Clinton College’s annual 1894 Society banquet is about accomplishments, with the college honoring its distinguished alumni and staff.
But Wednesday the banquet’s focus was on the journey as much as the accomplishments. It was about learning to negotiate the stepping stones of life.
Joseph Johnson, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, was one of two honored with the Rock Hill college’s distinguished service award. During his eight years on Clinton’s board of trustees, Johnson helped the school become accredited and build a new library. During his service to Clinton and other AME schools he earned the nickname the “education bishop.”
“Education, to me, is important,” Johnson told the audience of alumni and supporters at the Rock Hill Country Club. “It is expensive. But, ignorance is more expensive.”
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And it’s not easy, said Johnson, whose educational journey started in the U.S. Army where he earned his general education diploma. His journey includes a doctorate of ministry degree from the Chandler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.
“You cannot expect to go up the escalator, you have to go up the steps, one step at a time,” he said.
Johnson’s remarks served as a bookend to the opening greeting from Nigel Williams, president of Clinton’s Student Government Association. Williams said his school work was giving him the potential, the confidence to be successful.
“This is a great stepping stone,” Williams said.
In between, the journeys and accomplishments of Clinton alumni and supporters were celebrated.
Christine Trigg was presented the distinguished alumni service award. Trigg received her high school diploma from Clinton in 1945. She rose to become customer service manager and sales service manager at J.B. Williams Co. in Cranford, N.J., where she worked for 25 years. She was the first African-American to hold a management position at J.B. Williams.
The Rev. Sharon Browning Jenkins, a Rock Hill native, also was a distinguished service award winner. She noted that her history at Clinton started before she was even born as her parents met at the school. Jenkins is a former associate professor of religious studies at Clinton as well as the former director of student affairs. She also is a presiding elder of the Rock Hill District of the South Carolina Conference – South Atlantic Episcopal District and the pastor of Foundation AME Zion church.
The guest speaker was Glenn McFadden, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Comporium. McFadden and the company have been supporters of the college.
McFadden noted that his contributions have been small, but magnified by Clinton College President Elaine Copeland.
Copeland, much like the Biblical parable where Jesus feeds 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fishes, is “given a little bit and takes it a long way,” McFadden said. “Elaine does that every day.
In a homespun speech McFadden discussed growing up a Chester County farm boy in Fort Lawn and the stepping stones he walked and the life lessons he learned.
“Your success is not dependent on someone else,” McFadden said. “Your destiny is your own.”
McFadden’s advice, taken from his father, was “to give out, but don’t give up. ... If you put forth the effort you will succeed.”