The University of South Carolina Beaufort is pleased to announce that local leader Emory Shaw Campbell will deliver this year’s Commencement address and receive an honorary degree.
Mr. Campbell, who has dedicated his life to preserving the rich cultural heritage of the Gullah people of the South Carolina Sea Islands, was born in 1941 to Reginald and Sarah Campbell. He was the fifth generation of his family to be born on Hilton Head Island. Traveling to the mainland, young Emory Campbell applied himself to his studies and graduated as valedictorian of the Class of 1960 at Michael C. Riley High School in Bluffton. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at Savannah State University in 1965 and a Master of Science degree in environmental health engineering at Tufts University in Boston in 1971.
Returning to the Lowcountry as an environmental health engineer for the Comprehensive Health Agency for Beaufort and Jasper Counties, Mr. Campbell spent nearly a decade implementing public health measures that improved living conditions in impoverished rural areas; however his life’s passion was to preserve the linguistic, cultural and environmental heritage of the Gullah people who were being displaced by ambitious development of the sea islands.
In 1980, as executive director of the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, he created the Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration, a nationally recognized showcase for the unique cultural legacy of the Gullah people. Mr. Campbell revived the center’s educational programs and family farm program. He expanded the York W. Bailey Museum’s programs to attract and assist writers, artists, authors, linguists, environmentalists and filmmakers who documented and interpreted the language, culture and heritage of the Gullah people. He was a member of the team that completed the translation of the King James version of the New Testament to the Gullah language in 2005.
Mr. Campbell and others initiated contact between the Gullah people and the West African nations that had been home to their ancestors. He coordinated exchange visits between the Gullah and the inhabitants of Sierra Leone. The historic occasion was documented in the film “Family Across the Sea,” released in 1991. The people of Sierra Leone recognized his efforts to bridge the two cultures by making him an honorary paramount chief. Today, after 22 years of service, he holds the title of executive director emeritus of the Penn Center.
In 2008, Mr. Campbell was elected chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, which was created by Congress to develop programs that preserve and promote the Gullah culture along a four-state corridor from North Carolina to northern Florida. He is the author of “Gullah Cultural Legacies,” published in 2008, a summary of Gullah traditions, beliefs, speech patterns and more. He has further defined the culture by appearing in or contributing to documentaries, films, radio and television programs, and news stories.
In 1999, he received the Governor’s Award at the fifth-annual South Carolina Historic Preservation Awards ceremony. The same year, he was inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame. In 2006, he was honored with the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award presented by the National Education Association.
Mr. Campbell serves today as founder and president of the Gullah Heritage Consulting Service. He operates Gullah Heritage Trail Tours on Hilton Head Island. He and his wife, Emma, live on Hilton Head on the land where he was born. They have two adult children, Ochieng and Ayoka.
About USCB’s Commencement 2012
The largest graduating class in USCB history, 289 students, are eligible to participate in USCB’s 8th baccalaureate commencement ceremony to be held at 6:00pm on Friday, April 27th in the Helen and Brantley Harvey Plaza on USCB’s Hilton Head Gateway campus in Bluffton. The first student to earn a Bachelor Degree in Sociology will be graduating. The first Sand Shark athlete to ever compete, Katie Mock, Cross-Country runner, is earning her degree in Biology. Additional athletes who competed in the inaugural year of their respective sports are now graduating, having completed their studies in 4 years. Emory Shaw Campbell and Colden Rhind Battey Jr. will receive University of South Carolina honorary degrees. Harris Pastides, President of the University of South Carolina will preside.