Jeff May has been associated with Lander University for more than 40 years starting as an All-American athlete and, after he graduated, as an administrator and, since 1997, as athletics director.
On Nov. 6, Lander's Board of Trustees ensured that his Lander connection will be remembered long into the future when it announced that the university's new Recreation, Wellness and Sports complex (RWS) would be named in May's honor.
May, who described his years at Lander as his "life journey and labor of love," said he never expected the recognition but accepts it with a great deal of pride and humility.
Ray Hunt, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the decision to put May's name on the RWS was an easy one. "I can't think of anyone at Lander who has done more or has loved the university as much as Jeff. Regardless of his position as a student, athlete and administrator, May has always had Lander's best interests at heart."
May's road to Lander began in the small town of Blue Creek, Ohio, where he grew up, one of 12 children of Jessie and Orvy May. An outstanding high school basketball player, he attracted the attention of many college coaches including Finis Horne, who started Lander's intercollegiate basketball program in 1968.
May received scholarship offers from dozens of schools but he said, "Coach Horne was persistent in asking me to visit Lander. He convinced me that Lander would be a good place for me and he wasn't wrong."
During his four years at Lander, he won several collegiate basketball honors. He was the only player in NAIA District 6 history to be selected All-District player four years in a row. He received All-American honorable mention three times, and was the team's most valuable player for four consecutive years. One of four Lander men's basketball players to have his jersey retired, May was inducted into Lander's Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999.
May graduated from Lander in 1973 with a health, physical education and recreation degree and he earned a master's in administration and supervision at Clemson University.
He admits, when he first arrived in Greenwood, his plan was to return to Ohio to coach high school basketball after graduating from Lander. "That would not have been a bad thing for Jeff May," he said adding, "but it would not have been part of the life journey and labor of love that I have experienced for the past 40 years."
After graduation, his first two jobs were as principal and teacher at Lowndesville Elementary School in Abbeville County and, later, assistant principal at McCormick High School in McCormick County.
In 1976, Lander hired May to be director of Student Activities and, later that same year, he also served as an admissions counselor. Over the next 33 years, he would hold several other positions including dean of students, assistant to the president, vice president for University Advancement and executive director of The Lander Foundation. He was also the assistant men's basketball coach for eight years.
In 1997, he was appointed athletics director upon the retirement of his mentor and friend Finis Horne.
Horne said it was clear from the day he first saw May play basketball that he had unlimited talent as a player and as a human being. "He has always been a contributor and a winner who gives 100 percent at whatever task he has before him." Horne added that, over the years, May has learned many skills that allowed him to make significant, long-range contributions including the RWS complex. "It is only fitting that the facility be named for him"
Lander president Daniel Ball said, "Putting Jeff May's name on the complex is a fitting tribute since his name is engraved on so many other good things that have happened to Lander in his years as a student and as an administrator." He added, " One of the great pleasures of being president of Lander is the privilege of recognizing the work of the people of this institution. Honoring Jeff May is one recognition that surpasses most."
Men's soccer coach Van Taylor said thanks to May's untiring service, Lander and the Greenwood community will enjoy the RWS complex. "I cannot think of anyone more deserving to name the complex after than Jeff May."
On Sept. 22, ground was broken for the 25-acre RWS. It will be home to Lander's soccer, baseball and softball stadiums, 12 tennis courts with a pavilion, intramural and practice fields, a walking and jogging track and a field house.
Lander Trustees chair Ray Hunt said the complex will have a substantial financial and social impact on Greenwood, demonstrating how important the university and community are to each other. "Its location in the heart of the city will stimulate closer ties between the two by bringing students and residents together for sporting events or a unique outdoor recreational experience."
The facility is expected to be ready for use by the fall of 2010.