search sponsored by

Find more about Weather in Hartsville, SC
              Click for weather forecast

weather sponsored by

Toneys establish endowed scholarship at Claflin

on Tuesday, 17 January 2023. Posted in Local News

Colleges and universities across the nation take tremendous pride in enduring traditions that help define the culture and personality of their respective institutions. Some have earned national and global reputations for producing graduates that have exce

      Colleges and universities across the nation take tremendous pride in enduring traditions that help define the culture and personality of their respective institutions. Some have earned national and global reputations for producing graduates that have excelled in leadership positions in business, government, medicine, religion, science, and other professions. Others are renowned for the impressive number of athletes they produced, their success in intercollegiate athletics - or their high-stepping bands.

      Claflin University, however, can thank its loyal alumni for a significant aspect of its growing reputation. According to U.S. News and World Report, Claflin's annual alumni giving percentage of more than 40 percent is the highest among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

          Yolanda Cooper Toney and her husband, Gerald Toney, represent the philanthropic spirit that inspires alumni and non-Claflin graduates to support the university. The couple and their children recently made a $25,000 gift to Claflin to establish the Cooper Toney Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship pays tribute to two generations of a close-knit South Carolina family that profoundly appreciates the academic, cultural, and spiritual experiences Claflin provides.

       The Cooper Toney Endowed Scholarship honors Yolanda’s mother, Hester Cooper Smith, and her brother, the late Rupert Z. Cooper.

       The primary focus of the scholarship is to support education and business majors. However, if no applicants in those majors are eligible, history majors can apply for the award. More than anything, the Cooper Toney family and other contributors to the scholarship want to give to other young people what the honorees cherish most about Claflin.

        Yolanda is a 1978 graduate who, like her mother, was an English major with a minor in education. Yolanda said she practically cut her teeth on the Claflin legacy. Her mother graduated in 1957. Yolanda’s brother earned his degree in business administration in 1986.

She has other relatives who also attended Claflin.

       “I probably knew Claflin University’s name soon after I learned my own,” said Yolanda, a retired high school English teacher and Certified Lay Minister who lives in Memphis, Tenn. It was Cooper Smith, the matriarch, who inspired the endowment.

     Her son-in-law, Gerald Toney, observed Smith’s tireless crusades through the years to raise awareness and money for her alma mater.

         “I have been around her more than 39 years, and I have watched her dedication to Claflin,” said Toney, a graduate of The Citadel. “I am impressed by the passion of the Claflin alumni. The entire time I have been associated with Claflin through my mother-in-law and my wife, I can tell they appreciate their Claflin education. They always try to give back, which says a lot about the school and its graduates.”

      Cooper Smith’s post-graduate association with her alma mater includes a term on Claflin’s Board of Visitors. She is a member of the Claflin University International Alumni Association (CUIAA) and has been a fundraiser for the Lake City and Florence chapters. As a membership chairperson, she recruited Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, the University’s eighth president.

        Claflin is an affiliate of The United Methodist Church. To Cooper Smith, the entire campus seemed to align Christian principles with the university’s educational mission. Cooper Smith blossomed.

       “When I got to Claflin, there was so much love, and we were a family,” she said. “Everyone seemed to care about one another – the students, the professors, the dorm matrons. They really nurtured us. They wanted to ensure that everyone received an opportunity to get that education – and with the help we needed.”

       Claflin helped make Cooper Smith’s dream come true. She taught in South Carolina public schools for 37 years, first in her native Williamsburg County and then for 32 years in Florence County. Although four of Cooper Smith’s siblings graduated from colleges other than Claflin, the educator’s oldest two children did attend their mother’s alma mater. It was their own decision.

    Nevertheless, for the past 65 years, so much of Cooper Smith’s conversation has praised Claflin for enriching and transforming her life and the lives of other loyal alumni.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.