[image-1] Glenn McConnell, the former general assembly power broker installed as CofC president in 2014, says he’ll retire this summer.
McConnell, 70, says his age and health “played a significant role” in his decision to step down, a decision he says he came to in the past two months after a career in the South Carolina State Senate.
From CofC’s announcement:
Over the past two months, I have taken a hard look at the challenges ahead as well as my physical abilities and energy long term to do this job and to meet other responsibilities I have at the same level as in the past. I have concluded that I should retire. I did not come to this decision lightly, but I know in my heart that it is the right thing to do. As an alumnus of the College, I love and respect this great institution and its people too much to not give the energy needed and my full and undivided attention every single day in the years ahead, especially as we approach the 250th anniversary of our founding.
McConnell’s appointment in 2014 drew significant criticism at the time, sparking protests, sit-ins, and petitions from faculty and students who raised concerns over McConnell’s support of the Confederate battle flag. In the late 1990s, McConnell warned that eliminating Confederate symbols could lead to “cultural genocide,” the P&C has reported.
When Dylann Roof gunned down nine people inside Emanuel AME Church a year after McConnell took office, including McConnell’s former colleague Sen. Clementa Pinckney, President McConnell said he supported then-Gov. Nikki Haley’s initiative to remove the flag from the capitol grounds “as a visible statement of courtesy and good will to all those who may be offended by it.” Roof, who worried over threats to white culture in a deranged manifesto discovered after the murders, lived minutes from the Statehouse where the Confederate flag flew his entire life. (The College has taken an active role in memorializing and cataloging the history of the victims of the shooting at Emanuel, which sits just a couple blocks from campus on Calhoun Street.)
McConnell came to lead the College after amassing considerable clout in Columbia as a legislator, even having a campus dorm named in honor of him as the school’s most influential alumnus. For a time, with McConnell in the Senate and Speaker Bobby Harrell in the House, the two Charleston lawmakers held power at the same time in the Republican-controlled General Assembly until separate ethics issues caused both to leave their positions. McConnell ascended to become lieutenant governor in 2012 after Ken Ard resigned over campaign finance violations and Harrell resigned in 2014 as part of a plea deal over his own campaign violations. Since then, leadership power in the capitol has shifted away from Charleston toward the Pee Dee and the figures who replaced McConnell and Harrell have railed against regional alliances which steered state funding toward urban areas like Charleston. That shift has put completion of projects like the I-526 beltway, the Glenn McConnell Parkway, in jeopardy. (Ironically, the dead end interchange of I-526 in West Ashley is named after Harrell.)
Glenn McConnell is a 1969 graduate of the College who served as student body president and was a member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, which was founded in Charleston and was banned from campus last year after “incidents involving alcohol, drugs and hazing.”