only advertises on Facebook!

Welded

     Cathy says, “The best part is the relationship we’ve developed and the time spent with my Dad. My family is big and we have always been close, but its one thing to be close with your parents and it’s another to call them your friend. And I can truly say my parents are my friends, and once we started blacksmithing, that bond got closer. To me that is priceless, and makes the blacksmithing come easy.”   She says “This has been a huge bonding experience for both of us.” Jim’s pride in his daughter is evident and one can see how much he enjoys being in their business together.

Portable Blacksmiths 

     They have such a good time working together that they spent a considerable amount of time creating a portable blacksmith shop in order to take their shop on the road to craft shows and community events. Ingeniously they used a pop-up camper as the base, and it includes a portable forge so they can give demonstrations and create art at events. Jim got the idea from watching other crafters and what it entailed to be in a festival. He says, “You have to load all of your merchandise, tables and tent to go to the festival, unload it when you get there, load it all up to leave and unload it again when you get home. That’s a lot of loading and unloading; and all of our stuff is heavy.” Cathy says, “With our portable blacksmith shop there is much less to handle to participate in the craft fairs. Not to mention the crowd it draws because of its looks and the sound of our hammers hitting hot steel on the anvil. “

Forging Plans

     After two years of working together, Cathy and Jim are looking forward to continuing Railroad Remnants and taking their work to the next level. She has ideas that incorporate found driftwood and Jim’s mind is always working on the next project, such as the custom  trestle table he recently made from railroad pieces for a client. She says, “I have lots of ideas for the future. I never expected this when  I took ‘Love’ and ‘Joy’ to Facebook, it really has been a whirlwind!”

     Their genuine respect and affection for each other shines through their humor, and the jokes fly as much as the sparks from the anvil. When asked about retirement Jim answers that no, retirement is not an option because ”she works me like a borrowed mule. You can quote me on that.” Cathy laughs and says “The fun part is hanging out with him”.  To keep up with this father /daughter duo follow them on Facebook at : Railroad Remnants by Cathy Pender Emmert.

story by Marie McAden     photos by Paul Nurnberg

Three weeks into his new job as president and CEO of Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH), Russell Baxley was settled into his office and eager to start work on several innovative initiatives to improve patient care.

   Mother Nature had other ideas.

   The young hospital administrator was just getting ready to sink his teeth into his burgeoning agenda when Hurricane Matthew began its destructive route up the Southeastern coast.

     At first, the plan was to discharge all patients well enough to go home and shelter in place. But when the forecast model showed the Category 4 storm had shifted direction and was making a beeline for Beaufort with a predicted landfall at high tide, Baxley was faced with the difficult choice of riding out the hurricane or closing the 197-bed nonprofit hospital.

     The most serious potential issue was a 12-foot storm surge flooding the basement and taking out the hospital’s chilling system and boilers. Concerned for the safety of the remaining patients, many of them in serious or critical condition, Baxley decided to evacuate.

     Coordinating with officials from the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control and a multitude of transportation companies, hospital staff began relocating dozens of patients, including two who were on ventilators and needed to be airlifted out. Many of the patients were accompanied to the receiving hospitals by BMH nurses.

     “No one in the hospital had been through a hurricane before,” Baxley said. “It was amazing to watch everyone go into action. In less than 12 hours, we had evacuated 68 patients.”

     And Baxley was right there with them in the trenches.

     “When the storm hit, he slept in the hospital with the emergency staff,” recalled BMH Board of Trustees Chair Terry Murray. “It created a great sense of camaraderie and team work.”

     “Days later, the housekeepers, technicians, doctors and nurses who had been called in to man the hospital during the storm were telling her, “This new guy’s okay.”

     For Baxley, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

     “It was a crash course for me in what our hospital staff could do in the face of extraordinary challenges,” he said. “Working together in a crisis, we got to know each other very quickly.”

     At age 33, Baxley was the youngest of seven highly qualified finalists the BMH Board of Trustees considered to replace outgoing president Rick Toomey, who announced his resignation in early 2016.

     Despite his youth, Baxley had a depth of experience that was unrivaled. He started his career managing a physician practice and advanced through every critical hospital position, including CEO of a similar-size private hospital in Lancaster, PA.

     During his career, he had served as chief operating officer, assistant chief financial officer and director of development in small- and medium-size hospitals in South Carolina and Texas, including Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville. He also served as director of operations and finance for a large family medicine practice and medical spa in Columbia.

     “We wanted someone who had vision, but was well grounded,” Murray said. “The more we talked with him, the more we realized he was up for the challenge. Not only could he take us to the next level, he could take us to the level after that.”

     More importantly, he had a deep sense of integrity. “He worked for a for-profit hospital, but he embraced the nonprofit mission,” Murray said. “Integrity was at the heart of it.”

