PC Charters New Honor Society for First-Generation Students; Inducts Inaugural Cohort

March 29, 2023

Presbyterian College’s Eta Delta Chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha inducted its first 37 members Sunday at the chartering service for the new honor society for first-generation college students.

Founded in 2018 at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Penn., Tri-Alpha honors high-achieving first-generation college students. PC’s Eta Delta Chapter is the fifth in South Carolina and one of only five nationally affiliated with a Presbyterian Church-related college or university.

The Eta Delta Chapter’s advisers, Presby First+ director Dr. Joleesa Johnson and associate professor of economics and business administration Karen Mattison, along with Rogers-Ingram Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Dr. Selena Blair, presented the charter to college president Dr. Matthew vandenBerg.

Accepting the charter on PC’s behalf, vandenBerg congratulated the inaugural inductees.

“I want you to know that I’m proud of you, both for being here for this induction and chartering ceremony and achieving academic excellence,” vandenBerg said. “Being the first to go to college is an accomplishment in and of itself, but being a first-gen student and achieving this milestone is really remarkable.

“The accomplishment that you are celebrating today shows your dedication. It also shows the magnitude of your hard work. You really are beacons of light for all of those in the future who will join you and pursue a higher education.”

President vandenBerg also said establishing a Tri-Alpha chapter on campus is further proof of PC’s commitment to serving and supporting first-generation students and a reminder of the college’s original purpose – to educate local orphans.

“Through the years, PC has continued to embody that same spirit of dedication to first-generation college students and committed ourselves to provide access and opportunity for all those who might not otherwise have it,” vandenBerg said. “Today, we continue that legacy by supporting a diverse student body that comes from a lot of different backgrounds, notably including those who are first in their families to go to college.

“As we celebrate this momentous occasion, let us appreciate the lasting impact of the college’s founding. Let us honor that legacy of William Plumer Jacobs and his commitment to educating orphans, and let us carry on that same sense of dedication to everyone who seeks to better themselves through higher education.”

PC’s executive director of admissions, Leigh Lanford ’98, delivered the keynote address for the induction service. As a first-generation student, Lanford said she remembers all of the complicated forms and required information she and her mother had to navigate for her to apply to college and receive financial aid. She said she and her mother reached an impasse at one point.

“It just terrified us and already before we got started, we were confused,” Lanford said. “We were convinced, in fact, that we couldn’t do this. Despite being two very smart, very capable women, we just didn’t think we could do it.”

No Google searches or YouTube tutorials were available to guide them, either, said Lanford. But there was staff in the financial aid office at PC eager to help a future Blue Hose.

“We walked in with our hands down and our tails tucked and we walked right into that financial aid office and we desperately asked for help,” Lanford said. “The ladies in the office that day not only helped us with our FAFSA, but they taught me some valuable lessons that I’ve carried with me. They gave us grace. They gave us encouragement. They gave me a work study job, and they mentored me through my transition to college.”

Lanford said they also inspired her to become an admissions professional who now serves her alma mater by welcoming new generations of Blue Hose.

“Without them, I definitely would not have connected with my deep passion for helping others and giving back the way I did that day,” she said. “I remember very clearly sitting there thinking, if I can figure this out, I will help as many other students as I possibly can, for as long as I possibly can.”

The Eta Delta Chapter also recognized three honorary members of Tri-Alpha:

  • Dr. Booker T. Ingram Jr., Professor Emeritus of Political Science and first director of diversity and inclusion
  • Louise Slater, PC trustee who endowed the Rogers-Ingram Vice President for JEDI position
  • The Rev. Myron Wilkins, president and chief executive officer of Thornwell

The 2023 Inductees

Student Inductees

  • Alexandra Addy, a senior from Saluda
  • Gabriela Brinez-Pardo, a sophomore from Greer
  • Patrick Buchanan, a junior from Myrtle Beach
  • Ryan Campbell, a junior from Laurens
  • Brandon Campbell, a sophomore from Clinton
  • Jacob Clerc, a senior from Warrenville
  • Anna Fuller, a senior from Columbia
  • McKenzie Jackson, a senior from Barnwell
  • Madeline Johnson, a senior from Waynesboro, Penn.
  • Courtney Kirby, a junior from Roebuck
  • Suubi Mutebi, a junior from Lawrenceville, Ga.
  • Josephine Nyakundi, senior
  • Cecilia Perez-Santiago, a sophomore from Clinton
  • Morgan Perkins, a junior from Hartsville
  • Isabella Quatraro, a senior from Gainesville, Ga.
  • Brandon Rodgers, a senior from Spartanburg
  • Kaylee Rollins, a junior from Liberty
  • Briana Santiago-Swindell, junior
  • Mattison Scott, a sophomore from Taylors
  • Caitlyn Tompkins, a junior from Simpsonville
  • Reagan Turner, a senior from Easley
  • Mickey Walker, a junior from Charleston
  • Megan Whisonant, a senior from York

Faculty and Staff Inductees

  • Dr. Selena Blair, Rogers-Ingram Vice President for JEDI
  • Dr. Stephanie Freis, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Dr. Joleesa Johnson, Director of Presby First+
  • Karen Mattison, Associate Professor of Economics and Business Administration
  • Hal Milam, Marketing and Communications Specialist
  • Dr. Shebby Neely Aiken, Director of Jacobs Scholars Program
  • Andrew Peterson, Dean of Students
  • Dr. Kayce Shealy, Professor of Pharmacy Practice
  • Jerre Threatt, Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer

Alumni Inductees

  • Dr. Tanisha Jenkins ’01, Associate Vice President for Belonging and Inclusion, The Ohio State University

Leigh Lanford ’98, Executive Director of Admissions