James “Jim” P. Anderson ’55 began a lifetime journey at the College as a professor of mathematics and computer science in 1957. It lasted 38 years. Jim, his wife Carolyn N. Anderson ’70 (M.A.T. ’78) and their two sons were fixtures on the campus for decades. Jim was an integral part of the transformation of the College from a small municipal school to a much larger institution. Through all of that growth and change, he remained focused on the education of his students.
But Jim’s dedication to the College is just the start of the legacy. Carolyn, whom he met and fell in love with while studying for his master’s degree at the University of South Carolina, earned her bachelor’s degree in English and M.A.T. (master of arts in teaching) in education at the College. Their sons, Philip ’81 and Joseph ’86, literally grew up on campus and have fond memories of hanging out in the faculty lounge waiting for their father to finish office hours. More recently, granddaughter Kathleen Anderson Shuler ’14 graduated from the Honors College.
“The College feels like a family,” says Philip. “That’s part of its charm.”
Joseph remembers his father as a professor who cared more about spending time with his family and students than adding a few letters behind his name. An incredibly fair professor, Jim used grading tests as teaching opportunities.
Longtime and enthusiastic supporters of Alumni Association and College of Charleston Foundation scholarship programs, both Jim and Carolyn believed that getting an education was essential and that someone’s socioeconomic status should not be a deterrent.
“The question in our house was never if you were going to college, but what you were going to study in college and where you were going to get your graduate degree,” says Philip.
To honor their parents’ love of learning, Philip and Joseph established a scholarship at the College in their names in 2012: the James P. and Carolyn N. Anderson Endowed Alumni Scholarship.
“Our parents prioritized education in the family budget, and they ensured that their sons were able to graduate with no student loans,” says Philip. “Both sons received alumni scholarships while attending the College, and this scholarship is our opportunity to pay it forward.”
“Growing up, education was very important in our family, so a scholarship seemed like a great opportunity to recognize our parents and their impact on the education of not only us, but many, many other students, as well,” adds Joseph, who received the Alumni Association’s 2012 Pre-Medical Society’s Outstanding Service Award in Medicine. “It’s a way to thank our parents for making education a priority not only for my brother and me, but for the literally hundreds of students they’ve taught over their careers.” Jim passed away in March 2021, and the funeral served as a testament to his influence. When he died, in lieu of flowers, the family asked for donations to the scholarship, and a generous amount poured in from former students and colleagues.
“Jim had a positive influence on thousands of people,” says Rose Rowland, who taught math at the College from 1975 to 2001 and was one of the hundreds of lives Jim touched. “When I was 30 years old with four children, having dropped out of college at 19 to get married, I remarked to Jim that someday I would like to go back to school and graduate. He said, ‘Stop talking about it and just do it.’ I had to relearn precalculus and first year calculus on my own, but I eventually retired from the math department faculty at CofC having earned a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in math. I doubt if I would have done that without his nudge and encouragement.”
Thanks to the James P. and Carolyn N. Anderson Endowed Alumni Scholarship, the Andersons’ positive influence endures. Katie Chea, a computer information systems major and data science minor, has been the recipient of the scholarship since 2019. Chea is president of the Asian Student Association, a Bonner Leader and a SPECTRA LEADer.
“I participated in the SPECTRA program before my freshman year and have remained involved for the past three years as a SPECTRA LEADer,” says Chea. “This program has helped me make valuable connections on campus with faculty and staff as well as other students. I’ve met some of my lifelong friends through the program – and, as a LEADer, I’ve been able to mentor other students.”
Chea – whose parents immigrated from Cambodia to South Carolina in the 1980s – says being a first-generation student can be a lot of pressure.
“My parents expected me to go to college and continue my education since they were not able to,” she says. “I was lucky that my older sister had graduated college previously, so she was able to help guide me through the transition into college. We both want to make our parents proud and even use our degrees to support them in the future. Many of my parents’ sacrifices and hard work went toward providing the opportunity for both my sister and me to enter into college. Having this scholarship really let me lift the financial burden from my parents, providing me the means to support myself.”
The Anderson family’s passion for education will continue supporting students like Chea whose families have sacrificed for their children’s future.