Light fills the corner office on the second floor of the Willard A. Silcox Physical Education and Health Center – and not just from the four big windows overlooking George and Meeting streets. As a beloved professor, mentor and friend, William R. Barfield has been lighting up this corner ever since it was offered to him as a trade-off for being separated from the rest of his department up on the third floor.
“I think it was supposed to be a temporary fix,” laughs the exercise science professor who joined the College’s Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) in 1994 and now serves as the director of its Exercise Science Program. “I kept waiting for someone to realize that I was taking up this great space and come take it away from me, but I guess I got away with it!”
Indeed, all these years later, and Barfield is just now packing up and moving out of the office – and not because someone’s found him out. He’s leaving on his own accord – to begin his full-time work as a researcher with the Medical University of South Carolina’s Department of Orthopedics in July.
“I will continue to teach at the College of Charleston as an adjunct,” says Barfield, whose passionate and engaged teaching has impacted thousands of HHP students over his years. “It’s been so rewarding and satisfying to have had the opportunity to interact with these students. The ongoing motivation from the students is humbling. They have motivated me every semester to be better than the semester before. The fact is, I have taken a lot more from them and from the College than what I’ve given.”
There are, however, a lot of people who would disagree with that.
“Dr. Barfield has everything to do with where I am now,” says Kerri Waegelein ’12, a physical therapist at Private Therapy Services in West Ashley. She visited Barfield’s office often as an exercise science major and still consults him for advice every now and again. “I still feel like his student in that way. He is always willing to talk and provide insight and advice.”
Emily Darr ’01 agrees.
“Dr. Barfield has been an invaluable mentor to me along my path to a career in medicine, beginning when I was a student in his undergraduate biomechanics class, through my research while in medical school,” says Darr, who is a board-certified physician in physical medicine and rehabilitation practicing at MUSC Health.
“His legacy reaches beyond his students in the Department of Health and Human Performance, though,” adds Waegelein. “What he’s done in terms of research and in terms of the greater medical community is really inspiring.”
And, thanks to a scholarship established in his name, that legacy will continue for years to come. The Dr. William R. Barfield Endowed Scholarship is the first scholarship specifically designated for exercise science students at the College of Charleston and is meant to ensure the ongoing impact they will have in their field.
And, in a true testament to Barfield’s own impact, his former students have formed a committee to raise the $50,000 needed to endow the scholarship.
“Coming together for our beloved professor and for the future of our profession and the future leaders who will take it to the next level has been really exciting and humbling,” says Waegelein, who chairs the committee. “The energy is just so great, and it’s very, very respectful. It’s really a team effort and collaboration between us all. The ideas bloom beautifully.”
One of those ideas was the creation of a matching gift – and committee member Jason Solomon ’03 graciously stepped up, offering to match $5,000 if they receive $5,000 in scholarship donations by Barfield’s retirement date on June 30, 2018.
“Dr. Barfield was not only a professor of mine, but a mentor,” says Solomon, a dentist with Charleston-based Solomon Family Dentistry. “He still is today someone I hold in the utmost regard, and I am thankful I had him during my undergraduate studies.”
Barfield, for his part, is even more thankful for the outpouring of support.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am,” he says. “It was just so humbling that they care enough to do this.”
In addition to the $50,000 needed to endow the scholarship, the team has committed to raise another $2,000 so that they can award the scholarship for the 2018–19 academic year. In fact, sophomore Courtney Walsh has already been chosen as the first recipient.
“Scholarships acknowledge hard work and communicate to a student that someone wants to help lighten their load,” says Fran Welch, dean of the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance. “We are thrilled to be slightly over half way to our goal of making this scholarship endowed, but we need help making it to the finish line. Donating to this scholarship is a way that alumni and friends of the College can honor Bill and support our current and future exercise science students.”
As a first-generation student, Barfield knows that paying for college is a big deal for students and their families, and he is hopeful the scholarship can help ease that burden.
“A college education is very expensive, so every little bit helps. Any amount of money helps, it’s just a little less you have to work for or borrow,” he says. “If we can give this money to students, it’s less they have to worry about. And hopefully those who get the scholarship can contribute and pay it forward once they are established in their own careers. To be part of that is pretty humbling.”
Still, Barfield downplays the part he’s had in his students’ careers.
“I think it’s an overstatement to say I contributed to their success, but I’d like to think their success contributes to my own sense of success,” he says. “Seeing students go out and become great successes in their professional lives brings me a lot of satisfaction. To know that at one time I taught them is a pretty great feeling.”
As Barfield looks forward to the next phase of his own career, he will always feel great about the time he’s spent with his students at the College.
“It’s just been a great pleasure to me to be here and have the opportunities to interact with all these young people,” he says.
And, even as Barfield prepares to give up that bright, sunny office on the corner of George and Meeting, you can bet his light will continue to shine at the College of Charleston.