CarolinaLIFE a tribute to the Frank McGuire legacy
As a student at the University of South Carolina in the 1970s, Donald Bailey loved going to basketball games. It was a time when legendary Coach Frank McGuire ruled the Carolina Coliseum and led the Gamecocks to six consecutive seasons of 20 wins or more.
But it was a sight off the court that has stayed with Bailey for more than 30 years. Before every game, McGuire would enter the arena and kiss his disabled son, Frankie, seated courtside in his wheelchair.
“When they saw Frankie at the games, the parents knew that it was OK to bring them along,” said Carol Ann McGuire-Morgan, the coach’s daughter and Frankie’s sister. “Dad was more pleased to see the wheelchairs in the arena than the basketball hoops in the backyards.”
“I vividly remember the impact that (gesture) had on students,” said Bailey, who lives in Charleston and is a former member of the USC Board of Trustees.
The impact was so strong on Bailey that he wanted to honor the McGuires when he launched a scholarship program at the university.
The Frank and Frankie McGuire Endowed Scholarship was created to provide funds for students enrolled in CarolinaLIFE, a two-year post-secondary-education experience for students with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
“Dad would be very proud,” Morgan said, adding that her brother could have benefited from a program such as CarolinaLIFE.
Coach McGuire died in 1994, and his son, Frankie, died in 2008.
One of the main objectives of CarolinaLIFE – “LIFE” is an acronym for “Learning Is For Everyone” – is to make sure its students live a regular campus life. CarolinaLIFE students attend University 101 and audit classes in areas that interest them. They are encouraged to join clubs, attend campus events and secure part-time jobs or internships.
“I think the opportunity is for them to experience things they’ve never experienced before,” said Dr. Les Sternberg, dean of the College of Education, which administers the program. “They get to experience things that were out of bounds before.”
“It’s amazing to see their development and growth” after two years in the program, he said. That’s something that Bailey can confirm first-hand. His son, Donald Alston, is a CarolinaLIFE student.
Since enrolling in the program, Donald Alston, 22, has blossomed. His interest in sports led him to take physical-education classes and train for a triathlon, which he ended up winning. He works as an intern at USC’s Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center.
“To have the ability and confidence to live independently and have a job, if nothing else, he’ll get that out of program,” Bailey said.
Seven students are enrolled in CarolinaLIFE, and there are plans to expand it to a four-year program. Administrators also hope to accept more students. Bailey, who is the chairman of a non-profit based in Charleston that works with students with intellectual disabilities, thinks expansion would serve a great need.
“I get calls and e-mails from parents on a regular basis,” said Bailey. “By some calculations, there are more than two thousand young adults in South Carolina who would qualify (for CarolinaLIFE).”
Counselors and mentors are required to help CarolinaLIFE students navigate through the university, making it expensive to run. There’s also a financial toll on the families. Parents of children with intellectual disabilities normally haven’t saved money for college.
“Families, have been caught short because they didn’t realize that their child could go to college,” said Bailey.
The CarolinaLIFE program will receive some national exposure later this month. ESPN will feature the Frank and Frankie McGuire Endowed Scholarship on its weekly SEC program, which will be broadcast Monday, Dec. 27, on ESPN-U.