Richard T. Greener Announcement

Prepared Remarks

In 2008, in my new role as university president, I was given the opportunity to visit the McKissick Museum to select some paintings for the President's Suite in Osborne Administration Building. One of my first selections was the painting of Richard T. Greener, completed in 1984 by alumnus Larry Francis Lebby. To this day, Professor Greener is the first face that greets me, my staff and all visitors who walk through the door each morning. In that way, I feel like I know him. 

He is also important to USC because he was a person who believed that he could make the world, our state and our campus better, fairer and more just. He actively looked for ways to make a difference.  


I am often asked who he is and I enjoy sharing his inspiring story with visitors from around the globe. I tell them that Richard Greener was a trail blazer, a risk taker and a man of education and confidence. I tell them that he embodies what we seek in new professors and in new students.  

Yes. He is the first African-American to graduate from Harvard College. 

Yes. He is the first African-American to be appointed as a professor at the University. 

Yes. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law.  All of this is historic and important. 

He is also important to USC because he was a person who believed that he could make the world, our state and our campus better, fairer and more just. He actively looked for ways to make a difference.  

I like to think of Professor Greener as he arrived in 1873, a Harvard graduate, only 29 years old, ready to take on a new challenge. Like many phases in American history, this was also a turbulent one. Reconstruction was fraught with problems. Federal troops patrolled South Carolina's capital city. Many were experiencing the hope of integration and many, it's pangs. Often, while on the Horseshoe, I can imagine Professor Greener walking through the gates and marveling at the beautiful library inspired by Robert Mills, and finding that his new home at Lieber House was welcoming and acceptable.  

As white students fled the university and enrollment dwindled, we can learn from Greener's resilience and optimism. He didn't give up. He became an advocate for more black applicants and pushed his legislators for dozens of full-tuition scholarships. He managed to get 124. And I can tell you THAT is a real triumph. I could use his expertise on state funding for public higher education right now!  When he realized that some of the new full-tuition students were not quite ready for the University, he mentored and taught them himself. Soon they had the skills and knowledge to matriculate. I'd say that he was ahead of his time. Today, we might call his vision, "The Gamecock Gateway." 

In the near future, as we stop to look at the Greener statue, we will remember that he was a great professor, orator, writer, public speaker, activist and visionary.


Professor Greener loved the Caroliniana Library. When its librarian, Mr. Everson, disappeared, Greener simply walked in and started to put things in order. No one asked him to do this, he just did it. Initially, he wasn't even paid — today I would call this the Carolinia Spirit of community service — seeing what needs to be done and simply doing it.  

In the near future, as we stop to look at the Greener statue, we will remember that he was a great professor, orator, writer, public speaker, activist and visionary. Our own colleague, historian Katherine Chaddock wrote that Greener, "...was respected and befriended. His work revered by white men, he utilized his abilities and his education while allowing himself to make positive contributions to fellow black citizens." 

In 1877, once Governor Wade Hampton and the legislature terminated state funding for Carolina, the faculty went unsalaried and the students unsupported. Soon the University closed. Greener moved with his family to Washington, D.C. He would ever after refer to himself as a "South Carolinian in exile."  

Yet, I believe his pride of place, sense of honor, love of learning and community service are very much alive on this campus today. And I like to think that this beautiful statue will finally bring Professor Greener out of exile and home. 

Welcome home Richard T. Greener!