Campus wide, Office of the President

Growing hometown heroes – right before our eyes

By President Dondi Costin | April 22, 2020

I went to high school with a guy who was good at any sport he ever tried. Baseball, football, basketball, golf, track and field, ping pong. You name it, he was good at it. 

You know the type. The kind of athlete who makes you wonder if he siphoned off some of your talent as his was being formed. A natural who would make you nauseous if he wasn’t so nice. He was the friendliest fella you could hope to meet, which made me cheer for his success even harder. The perfect combination of giftedness and will to win, he was confident without being cocky and competitive without being combative. You wanted this guy on your team. 

We played in the same Little League. Unfortunately, we were on different teams. Among other things, Mike was a tall, lanky pitcher with a wicked fastball. He struck me out the only time I faced him. At least that’s what the umpire said. I never saw the ball and can’t remember swinging the bat. But the rat-a-tat-tat of earsplitting smacks in the catcher’s mitt, followed by the ump kindly pointing me back to the bench, gave it away. 

I saw him dunk a basketball in junior high, but he was never quite good enough to make the varsity his first year in high school. He was still on the football and baseball teams then and was a high jumper my first year on the track team. He got pretty good at basketball along the way, though, and a few famous college coaches crowded our gym his senior year. North Carolina’s Dean Smith was in that number. When Coach Smith comes to town, people perk up.

But as good as Mike got, we never expected a guy from our high school to make it big. Why?  Jesus said it best: “A prophet is without honor in his own hometown” (Mark 6:4). Famous people don’t grow up down the street from you. That’s just the way it is.

But that Mike made the last-second shot that handed Dean Smith his first national championship in 1982. A week or two later, our Mike was honored as the North Carolina Azalea Festival Parade Grand Marshall. In our hometown, it doesn’t get any bigger than that.  

Suddenly, Mike had everyone’s attention. The next thing I knew, he was calling himself Michael, and I was saving to buy basketball shoes sporting the name and likeness of a guy who graduated from my high school one year ahead of me. I still have those special-edition Carolina Blue Air Jordans in my closet, along with a pile of shirts emblazoned with his silhouette. 

Let’s just say that, these days, Michael Jordan has all the honor he can handle in our hometown.  

From where I sit, Charleston Southern is the Michael Jordan of my new hometown.  

The old Baptist College once seemed like a day’s drive from downtown Charleston, but we now occupy the epicenter of one of the country’s fastest-growing population centers. Good thing. Because we’d love for as many students as possible to hang out with our Michael Jordan.

Always known for providing academic excellence in a Christian environment, U.S. News and World Report recently ranked CSU No. 11 in the nation for its online bachelor’s degree programs, and No. 8 in the nation for providing such high-quality programs for veterans. 

Consistently one of the two largest private universities in the state, CSU is routinely honored for educating a student body in which 35 percent are students of color.

To meet workforce demands in our hometown and beyond, CSU’s brand-new engineering degree program with concentrations in electrical and computer will quickly expand to include mechanical this summer. We recently broke ground on a state-of-the-art facility to house these in-demand programs.

Our year-old Doctor of Education in Leadership degree program just launched its fourth cohort, which means 87 emerging leaders are now being equipped to make a difference in our hometown. And we’re just getting started.  

In May of 2022, our first Doctor of Physical Therapy cohort will take its place in a just-finished addition to the world-class facility now preparing our third class of Physician Assistants. The best news for future patients is that their caregivers’ primary trainer is The Great Physician.

CSU’s football 2020 recruiting class sits among the best in the FCS, picked No. 13 in the nation, according to HERO Sports. Not to mention the thousands of students in undergraduate and graduate programs preparing for careers in the sciences, medicine, law, cybersecurity, education, business, counseling, law enforcement, music, and the ministry, just to name a few.

Marinated in a liberal arts core and saturated in the biblical worldview, students in every major are transformed into tech-savvy, critical-thinking problem solvers ready to change the world. So when you want to hire the best our hometown has to offer, look for the most enthusiastic servant leader you can find and ask them what year they graduated from CSU.

Given our impact in this neck of the woods, the old Baptist College is worthy of high honor in its own hometown—and beyond. Just like Mike.

Hometown heroes grew up right before our eyes. Mike became Michael Jordan, and Baptist College became Charleston Southern. By the way, Michael and I attended high school just three hours north of here. Our mascot? The Buccaneers. Our colors? Blue and Gold. Because that’s how we roll in our hometowns.  

Article first published in CSU Magazine, spring 2020.

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