Lander University has said goodbye to longtime friend and benefactor Marion Pinckney Carnell, the retired South Carolina legislator from Ware Shoals who is credited with playing a leading role in the university's growth and its enhanced statewide reputation. Carnell died on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, at the age of 84.
He was the senior member of the S.C. House of Representatives when he retired in 2002 after spending four decades representing constituents in District 14. He was also the former co-owner and operator of Piggly Wiggly Stores in Ware Shoals and Ninety Six.
Lander president Dr. Daniel Ball described Carnell as a champion of higher education. "Without his influence, power and love for education, Lander would not be the institution it is today." He added, "I was proud to know him for 13 years of my presidency. He was a loyal friend to our campus."
He said it was because of the leadership shown by Carnell and the other members of the Lakelands legislative delegation that, in 1973, Lander became part of South Carolina's public higher education system as a state-supported university.
Ball said, "He was a quiet man, very effective in the legislature and as a community volunteer, a man who put service to others above self."
After retiring Carnell maintained his association with Lander as a Docent, serving as a special assistant to the president.
Athletic director Jeff May, whose friendship with Carnell spanned 40 years, was among those who eulogized him during funeral services held at First Baptist Church in Ware Shoals on Nov. 26. He said having Carnell as one of his mentors added much to his life, and that he will miss their conversations and his wit and humor. He continued, "I loved Marion Carnell as many here today did."
May described Carnell as "a true Southern gentleman" whose faith, fairness, family and reliability were trademarks of his personal and professional life.
In 1992, the university's Board of Trustees recognized Carnell's life, his record of distinguished public service and his long-time support of Lander and higher education in general by naming the campus learning center in his honor. The Marion P. Carnell Learning Center is a four-story structure housing classrooms and faculty and administrative offices, including the president's office.
Lander conferred Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees on Carnell and state Sen. John Drummond during the December 1999 commencement. Then-president Dr. William C. Moran described the two men as extraordinary leaders who had a positive and direct influence on Lander.
Carnell also led legislative efforts resulting in funding for Piedmont Technical College, the St. Nicholas Speech and Hearing Center, Burton Center and other organizations.
While he worked tirelessly for education during his career, health care and services for the elderly, the disabled and those with special needs were also high on his list of priorities. He was honored as Legislator of the Year by eight different organizations, including the S.C. Hospital Association; the S.C. Health Care Association; the Association of Residential Care Homes; the S.C. Human Services Providers Association; the American Legion Department of S.C. and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Carnell's survivors include his wife, Sara Moore Carnell of Ware Shoals; son Marion Ray Carnell, a Lander employee; and brother William Carnell, of Wellford. He was predeceased by daughter Toni Lynn.
Members of the family asked that memorial contributions be made to the Marion P. and Sara Moore Carnell Scholarship Fund at Lander. The fund, established in 1994 by family and friends, awards scholarships each year to freshmen based on academic achievement and leadership potential.