Column: One of Morris College's best, Dr. Staggers, leaves school


Anyone familiar with the idiom "hit the ground running" knows it accentuates how serious Dr. Leroy Staggers was about the tremendous responsibility of leading Morris College and transitioning it into an even stronger center of higher education. The presidency of Dr. Staggers, in the words of Langston Hughes' Mother to Son, "ain't been no crystal stair." Coming out of the starting gate, he had to deal with a class-action lawsuit against the college for mold. He had to confront significant challenges and concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of all that, he successfully guided Morris College through reaffirming the accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The accrediting agency Board of Trustees reaffirmed the college's accreditation with no further report through 2032.

Staggers assumed the presidency excited about the future of Morris College and sincerely believed that every student has the potential to succeed. Committed to preparing students for meaningful careers and productive lives, he provided more academic programs and partnership opportunities to meet workforce needs. Also, on June 23, 2023, SACSCOC officially approved four new academic programs added to the college's major offerings. The programs include Esports Cybersecurity, Esports Management, Esports Video Game Design and Supply Chain Management. There is also a major in Cybersecurity. To help steer students along career paths in cybersecurity, the late Sen. John L. Scott Jr., through the South Carolina Institutes of Innovation and Information, was instrumental in helping Morris College acquire a new cybersecurity-based classroom. In addition to strengthening academic offerings and forming partnerships providing more fantastic scholarships, Sumter native and entrepreneur James "Ted" Wilson Sr. and his family established the Beautiful Possibilities Scholarship through their Lou-Von Family Foundation. The $2,839,696 full-ride scholarship was awarded to 30 students to attend Morris College.

First elected interim president in 2017 and then president a year later, Staggers' relatively brief administration afforded him the opportunities to use his administrative responsibilities throughout his career in higher education to directly contribute to the intellectual growth and development of students. Before being elected the 10th president of Morris College on July 1, 2018, Staggers joined the faculty as an associate professor of English in 1993 and was later appointed chairman of the Division of Religion and Humanities and director of Faculty Development. On July 1, 2003, he was appointed academic dean and professor of English. As academic dean, Staggers worked on all aspects of Morris College's ongoing reaffirmation of institutional accreditation, including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Before coming to Morris College, Staggers served as vice president for Academic Affairs, associate professor of English and director of Faculty Development at Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina. His additional higher education experience includes being chairman of the Division of Humanities and assistant professor of English at Voorhees University in Denmark, South Carolina, and instructor of English and reading at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama.

Dr. Staggers' journey from his humble beginnings in Salters, South Carolina, to becoming the 10th president of Morris College is a testament to his personal growth and determination. His educational journey, from C. E. Murray High School to Clark Atlanta University, and his commitment to furthering his education at Harvard University, are a reflection of his dedication to learning and growth.

Dr. Staggers concluded his tenure as the 10th president of Morris College on June 30, 2024.

While at Morris College, Dr. Staggers was an active member of the Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church (JMBC) in Sumter, where he served for five years as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the JMBC Christian and Academic School.

In recognition of his philosophy toward education and his efforts to implement and strengthen majors and instructional programs, friends and supporters are encouraged to honor the president who "hit the ground running" by making a generous contribution to the Leroy Staggers Endowed Scholarship. To donate, contributors may give by cell. Text MC1908 to (803) 592-6060, and follow the prompts to complete the name and payment information. Another way to give is by mail (110 W. College St., Sumter, SC, 29150). Make checks payable to Morris College, and add Leroy Staggers Endowed Scholarship on the memo line.