     A graduate of Clemson University with a B.S. in Microbiology, Russell started out with aspirations of becoming a doctor.

     “I always wanted to be in the healthcare field,” he said. “But after four years of undergraduate studies, I decided it wasn’t for me.”

     His mother, the controller for Lake City Community Hospital, encouraged him to get a master’s in hospital administration. He took her advice and earned his graduate degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of South Carolina (USC).

     Growing up in rural Johnsonville, Baxley developed a strong work ethic, nurtured in the fields of his family’s South Carolina farm.

     “My brother, my cousins and I all worked on the farm in the summers and after school, even if we had other jobs or baseball practice,” Baxley recalled. “It was the expectation. The job wasn’t done until it was done.”

     The lessons he learned in his youth—the importance of working together as a team and sharing a commitment to a common cause —have served him well as a hospital administrator.

     Today, that common cause is to provide the community with access to high quality care.

     “We want to expand our footprint, both physically and through technology, to offer our residents health care services where they live, work and play,” Baxley said. “We have to grow, but we need to grow in the right way, making sure we are good stewards of our finances.”

     One of his most ambitious initiatives is the creation of South Carolina’s first micro hospital, being planned in Okatie Crossing to serve Bluffton’s growing population. BMH has partnered with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health) to build the acute care facility adjacent to its planned 60,000-70,000-square-foot medical campus at U.S. 278 and S.C. 170. Construction of the 20-bed micro hospital will begin in June with a completion date set for September 2019.

     The micro hospital will include an emergency room, lab and imaging services, In-patient beds and surgical suites.  The hospital will focus on multiple specialties to include general medicine, orthopedics, general surgery, cardiology and more.

     Baxley also shepherded a joint venture with MUSC and Alliance Oncology to relocate and expand the Keyserling Cancer Center to Beaufort Medical Plaza on the main hospital campus. The three-story building already houses an infusion center, imaging services, breast health center and the office of one of Beaufort Memorial’s two medical oncologists.

     By early 2019, the second oncologist, along with radiation oncology services, will be moved to the building from the Keyserling Center.

     “Our vision is to provide cancer patients with everything they need in one place,” Baxley said. “We’ll even have office space for MUSC cancer specialists so patients can see them here rather than have to drive to Charleston.”

     As part of the project, BMH is investing in the latest radiation technology, including a cutting-edge linear accelerator. The hospital also has applied to the state to open a second radiation oncology center in the Okatie Medical Office building to be developed in conjunction with the micro hospital.

     “I always felt that developing an affiliation with MUSC Health was the way to go,” hospital board chair Murray said. “Russell has taken the concept and run with it.”

     Beaufort Memorial’s first partnership with MUSC started in 2014 with stroke and pediatric telemedicine. Under the program, BMH emergency room and intensive care physicians can consult with the tertiary medical center’s stroke and pediatric experts on a moment’s notice 24/7.

     Recognizing the benefits of telemedicine and the increasing role it will play in the future of health care, Baxley tapped the technology to create BMH Care Anywhere. With the online service, patients can “see” a board-certified urgent care provider anytime, anywhere using their smart phone, tablet or computer.

     “Our focus is on improving access to health care,” Baxley said. “We’re doing that by extending hours, expanding into other markets and employing telemedicine in the care of patients.”

     With the nationwide shortage of physicians, Baxley expects virtual visits will become increasingly common, especially for primary care.

     “Not only does it provide patients with faster access to care,” he said, “it allows us to reach residents in rural areas where there are few doctors.”

     In addition to the telemedicine initiatives, Baxley also pushed forward the launch of an online self-scheduling service for nonlife-threatening emergency department visits, cutting down the time patients spend in the ER waiting room. To speed up treatment to patients suffering minor ailments and injuries, the hospital recently opened an express care clinic at 974 Ribaut Rd.

     “Russell developed a very ambitious, highly detailed strategic plan when he came to the hospital in 2016,” Murray said, “and he and his team are accomplishing everything we set out to do.”

     The hospital executive’s “all-in” approach isn’t reserved just for the workplace. He is equally passionate in his personal life.

     A strong proponent of healthy living, he exercises daily, either working out at the gym or running three to 10 miles. He has raced in several half marathons and is currently preparing for The Palmetto 200, a 200-mile team running event from Columbia to Charleston.

     And lest there be any doubt, he is a Tiger through and through. His allegiance to Clemson has created some friendly dustups with his wife, Stephanie, a graduate of the University of Georgia.

     Several weekends during football season, the couple will make it up to Clemson or Athens to root for their respective alma maters. But on three out of the four road trips, they’re wearing orange and heading to Death Valley.

     “She gets the say most times,” Baxley quipped, “but that’s the one argument I always win.”