Spring 2017 Edition

By | March 9, 2017


It’s hard to believe that it was only 1967 that College of Charleston, at the time a private university of only a few hundred students, integrated welcoming several black students from the Charleston area.

Avery Normal Institute

Among those students was Eddie Ganaway ’71, a Charleston native who grew up just West of the Navy Yards of the city’s neck. A lover of history and a devout academic, Eddie became the College’s first black graduate earning his bachelor’s degree in 1971.

Throughout February, the College looked back at its history as it relates to African American students and faculty; in addition to the progress of today’s ever-diversifying student body:


*This letter was sent to all undergraduate parents of the College of Charleston. If you did not receive it, please email Seaton Brown ’09 at brownms@cofc.edu to update your information.

Dear Parents,

Porter’s Lodge with the message, “Know Thyself”.

Two hundred forty-seven years ago the long life of the College was just beginning. Fifteen years after its initial founding in 1770, College of Charleston chartered with the mission to provide the “proper education of youth” that “…is essential to the happiness and prosperity of every community.”

From the moment our students walk through the gates of Porter’s Lodge to when they cross the Cistern for the first time- their memories connect them to an experience greater than their own, a mutual experience that has connected students for over two centuries.

For us personally we know that our children, Christopher and Brittany, have been taught by some of the nation’s finest and most captivating professors, developed long-lasting friendships, engaged in a thriving community, and now have access to a vast network of alumni and friends of the College who wish to support and share in their successes.

It’s these qualities that make the College so special and why we’re here to ask you to celebrate our 232nd Chartering Day by joining us in giving back to the College of Charleston Parents’ Fund.

When 232 parents support the Parents’ Fund this spring, we will donate an additional $25,000.

The Parents’ Fund is a strategic priority of the College, President McConnell, and your Parent Advisory Council (PAC) members. We want our parents and alumni to support the College each and every year. The fund supports our campus by contributing to scholarships, faculty recruitment and retention, and our student-centered programs. By supporting the Parents’ Fund you are a key philanthropist on our campus.

Please accept our challenge and visit go.cofc.edu/parentsfund to make your gift today. If you have any questions, contact Seaton Brown ’09, Assistant Director for Parent Giving Programs at brownms@cofc.edu or 843.953.3667. Thank you for supporting our students, faculty, and alumni.

Thank you and Go Cougars!

Chris and Terri Walker (P ’15, P ’18)
Parent Advisory Council, Admissions Committee Chairs



Posted from The College Today. Article by Amanda Kerr.

The international scientific journal Nature has published research co-authored by a College of Charleston computer science professor that offers a groundbreaking new method for predicting whether a child is at risk of developing autism.

In coordination with a team at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, assistant professor Brent Munsell has developed a computational model that uses MRI scans to detect abnormal brain overgrowth in infants which correlates to a higher risk for autism. Nature published the findings of the study Wednesday. The new technology offers doctors for the first time a tangible way to diagnose the neurodevelopmental disorder in infancy, rather than relying solely on behavioral cues as a child grows.

“Typically an autism diagnosis is made when a child is 24 months of age,” says Munsell. “With this new model, we can predict if a child is likely to have autism before age two and if it looks like he or she is at high risk, they can start treatments and therapies sooner.”

The cutting-edge technology is part of the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS), a consortium of eight universities across the United States and Canada researching early brain development and autism.

Munsell, in collaboration with professors at the University of North Carolina and New York University, created the new computational model at the College’s Machine Learning and Medical Image Analysis Lab. The project is one of several research initiatives Munsell oversees at the high-tech computer lab, many of which focus on new technologies aimed at better diagnosing neurological conditions. In October Munsell along with researchers in the departments of psychiatry and radiology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the School of Software at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, attended the Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention Society’s annual conference in Greece where they presented a new method for analyzing neuroimaging data that assesses impaired brain function.

