A fond farewell to the first couple
President and First Lady of Presbyterian College Are Honored during Farewell Reception; Bob & Phyllis Staton photo gallery.
Staton Hall will be the name of the central building of the recently constructed residential complex on campus, named in honor of outgoing PC President Bob Staton. PC Board of Trustees chairman E. G. Lassiter made the announcement during a farewell reception honoring both Bob and First Lady Phyllis Staton on Alumni Green on Friday, Nov. 13. Because of the pandemic, attendance at the event was limited to board members.
"It is not hard to look around campus and see all that has been accomplished over the past five years under Bob’s leadership," Lassiter said. "There are new and renovated spaces for our students to live and learn, a larger and more diverse student body, more academic and athletic offerings, and an engaged board, just to name a few.
"However, it is the unseen that I believe Bob and Phyllis are most proud of, the relationships that they have built with the more than 2600 students who have been PC students during their tenure."
In addition to announcing Staton Hall, the Board of Trustees announced the establishment of the Robert E. ‘68 and Phyllis B ‘18 (h) Staton Endowed Scholarship and endorsed a fundraising effort to raise $1.5 million in scholarship support in the Statons' honor before their scheduled retirement on December 31.
Lassiter mentioned how the Statons participated on campus, including helping students move in and attending events during Welcome Week and attending capstone presentations, athletic competitions, and cultural events.
"Bob and Phyllis have embraced the campus community fully," Lassiter said, "and have certainly made Presbyterian College a better place for current and future students."
During the event, PC Provost Dr. Don Raber thanked the Statons and offered remarks on behalf of PC's faculty, staff, and leadership team. Raber used four words to sum up his thoughts on the Statons' tenure at PC: "energy," "enthusiasm," "determination," and "devotion."
"The energy and enthusiasm you bring each and every day and what you look for in PC each and every day is truly remarkable," Raber said. "I can remember when you came back to campus in 2015, Bob, as president. You immediately shifted the tone on campus to be one where you see energy and you see enthusiasm. You look for what is the best about PC each and every day."
Raber also spoke about the determination and drive Bob and Phyllis exhibited over the last five years.
"There have been challenges," Raber said, "but, with the determination both of you have shown over the last five years, you've quieted skeptics, silenced doubters, and made believers out of people in The Promise of PC, (the College’s strategic plan).
"And your devotion for each other shines through in everything you see as well as the devotion for PC. I'm speaking to an audience where every person within the sound of my voice is devoted to PC, but, Bob and Phyllis, I think your devotion to PC has clearly shined through each and every day in a way that is unique and is special, real, committed, and extraordinary.
"It's amazing to see how much love both of you have for Presbyterian College and how that love for PC allows PC to do incredible things."
PC senior Abby Lehman and Nicholas Quatraro, currently a student at the University of South Carolina School of Law, also shared their thoughts about the Statons during the reception.
"A true sign of distinction that sets President Staton apart from others who hold similar positions at other schools is his character," Quatraro said.
"His genuine love for this place that we all call home. His genuine interest in not only building an individual relationship with every student, but working and fighting to help us succeed inside and out of the classroom."
Lehman, a business major and political science minor, spoke about First Lady Phyllis.
"Getting to know Mrs. Phyllis has been one of my greatest experiences at PC," Lehman said. "She is everything I look up to in a woman: Her kind and welcoming spirit, her bubbly personality, and the care and compassion she shows to every individual she meets."
Before the reception, the Statons paraded on golf carts as PC faculty, staff and students cheered from several locations across campus. The parade began at Smith Administration Building and meandered through campus before making its way to the President's House, where the yard was full of signs that students created wishing the Statons well.
Bob Staton, 2016, The Clinton Chronicle Horizon
By Vic MacDona;d
Newlyweds Bob and Phyllis Staton were looking for a calling, somewhere they could direct their energies as a power couple, after their wedding in Lexington. Bob’s alma mater came calling.
“I had never been to PC before,” Phyllis said. “It was truly a new adventure.”
Staton was asked to take over the presidency of Presbyterian College, upon the resignation of Dr. Claude Lilly. Staton had served as interim president following Dr. John Griffin’s retirement and before the PC board of trustees hired Lilly from the Clemson University College of Business.
This time, there is no interim label.
“The last time I was filling in. It was different this time. It was to be the president,” Staton said, as he and Phyllis sat down in the PC President’s Office for their Horizons interview.
“For me, at this point, it’s more of a calling. We could be sitting on a beach somewhere, but this is something I care about. This place is important.”
So with his new wife - they took a trip in October that served as a post-wedding get-away - Staton came back to the president’s office. Aside from the skunk that took up residence under the floor over Christmas break, everything’s been smelling like a rose.
Bringing a unique perspective as an attorney and corporate CEO to the PC presidency, Staton sees value in the liberal arts education in today’s workforce.
“Today’s graduates, they’re likely to have 20 different jobs during their careers. They need critical thinking and problem-solving,” Staton said. “They need to be able to adapt and learn. The jobs of today might not be here tomorrow.”
The liberal arts is seeking to find its place in the new wave of high school education geared toward workforce development. Students are asked to identify their careers earlier and earlier, often in middle school. “There needs to be balance,” Staton said. “You need business and industry to drive the economy, but the one thing they all need is a workforce. In the liberal arts, you can learn the problem-solving, for the jobs right now and the jobs out there five years from now.”
Parents wonder, Staton said, “what’s my child going to do when they get out of school. They want them to be out on their own. The truth is, (their children) will always be around. They need to think longer term. Instead of making X, Y, Z, find out what are passionate about. That’s what will make you satisfied as a person.”
Bringing the message of the liberal arts, as cultivator of the well-rounded person, Staton says he has found the perfect partner in Phyllis. “We try to do this together, that’s what I told the board,” he said. “She is an invaluable partner, and she’s great at it” - being The First Lady of Presbyterian College.
Staton said what PC is all about was summed up recently in a statement by a trustee who is leaving the board. The departing gift is a PC-emblemed rocking chair and the trustee, who is not a PC alum, said he was sending the chair to his son, who is a Blue Hose graduate.
“He said he was going to send the chair to his son who is teaching in a small school in a West Virginia mining town,” Staton said, “so he can put it in his classroom. The son is inspiring his students to attend college. That’s what life is about.”
Bob Staton believes Presbyterian College will be successful as its people are successful. “You can provide leadership. You can motivate, but any enterprise is only as strong as its people. Most corporate people know, others will make or break your business, that’s where you will find success.
“A corporation - a college - is just a legal entity. It comes alive with its people.”