When Linda Dingle Gadson ’72 enrolled at the College in 1969, she wasn’t thinking about the legacy she would ultimately help create. She simply wanted to nudge the world in the right direction and earn her college degree.
Without question, though, as one of the first African American female graduates of the College, Gadson, a native of Hollywood, South Carolina, is a trailblazer. Helping open the door to students of color was a pioneering step that continues to make a difference.
So, when it came time for her granddaughter, Qynn Woodberry-Gadson, to enroll in college, it seemed like the choice would be obvious.
“I was so ready to leave home,” laughs Woodberry-Gadson, who grew up not far from her grandmother, whom she affectionately calls “Gramzy.”
She looked at two other South Carolina universities in addition to CofC. But when her father, Shaytee, posted a photo on social media of Woodberry-Gadson with the cougar statue in Cougar Mall, it quickly caught the eye of Valerie Frazier ’91 (M.P.A. ’94). As director of the College’s 1967 Legacy Program, which pays tribute to CofC African American trailblazers like Gadson by providing academic support to current African American students, Frazier was excited the program could potentially support a true legacy student.
“[Linda] has been a supporter of the Legacy Program from Day One,” says Frazier. “When we found out that Qynn was thinking about attending the College, we asked her to apply.”
Ultimately, it was the support of the 1967 Legacy Program, her family and the appeal of the College’s liberal arts education that led Woodberry-Gadson, who is majoring in dance, to choose CofC.
“I told her the only place she could go was the College of Charleston,” says Gadson. “Now why is that? It’s a great academic school; there’s a lot of flexibility; and the dreams that she has could be realized at the College.”
After graduating with a political science degree in 1972, Gadson went on to lead the nonprofit Rural Missions on Johns Island, South Carolina, for nearly 50 years. She also supported her community alongside her husband, Herbert, who served as the first African American mayor of Hollywood from 1989 to 2003.
Through a project in her First Year Experience class, Emerging Adulthood: The Age of Possibilities, Woodberry-Gadson delved deeper into her grandmother’s legacy, interviewing her about life as a young African American woman 54 years ago.
“I learned so much,” says the rising sophomore, who hopes to see even more opportunities for African American students at the College.
“I like to get the word out that there is still work for us to do,” she says, adding that sometimes she’s the only student of color in her classes. “Being a part of the 1967 Legacy Program, I see there’s more of me on campus, and that is very liberating. It helps me feel like I’m not alone.”
Says Frazier: “Qynn is the quintessential Legacy Scholar: an engaging student leader who is immersed in community service and local Black history and keenly aware of her role as a legacy bearer.”
For Gadson, it’s a full circle moment.
“It’s just heartwarming to think about where we have evolved from to where we are today,” she says.