By Gwendolyn Weiler
Edited by Lake Morris
A South Carolina author who's writing and research focus on the Holocaust and race relations, the director of South Carolina's leading museum, and the president of a prestigious South Carolina college were honored with the highest award of the humanities Thursday.
"Thank you not only for your intellectual addition, but the economic and cultural advantages that come with it," Gov. Mark Sanford said as he presented the annual Governor's Awards in the Humanities to author Theodore "Ted" Rosengarten; McKissick Museum's Executive Director Lynn Robertson; and Wofford College President Benjamin "Bernie" Dunlap.
Fifty-six Governor's Awards in the Humanities have been presented since 1991. Among the recipients have been author James Dickey, former Sen. Ernest F. Hollings and noted historian Walter Edgar.
The awards are a great way to celebrate the humanities in South Carolina, and to honor those who have devoted their careers to them, said state Humanities Council Chairwoman Judy Burke Bynum.
Amid the buzz of good wine, good food and good conversation, about 100 friends, colleagues and supporters came to applaud and congratulate the winners at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
Sanford said he thinks of Rosengarten, the McClellanville author of the 1974 book "All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw," which details the life of an Alabama sharecropper, in terms of "tearing down bridges and helping people understand each other better, and the idea of understanding the Jewish perspective in the Deep South years ago." This work, Sanford said, "is absolutely tremendous."
Rosengarten said, "Try to understand the human condition. It's the only way we can make our condition more human."
Sanford said, "Humanities, fundamentally, are about lowering the bars of engagement so that one has a better understanding of where the other is coming from. That's never been more important than it is today."
Jim Campbell, a retired teacher who lives in Charleston, said he read "Dangers" during the Civil Rights movement, in which he was heavily involved, and it left a deep impression.
"This is a well-placed award for a very great and solid human being," Campbell said.
Rosengarten has won two National Book Awards and the Order of the Palmetto. He is a researcher at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies.
Sanford said Robertson, who came to the McKissick first in 1978 as the chief curator and since 1988 has served as the executive director, has made "South Carolina history more alive to people across our state," which he said "is incredible work."
Among other things, Robertson has been credited with bringing attention at the McKissick to South Carolina's folk-arts and life.
"Paying the bills has been really pretty secondary," Robertson said. "It's been a wonderful trip in terms of doing creative and meaningful things, and I think that's what the humanities are really all about."
Georgette Mayo, archive coordinator for the College of Charleston's Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, said Robertson has been her mentor since working with her in a 2000 public history program, and that she took Robertson's 2004 introduction to museum management class.
"The first day of class she wasn't feeling well, but you'd never have known because her passion showed through it," Mayo said. She said Robertson set the example for how she herself approaches her profession.
In accepting his award, Dunlap, the 10th president in Wofford's 150-year history, said "I believe in the importance of the humanities because I believe in humanity."
Sanford said Dunlap, "is one of those intellectually towering giants in South Carolina."
Dunlap has done a lot to "help raise awareness of not only the human condition, but the quality of life we all share together," said David Wood, Wofford's dean and senior vice president of academics. "If ever there was an honor justly earned, this is it."