Dignitaries converged on the Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center Auditorium on Saturday, Dec. 9, to pay tribute to Dr. Larry A. Jackson, ninth president of Lander University, who died Nov. 7 at the age of 92.
"While today is a somber day, it is also a day of positive reflection as we remember and we celebrate a truly remarkable man," said Lander University President Richard Cosentino.
Jackson was the guiding hand behind Lander from 1973 - when it became a member of the state college system - until 1992, making him the longest-serving president of any four-year public college or university in South Carolina at that time.
"During his 19 years of service, Lander flourished. Enrollment tripled, five major buildings were constructed, housing was expanded, new academic programs were introduced, the international programs were created. When you look at all that was accomplished under Larry's presidency, it's nearly impossible to imagine where Lander would be today without his leadership," Cosentino said.
Cosentino shared a statement from former S.C. Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley thanking Jackson and his wife, Barbara, for serving his administration as governor "with distinction and honor." Riley called Jackson "a wonderful human being whom I respected very much."
Joe Berry was one of several members of the State College Board of Trustees who interviewed Jackson in 1973 and recommended that he be hired to lead Lander. Berry said that Jackson "had a natural, engaging and effective smile that had nothing to do with impressing others." He described him as "a caring and compassionate person" and said, "It was a privilege to call him my friend."
Lander Professor Emeritus of History Dr. Joel Cleland said that faculty members "can try the souls of even the best of men, and I'm confident we tested Larry's, but he took it in stride and he worked with us. He built trust, not division; he was an instinctively democratic person, and under his leadership for 19 years, Lander became a microcosm of a more humane, peaceful world."
Cleland said that Jackson, a World War II veteran, former pastor and world traveler, "was always much more than just the president of an institution to me. Outside of my own parents and my wife's parents, he was probably the most important mentor in my life."
Dr. John Ratté, former vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of faculty at Lander, who first met Jackson in India in 1970, remembered him as "the best good man I have ever known."
State Senator Floyd Nicholson said that Jackson had a "true love for his fellow man." He called him "a true inspiration."
Jackson was among those in attendance at S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman's wedding. "He really didn't have to do that, but he cared enough that he did," she said.
Spearman, a former student body president and 1976 graduate of Lander, called Jackson "very prophetic and wise. I will never forget him and never forget the impact he had on my life."
Following the memorial service for Jackson, family members received friends at the Larry A. Jackson Library.