upshawDr. Jane Upshaw will receive the “Peggy May Inspiration Award” at the Foundation for Educational Excellence’s annual “Jewels & Jeans” event on Saturday, March 2 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the Country Club of Hilton Head, 70 Skull Creek Drive. Upshaw will be recognized for her contributions to the advancement of education throughout the Lowcountry. 

The Peggy May Inspiration Award recognizes persons who demonstrate extraordinary dedication, passion, and skills that influence and inspire local students. The award is named for former recipient, the late Peggy May, who served as county and state Director of Adult Literacy, and Board chair of the Foundation for Educational Excellence. Other previous recipients include 2013 American Idol Winner Candice Glover and Food Network contestant Orchid Paulmeier. In 2016, Dr. Narendra Sharma with Neighborhood Outreach Connection was honored and in 2017 the Esquivel family received the award. Last year’s recipient was Dr. Emory Campbell. 

In the 1980s, her family relocated to the Lowcountry from Atlanta. Upshaw taught math at May River Academy and served as an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. In 1986, she was offered a full-time faculty position with USCB. A decade later, Upshaw transitioned into an administrative role as the college’s Director of Development, where she was tasked with developing a plan to raise money for a new campus on donated land. 

In 1999, Upshaw was nominated and selected as the first female Dean of the University of South Carolina Beaufort. Her ultimate goal during her tenure at USCB was to establish the college as a regional and comprehensive four-year university. That vision was achieved in 2004, when the first baccalaureate graduates of the University of South Carolina Beaufort received their diplomas. In that same year, a new 200-acre campus opened at the gateway to Hilton Head Island.

In 2015, Upshaw retired from the University of South Carolina Beaufort. In that same year, she was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor for recognition of extraordinary work and dedication to the citizens of the state. She and her husband, Tom, reside in Bluffton and are the parents of three adult children.

Proceeds from the “Jewels & Jeans” event will benefit Beaufort County students by providing grants to exceptional teachersfor innovative projects that are not fully funded through traditional channels. 

The event includes a live and silent auction, fabulous food and entertainment by local favorite, Deas Guyz. Guests are encouraged to sport their denim and come dance the night away for a great cause. It is well attended by teachers, community and education supporters. 

“The Foundation for Educational Excellence has awarded more than $215,000 in grants since 2009,” says Deborah Collela, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “Our students represent our future and our future is looking bright!”

Tickets for the event are available now, but usually sell out quickly. For more information, visit or call 843-301-7150.


Established to support the mission and goals of the Beaufort County School District, the Foundation supports student instructional activities and projects through Innovative Teacher Grants, Innovative School Resource Grants and Student Enrichment Grants. Grants are as diverse as purchasing supplies for building a robot or establishing an eco-habitat for native species. What all grants have in common is that they spark inquisitive minds. Twice a year, applications are submitted to the Foundation. Projects are chosen on their merit by a committee of the Foundation. Since 2009, the Foundation has awarded over $215,000 in grants to the teachers and students in the public school system. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 and a fund of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.