Shea Manigo of Walterboro overcame the family losses of her mother and sister to create opportunities for those who came after her at the Medical University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy. The endowed scholarship she founded with her family members in 2021 recently funded a second College of Pharmacy student.
“When I think about my responsibility when it comes to leadership, something that I’ve learned is being a leader of others has very little to do with you,” Manigo told the Charleston City Paper.
“It’s about helping others reach their career paths.”
Manigo, now senior vice president of CVS’s front store retail operations, created the Annie Lee Jerido Williams Minorities in Pharmacy Lowcountry Endowment and Scholarship Fund to honor her mother Annie who passed away at 43 from heart disease when Manigo was 4. She said her mother’s death was the impetus of her mission to become a health advocate.
“After my mom died, I set on my path to making life better for others,” Manigo said. “I always said that my purpose in life is to help people get to where they aspire to be. That, to me, has been my driving force and everything else — the successes that have come along the way have been outputs from that.”
Manigo’s aunt, S.C. Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, told the City Paper that she is proud to see her niece giving back to MUSC students.
“You’re supposed to turn around and help someone else,” Matthews said. “Shea has beaten incredible odds. And I’m excited for where she’s going to go.”
Fighting an uphill battle
Manigo’s older brother, Leroy Williams, raised her in High Springs, Fla., after their mother passed away. As the first Black valedictorian at her high school, Manigo received a full scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in food science and human nutrition from the University of Florida’s (UF) College of Agriculture in 2001. She helped charter the Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students at UF after realizing there weren’t many minority students in the health care career track. It is still active today.
“You pour your energy and your spirit into it, and it lives way past your time,” she said of creating opportunities for the next generation.
Manigo moved to Charleston to work after graduating to be closer to her family and take a break from school. Shortly after she moved, her sister was murdered in Colleton County. Manigo said her late sister had always encouraged her to keep going in higher education, and it was her voice in Manigo’s head that inspired her to apply to the MUSC College of Pharmacy and pursue her doctorate.
“My family would always say, ‘Just put one foot in front of the other,’” Manigo said. “You take micro steps [toward] who it is [you’re] ready to be. It’s not about achieving this momentous thing. It’s about taking that first step toward who it is you are looking to become, and then everything else just kind of falls in place.”
As a single mom living on school loans, Manigo earned a pharmacy doctorate at MUSC and completed a joint degree program at The Citadel to secure a master’s degree in business administration in 2007.
Manigo said her vision for the endowment and scholarship fund is to lower the economic burden for minority students of South Carolina who are pursuing a pharmacy degree and help them feel confident that the community is rooting for their success. Each year, the College of Pharmacy Scholarships and Awards committee will allocate funds according to recipients’ financial need.
“[In] the community that I am from, not a lot of people get a chance to go to college,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re opening doors.”
Manigo worked closely with the college’s dean, Dr. Phillip Hall, to put the endowed scholarship in place.
“Since the scholarship is endowed, we can use it every year to create its own legacy,” Hall told the City Paper. “We’re always looking for great prospective students like Shea — if we could use this scholarship to find a new Shea Manigo every year, what finer legacy could there be?”
Hillary Reeves of Columbia was the scholarship’s first recipient. Reeves is in her last year at MUSC’s pharmacy school. Thanks to the 2021 scholarship award of $2,000, she said she has been able to apply to more residency programs than she would have been able to on her own. The second recipient, Sherri McLamb, also received $2,000 to put toward 2023 tuition.
“I’ve been able to connect with more people through those interview opportunities,” Reeves told the City Paper. “In really any type of medical field, especially when you get higher up into the doctorate programs, there aren’t a lot of people that look like me. Even in my own class, I can count the African American students on two hands out of almost 70 students.”
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