Vice President Kamala Harris had been answering questions in Sottile Theatre for more than an hour during her “Fight for Our Freedoms” campus tour in October, when the last questioner, junior Tyler Gadson, posed one about climate change.
“This is a wonderful question,” Harris said, “and thank you for your leadership in so many capacities.”
It’s not every day that the second-in-command of the United States gives you props, but Gadson does so much at the College of Charleston, he certainly deserves the acknowledgement. To wit, he’s a senior intern in the Bonner Leader Program; a student-athlete academic mentor, helping student-athletes stay on top of their grades; secretary for the Student Ambassadors, whose goal is to recruit and retain first-generation students of color; basileus of the Beta Mu chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity; and CEO of Born to Prosper, a company he started with his mom with the goal of promoting a “pathway to prosperity.”
A born leader, Tyler Gadson commands attention everywhere he goes. (Photo by Catie Cleveland)
And that doesn’t even count a full course load in political science with a concentration in crime, law and society, as well as a part-time job selling clothes at J. Fredric’s Clothiers in Charleston Place.
“All of those things are things I love doing,” he says. “My parents told me that when you get a job, make sure it doesn’t feel like a job, so when I go to Bonner or mentor or recruit or work at J. Fredric’s, I forget about the clock and am just having fun. My friends are like, ‘Oh, you have to go to work on a Saturday,’ but I’m going to have fun.”
And maybe pick up a few more items for his impressive wardrobe collection. In addition to owning his own clothing store one day, Gadson’s goal is to be the best-dressed lawyer and legislator in the state.
“As Deion Sanders says, ‘If you look good, you feel good; if you feel good, you play good; if you play good, they pay good,’” smiles Gadson, wearing a gray hoodie with “Born to Prosper” on the front as he sits on a couch inside the National Pan-Hellenic Council house on Wentworth Street.
Gadson’s fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, was one of the chartering organizations of the NPHC in 1930, and the house serves as the Beta Mu chapter’s home since Gadson is the only member of the fraternity at CofC. But the seven other Black fraternities and sororities on campus are also located in the brick home, so he’s got plenty of other students for cookouts, karaoke or fellowship. And his fraternity brothers at Charleston Southern, University of South Carolina and Clemson – or those who preceded him at the College – will lend support at a moment’s notice.
“Our motto is, ‘Friendship is essential to the soul,’” Gadson says. “We build ourselves around friendship: What does friendship mean to you? And, to me, friendship is answering the call. For the cookout, I was able to call some of the people who came before me here and ask, ‘Can you help me buy some supplies so that I can grill?’ And they were like, ‘For sure,’ so they got off work and came over and helped me out and stayed until about 9:30-ish. That’s friendship.”
Tyler Gadson (Photo by Catie Cleveland)
Gadson’s dad, Stacey – an elementary school principal back home in Columbia, South Carolina – is also a member of Omega Psi Phi. Mom Henrietta is a real estate agent and life member of an NPHC sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, while little brother Dalton is a high school basketball star. Gadson was all set on going to Clemson when he paid a visit to Charleston in 2020, his senior year of high school, to speak at Mother Emanuel AME Church about getting a hate-crime law passed in South Carolina.
“Everyone was so welcoming, and I was like, ‘I definitely might want to go to Charleston,’” he says. “So just the people, the family aspect, how inclusive I saw the College striving to be – and what it continues to strive to be – is something that definitely looked good to me.”
Looking for ways to give back, he joined the College’s Bonner Leader Program and now helps mentor new Bonners.
“Tyler is a humble force to be reckoned with – he’s creative, perceptive and willing to tackle the parts of leadership that aren’t fun or recognized,” says Laura Fornadel, associate director of the Center for Civic Engagement, which runs the Bonner Leader Program. “There’s a reason the Bonners, and others, have called him ‘Mr. President’ since his first semester on campus!”
No wonder VP Harris was so respectful!
“Service is something that I really enjoy,” Gadson says. “Everything I do is some form of service – how am I helping somebody else today?”
Photos by Mary Muldoon and Catie Cleveland.