Creating new techniques to improve the detection of neurological disorders, particularly those afflicting children, is personal for Munsell, whose three-year-old daughter Maddy has been diagnosed with a very rare neurological disorder called Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood.

“Everything I do is for her,” he says.

The new method associated with the IBIS study utilizes refined computational parameters that can detect subtle size increases within specific areas of the brain. These minuscule overgrowth patterns can be indicative of autism.

“It was basically like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Munsell. “To date nobody has really found this with good accuracy before.”

Munsell used the new model to assess the MRI scans of 318 infants with a family history of autism and 117 infants with no family history of autism at six months of age and again at 12 months. Based on increases in brain size, the technique correctly predicted the diagnosis of autism in infants with 94 percent accuracy.

And that’s a big deal, says Munsell, because for the first time it offers doctors a quantitative way to evaluate a child for autism. Previously physicians had no definitive biological way to diagnose the condition. Instead, they have had to rely on a diagnostic test comprised of a series of questions that assessed a child’s behavior at or after the age of two.

With so many significant clinical implications for the new model, the College of Charleston is working with the University of North Carolina to patent the research for further development of the technology.

“This has the potential to help physicians make better decisions for their patients and provide better information sooner to the parents of children at risk for autism,” Munsell says. “That’s why this is so important.”



Graduates sit on the Cistern stage, preparing to receive their degrees.

The White Dinner Jackets and Dresses

Seeing undergrads sitting on the Cistern stage, decked out in brilliant white jackets and dresses, evokes more than just a little Southern charm. And it’s a tradition that is today is matched by no other college in South Carolina and perhaps the rest of the country.
According to Morrison’s book, the attire frustrated some members of the faculty, who argued that the graduation garb emphasized the social, economic and gender differences between students rather than their academic achievements.But students graduating in suits wasn’t so uncommon in the College’s earlier years. According to Nan Morrison’s A History of College of Charleston 1936-2008,  traditional caps and gowns came late to most southern schools, namely because of poverty. Photos from many CofC commencements in the 19th and early 20th centuries show students wearing formal suits, including the Class of 1904 (pictured at right) which graduated in black blazers and light trousers.

But students disagreed. An editor of the College’s year book, the Meteor, wrote in 1937: ” The College has a very definite and strong feeling of its own. Evidences of this spirit are found in such traditions as… the lack of cap and gowns at graduation.”

President Harrison Randolph, the College’s longest-serving chief administrator and for whom Randolph Hall is named, explained his reasoning for CofC’s attire in a letter to a New York University faculty member ahead of the 1938 commencement.

“I ought to say that we never use academic costume,” Randolph wrote in the letter housed at the Special Collections of the Addlestone Library. “Being inclined to democratic simplicity, the College has always used at academic ceremonies the attire that would be worn at any other serious occasion. Accordingly for the exercises, in the afternoon any form of day-time attire would be suitable.”

But why white? Fashion etiquette — and Charleston’s sultry springtime climate — may offer an explanation.

For one, modern Spring Commencements at the College have been held in May or June. This means commencement almost always fell after Easter, when it was deemed acceptable by the upper echelons of 19th and 20th century society to wear white.

And as any CofC grad will tell you — Charleston is already hot by May or June. And because white reflects sunlight, it makes for a better midday outfit than any other color.

Randolph, in that same letter to the NYU faculty member, referenced the heat that should be expected on commencement day.

“As the weather is apt to be warm many of those on the rostrum wear white thin suits which are so usual to our warm climate,” he wrote.

As the years went by, the white dinner jackets and dresses crossed over from practical convenience to celebrated tradition, and by 1970, an administrator writing to potential guests bragged about how the College was one of the “few institutions left” where men and women opt for white jackets and dresses over academic attire.

Today, every undergrad who graduates in the spring wears white. In the winter, students follow the “no white after Labor Day” etiquette that has become verboten in America and wear black tuxedos and dresses. (Randolph also mentioned in his letters that evening commencements would require students to wear formal evening suits).