Longtime College of Charleston benefactor and Charleston cultural icon John A. Zeigler Jr. died Friday, Oct., 2, 2015. He was 103.
Zeigler was among the most passionate supporters of the College, especially its School of the Arts. For years he attended weekly concerts at the College, often establishing personal connections with performers. Beyond his friendship, Zeigler offered considerable financial support to the College, endowing many funds in the names of friends and family members.
“John Zeigler’s characteristic generosity and humility present an ideal that each of us should emulate,” said Valerie Morris, dean of the School of the Arts. “His desire to make South Carolina, and the world, a better place by helping young people made him a model for everyone.”
How could someone part with nearly $1 million so easily? Zeigler, who was awarded an honorary degree from the College in 2011, had a simple answer:
“Whenever I see a young person who has talent and needs help. I feel like I have to do something.”
From 1946 to 1971, Zeigler and his partner, the late Edwin Peacock, operated the Book Basement, one of Charleston’s most beloved bookstores, located just steps from campus. There they hosted assorted literary luminaries, many of whom were personal friends of the couple. Famous writers who visited include the poet Langston Hughes, children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, and novelist Carson McCullers, author of The Heart is A Lonely Hunter. These days, the former Book Basement at 9 College Way is part of the College and houses faculty in the Department of Communication. The old Charleston single house, the College is proud to say, still facilitates the discussion of culture and ideas.
Zeigler himself was a writer, publishing two volumes of poetry: Alaska and Beyond and The Edwin Poems. The former was partly inspired by his service as a radioman in World War II, when he was stationed in Alaska and the South Pacific.
The College of Charleston is honored to have enjoyed the friendship and support of Mr. Zeigler for many years. A memorial celebration of Zeigler’s life will be held in the Recital Hall of the Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St., at 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 17, 2015.