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College of Nursing

Alumni Spotlight

Charles Rand Tupper, '79 BSN

Charles Tupper

Tell us a little bit about you.
I'm originally from Southampton, NY. I graduated high school in 1970 and immediately enlisted in the Air Force and was trained as an aircraft maintenance technician. I flew as a flying crew chief on a KC-135A Stratotanker (inflight refueling tanker) for about four years. I flew over 32 hours of combat missions over Vietnam in 1972 and was involved in the final bombing campaign over North Vietnam called LINEBACKER II in December 1972. I also flew in October 1973 in the Israeli support of the Yom Kippur War when the USAF transferred F-4 and A-4 fighters to the Israeli Air Force. Spent many many days/weeks of Strategic Air Command (SAC) nuclear alert during the "Cold War." I left the Air Force in February 1974 and went to work in the automotive industry as a Parts Department manager at a Volkswagen Porsche-Audi dealership in my hometown. I took an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course at SUNY Stony Brook and really enjoyed the emergency patient care and the college environment. I worked as a volunteer EMT for the Town of Southampton for just about 18 months.

I was an Air Force nurse/flight nurse for 30 years (1979-2009) and retired from the military as a Colonel. I then worked for the US Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston where I managed a long term care facility, then managed patient flow and finally as the Emergency Manager.

I met my wife Susan at Richland Memorial Hospital right after graduation in the ICU, we were married about two years later. We have three kids, two sons, John (USC 1995) and David (Clemson 2014, turned to the dark side) and our daughter Ashton (Art Institute of Charleston 2011) and five grandchildren, the oldest of which will graduate from USC in December.

Why did you choose nursing, and why USC?
In May 1975, I moved my brother back to Columbia when he took a position as Dean if Admissions at the USC Law Center. I gave myself some time to explore Columbia and USC and just became infatuated with the beauty of the campus, the weather and the people I met on the visit. So, I decided I could use a BSN to help me get into a management level of an upcoming Paramedic Program back in NY. I took the SATs, applied to the program and was accepted for the fall of 1975. After a short time in the program, I redirected my goals and decided to go back into the Air Force and get in to Flight Nursing.

Describe your greatest professional moment.

While I enjoyed my clinical experiences in the military, my time as a Flight Nurse and as a unit commander were the most rewarding. I flew routine and urgent patient movement missions in Europe and Africa and was involved in multiple terrorist victim evacuations and then managed acquisition of specialized inflight medical equipment for worldwide aeromedical evacuation and then worked as Deputy Director for the Global Patient Movement system. We even evacuated the Speaker of the House and his wife from Crete in 1986. But on top of all of that, bringing our wounded warriors home or to a higher level of care...flying into Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait and bringing them back to Germany or the US...that was the most rewarding. I flew an additional 55 hours of combat missions time in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom during the Global War on Terror. Additionally, I commanded one active duty medial unit at Pope Air Force Base (43d Medical Operations Squadron) and two AF Reserve Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons (315 AES at Charleston SC and 439 AES at Westover MA) and while that was rewarding, bringing this wounded home was by far the most rewarding nursing job of my career.

I'm currently a Colonel and the Chief Nurse for the South Carolina State Guard, a volunteer position supporting the Governor in times of emergency or natural disaster.

What is your most memorable experience from your time as a nursing student?
I worked as an EMT for the Student Health Center for most of my time at Carolina, actually lived there, too. I was able to get additional hands-on patient care experience and worked with some fabulous nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians and EMTs. Some of the emergency calls we took from the Thomson Student Health Center were as challenging as any call I ever made as an EMT in the community. I assisted our on-call physician in many procedures when students would arrive with all sorts of injuries. I even worked in the GYN Clinic for about a year. That additional experience was certainly a positive in transitioning from an aircraft mechanic to a nurse!

What advice would you give to a new nursing graduate?
Realize that your potential and your opportunities to expand your clinical knowledge base is without limits. Our BSN program prepares you for care for any patient. Just as important, it also starts you on a career leadership path. You make the choice, stay clinical, move into specialized expanded roles, administrative positions or public health or emergency management...the sky is the limit. Become the nurse you want to be!