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Western Women Will Save the World

…said His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, in September three years ago at the Vancouver Peace Summit.  This statement came to mind on Monday evening as I sat on the stage in the Rutledge Chapel to mark the opening of the University of South Carolina’s new Ronald McNair Aerospace Research Center.

The center was made possible by a lead gift from the Lake City financier Darla Moore, USC’s biggest benefactor. Ms. Moore, a political science graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, electrified the faculty and students a few years ago when she named the center after the heroic African-American astronaut and physicist who died in the 1986 Challenger disaster.  She was soon joined in her vision by Anita Zucker, Charleston executive and philanthropist; Marva Smalls, a television executive and new member of the Board of Visitors for the College; and Cheryl McNair, the widow of Ron, who has pledged her support for these efforts.

The mission of the center is to not only bring faculty together to conduct cutting edge research and become a world-class leader in innovative aerospace research but to also translate this work into advances for the aerospace industry in South Carolina and to educate students of all ages about the exciting possibilities for them in science and technology.

In a speech at a small dinner later that evening, Ms. Zucker said that her gift was an example of Tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world" (or "healing the world").  We have a responsibility to do what we can to heal, repair, and transform the world for South Carolinians, and these women remind us of that charge with their generosity and their vision for a more well-educated and prosperous state. One can only hope that the Dalai Lama’s comment, which ricocheted around the globe, will turn into a reality for South Carolina thanks to these women.

October 2nd, 2013

By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick
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