Governor Awards USC Aiken Retiree Silver Crescent

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AIKEN, SC (10/03/2018) Former University of South Carolina Aiken Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Jeff Priest, who retired in May, received one of the state's highest awards: the Silver Crescent.

According to the governor's website, "the Order of the Silver Crescent is the state's highest civilian award for significant contributions, leadership, volunteerism, and lifelong influence within a region or community."

In addition to serving the university in a variety of capacities, Priest was the first director of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. He is credited with taking a concept and desire for STEM education and constructing not only a building filled with animals, minerals and other hands-on science activities but also engaging and dynamic programs, specifically for K-12 students.

"The RPSEC will always have a special place in my heart," Priest said at the time of his retirement.

"I was given carte blanche to mold the RPSEC into whatever I thought would be best for our region. I was fortunate enough to hire a great staff that shared the same vision. The result of which we see today."

During RPSEC's 30th anniversary celebration, members of the local legislative delegation presented the award to Priest on behalf of Gov. Henry McMaster.

"Who knew 30 years ago when Dr. Priest was taking a concept and turning it into an engaging, dynamic hub of STEM education - from a closet no less - that now, more and more the fields are growing in importance and relevance," said Dr. Sandra Jordan, chancellor.

"Here, from day one, the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center has made a difference, infusing a love for STEM through every hands-on activity, every captivating presentation in the DuPont Planetarium, and every dynamic program."

The mission of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is vital to the future, she added. At RPSEC, the intent is to "grow and inspire" engineers, scientists and innovators, literally from the time they enter school.

"Here, kindergarten students learn how to solve problems, gather and analyze data and understand connections," Jordan said.

"This discovery and exploration are presented in ways that these students don't even realize they're learning. They think they're just playing!"