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Presbyterian College (PC) is one of the very few academically ambitious small colleges participating in Division I athletics. How sporty is PC? About 80 percent of the student body is involved with varsity or intramural sports, and tradition surrounding the contest won by Presbyterian’s “Blue Hose” matters a great deal to current students. Their teams’ name derives from early eager sportswriters who were impressed by the shade of blue stockings worn by PC football teams; in similar fashion, the student newspaper is called “The Bluestocking”. The total enrollment at PC is just about twelve hundred students, smaller than the enrollment at the smallest of colleges playing in Division III in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. The smallest in that group, Bates and Bowdoin, have an enrollment of about seventeen hundred. One third of the twelve hundred enrolled at Presbyterian play on a Division I athletic team, competing against colleges such as Furman, Wofford, and the Citadel.
I mention this remarkable athletic commitment at the outset because the school spirit and general level of happy enthusiasm at Presbyterian is distinctive. Equally distinctive is the importance the college places on its honor code. Southern schools are more likely to have an honor code, but Presbyterian’s is described in a fashion unlike any other.
“Honor. Not a complicated word, just an essential part of who you are and how you want to live.”
The setting of the college, about midway between Columbia and Greenville, is equally impressive, combining splendid Georgian architecture (think red brick with white columns) and a leafy sprawling, beautifully maintained campus. The college includes about two hundred and forty acres of lush green space, punctuated by elegant collegiate buildings.
OK, quick check. Tradition, honor, spirit. beauty. Impressive.
There are distinctive characteristics of the academic program to be described in another paragraph, but it is worth pausing long enough to recognize that a small college located in a small town in the western part of South Carolina, one associated with the Presbyterian Church as well, might not be on the first list of colleges to investigate. It is a southern college and a Presbyterian college but a college that seeks and honors diversity and a college that offers its students many opportunities to meet the world outside of Clinton. One hundred percent of PC’s students will be involved in an internship or in study outside the United States.
The academic picture is as surprisingly ambitious as the athletic portrait. PC offers thirty-five majors, including Business Administration Accounting, Early Childhood Education, Theater, Music, and Art. The college is widely known for a number of pre-professional programs; in addition to pre-law and pre-med, PC also offers an Engineering dual degree, Pre-Forestry, Pre-Veterinary, and a celebrated program in Pre-Pharmacy. There are about three hundred graduate students at Presbyterian, all of whom are studying in the college’s Pharmacy School. The Office of Career Programs coordinates applications to internship programs, local and at a distance. The Office of International Programs facilitates study abroad. PC is one of two colleges maintaining active participation n the Confucius Institute, partnering with Guizhou University, strengthening the Chinese program at PC and celebrating exchange between the two institutions.
Central to the Presbyterian experience is participation in small classes taught by excellent and uncommonly engaged faculty. The college is proud of the number of professors who have been recognized as outstanding educators and equally proud of the relationships formed between those professors and PC students.
PC is a residential college; its campus is alive and hopping seven days a week. Sports take center stage at times, but other activities are thriving. One of the most notable is the Communities Helping, Assisting, Motivating Promising Students (CHAMPS). This remarkable program has been in place for twenty years, identifying promising students in the region, starting in the seventh grade, and bringing them to readiness for a challenging college career. This is a year-round program; PC students volunteer during the summer as well to maintain the initiatives begun during the school year. Literacy for college is important to the volunteers but equally important is the component teaching character. One of the hallmarks of the program involves these promising kids with the opportunity to become involved with service work themselves.
CHAMPS is “enthusiastically supported by the community and Presbyterian College.” That statement reveals a great deal about the way that Presbyterian is run. Athletes are stars but so too are the mentors working with kids throughout the year. Service is an important element in the character of this college.
Intramural sports attract a number of students as does the fitness center. Co-ed volleyball, Giant Kickball and flag football seem to rouse real fervor, but the most unusual of the intramural contests are in billiards. Cardio Funk and Yoga are available for those who need to bounce or stretch their way out of a long class day.
I started this profile by describing PC as an unusually spirited school. After all, they have one of the nation’s most distinctive mascot names – The Blue Hose. In addition, since a pair of blue stockings would hardly stalk the sidelines as a mascot, PC’s visible mascot is a medieval Scottish warrior known as Cyrus. As a Presbyterian college, there is a connection with fierce Scottish heritage represented by the bronze statue of Cyrus, the largest statue of a Scotsman in the world.
At the heart of community excitement are the Blue Hose teams and the athletes of PC. Who are these athletes, and why do they choose to attend PC?
PC’s football squad, for example, is gigantic. Remember, PC enrolls about twelve hundred students. More than a hundred of them are on the football team. Those athletes are primarily from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. The men’s soccer team has players from Kansas and Kentucky, and the women’s lacrosse team attracted players from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Maryland, and Tennessee. As befits a Division I program, PC’s athletic facilities are impressive. The football team plays in newly constructed Bailey stadium. The stadium seats almost seven thousand spectators and includes a snappy two-story press box, allowing the most loyal fans to watch from the president’s box. Happily, PC’s football field is composed of lush Bermuda grass rather than the commonly found artificial turf. Next to the stadium is the nine thousand square foot field house, containing locker rooms and the sports medicine clinic. Lots of colleges have locker rooms, but PC’s football locker room may be one of the few with a Gatorade fountain. Soccer has its own stadium, and the baseball, softball, lacrosse, and tennis teams also have dedicated fields and courts.
Clinton, South Carolina is a small city (almost nine thousand residents) most easily accessed by flying into Greenville. If a student wants the sense of community a small college can offer and the excitement of a Division I athletic program, it’s worth the trip.