Charleston in the era of Porgy and Bess
Local author and professor explores Charleston’s rich literary heritage

July 20, 2004 – – Jim Hutchisson, Ph. D., author and Professor of English at the Citadel, enlightened Rotarians this week with a unique glimpse into Charleston’s literary “Renaissance era of the 1920s and 1930s. His journey to this often overlooked time in Charleston’s history was initiated by a friend’s suggestion to research Dubose Heyward, the author of Porgy and Bess which was famously adapted as a folk opera by George Gershwin in 1935.

While Professor Hutchisson was involved professionally in many endeavors and had written books on such figures as Sinclair Lewis, he claimed that finding a good book topic was somewhat of a challenge. When his friend suggested Dubose Heyward as a subject, Hutchisson did not know much about the author, except that he had written Porgy and Bess. He knew even less about Charleston’s popularity in literary circles in the 1920s, which came to be known as the Renaissance era of Charleston. What he would later find out was that Heyward in fact collaborated with Gershwin to create the opera which would catapult Charleston into the literary limelight and open up the Charleston Renaissance as a historical movement.

Hutchisson wrote his biography of Dubose Heyward in 2000 with research from the South Carolina Historical Society, which housed most of Heyward’s letters and correspondence. This research also revealed how Heyward was a full partner in the production, writing many of the lyrics for the songs in the opera as well as the libretto, and finding the actors and actresses to portray his characters. Porgy and Bess brought fame to Charleston and cemented the city’s reputation as a literary and cultural center. Professor Hutchisson credits the Charleston Renaissance for producing many literary talents from this area and creating a whole movement of poetry, literature and visual arts in Charleston and in the South. The Spoleto Festival is surely a testament to this movement, and Hutchisson believes that Charleston is perhaps in the middle of another Renaissance.

Club Assembly is combined with literacy spotlight
Head of the Trident Literacy Association shed light on local illiteracy challenges

July 13, 2004 – – Today Mark Smith conducted his first meeting, a Club Assembly, as Club President. As part of the Club Assembly, each of the new Directors made a brief presentation about their goals for the coming year and thanked those Rotarians who have agreed to serve on various committees. Smith also identified a number of club-wide goals for the coming year including: focusing on literacy; holding a fundraiser; showcasing members’ workplaces to fellow members; establishing a sister club relationship with a Rotary club in another country; and substantially increasing the base of the Charleston Rotary Fund by raising $100,000.00.

After the Club Assembly portion of the meeting concluded, Eileen Chepenik, the Executive Director of the Trident Literacy Association (“TLA”), presented Club members with frightening statistics about illiteracy in our own community. For example, Chepenik said that 25% of the people in our community are “functionally illiterate.” These individuals cannot do basic tasks such as reading the labels on medicine bottles, reading the questions on a driver’s license exam, or reading books to their children. Chepenik stressed the close correlation between illiteracy and incarceration and welfare dependence. She said that 7 out of 10 prisoners come from the lowest two literacy levels. She also noted that illiteracy has been described as a “life sentence without parole because it limits one’s options in life and is often perpetuated in the next generation.

The TLA was founded in 1972 by a group of volunteers who simply matched students with tutors. Today, it is a registered non-profit that provides numerous services including: adult basic education; instruction in reading, writing and mathematics; family-oriented literacy programs; life skills training; job readiness training; GED preparation; English as a second language courses; and computer usage courses. Volunteers are always needed and should call 747-2223 to help.

Rotary leadership changes hands

Mark Smith steps in to fill Anita Zucker’s “huge shoes” as President

June 29, 2004 – – Today outgoing Club President Anita Zucker handed over the gavel to incoming Club President, Mark Smith, and paid tribute to those who helped make the past year a big Rotary success. Anita gave a number of examples about how the Club helped “lend a hand” over the past year, including providing over 350 gifts to needy seniors, assisting with numerous projects at Frazier Elementary, the installation of water purification systems in Ecuador, contributions to Alzheimer’s research, and major donations to the Red Cross blood drive. Anita kindly gave gifts to numerous Rotarians for their efforts.

During the past year, our Club received numerous awards including the Presidential Citation, the District Governor Citation, and awards for best Club Secretary and electronic bulletin.

Mark Smith began his presidency by joking that he had “huge shoes” to fill, but that he would not wear high heels. He also stressed that this was not his year, but rather “our year” to succeed through Rotary.

Mark also presented appreciation gifts to Anita, including a Rotary book that had been signed by the outgoing Rotary International President and numerous former Presidents of Rotary International.

Mark said that the Rotary theme for the year is “Celebrate Rotary.” Rotary International has four areas for clubs to focus on in the coming year: (1) the Family of Rotary; (2) health concerns; (3) water resources; and (4) literacy and education, especially for children.