That well-burnished sentiment made famous by Thomas Wolfe that you can’t go home again would likely have resonated richly with the late Lucian and Milward “Milly” B. Pinckney ’51. After all, the proud Charleston natives and ardent supporters of the College chose to love both the school and the city from afar, spending the final years of their lives in Albuquerque, N.M.
However physically distant, the couple demonstrated a deep and abiding love of the home they had cultivated at the College. The affection started in the 1950s, when Milly was earning her undergraduate degree as a history major. It was then that she also began a courtship with her future husband, a Citadel cadet in the Class of 1951 and a member of Charleston’s centuries-old Pinckney family.
This profound connection to place also inspired them to support the institution through both time and treasure. Milly, a sports enthusiast, once served as the College’s director of women’s athletics. And, from 1977 to 1978, she served as president of the College’s Alumni Association, making her the second woman in the College’s history to do so.
“It was the kind of devotion that you don’t always see,” says Yvonne duFort Evans ’58, who became involved in the Alumni Association through Milly, her longtime friend. The two avidly supported the College’s basketball team, frequenting games and sending the team off at the airport. “She really connected me on a different level.”
Lucian Pinckney would have concurred. He once said of his wife, “It was in Milly’s nature to give back to the College something of what she received, not monetarily, but intellectually and socially.”
What’s more, the couple’s two sons found a home on campus; both pursued undergraduate degrees at the College. This gained all the more poignancy after their early deaths from an autosomal recessive genetic disorder: Lucian Jr. ’79 died at the age of 28, and Peter, a rising senior, died at the age of 21. “They had a sad time with the two sons,” says Evans, adding that it overshadowed some of their lives and ultimately made it too difficult for them to remain in Charleston.
In 1991, the couple began supporting the institution through giving that eventually grew into the Lucian Whitaker Pinckney Jr. and Peter Gilman Pinckney Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund. This planned gift was created to provide academically outstanding students with scholarships to the Honors College (2017-18 recipients pictured above).
“The boys had a great experience here,” says Trisha Folds-Bennett, dean of the Honors College. “It’s where they spent the last years of their lives.”
Folds-Bennett learned about this and much more from Lucian Pinckney in the final years of his life. She visited him on three occasions in Albuquerque after Milly’s death in 2013 and up until Lucian’s death in 2017.
“Lucian was just delightful,” she says, recalling her wonderful exchanges with him, which included sharing his passions of history and genealogy, as well as memories of his wife. “One time he sent me back to campus with her Alumni Association jacket,” adding that it is now on display in the Alumni Center in Towell Library.
In the late ’90s, the Pinckneys also donated a significant silver collection to the College’s Special Collections department, with many of the items dating back several generations in Milly’s family. Their choice of the school as their heir – in place of their beloved sons – further underscores the esteem they held for the school, which was rendered more meaningful still when they ultimately gave their entire estate to the College.
“The College was where Milly blossomed,” says Evans, reflecting on her friend’s deep love of the College. And, thanks to the generous support of the Pinckneys, many students will likewise thrive at the College for years to come.