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Many of Charleston’s 50 Most Progressive Have College Ties

Posted on 12 March 2013 | 1:19 pm

Nearly a dozen College of Charleston faculty, staff, and alumni are recognized as some of Charleston’s 50 Most Progressive people in Charlie Magazine’s annual awards.

Chris Starr is the chair of the Department of Computer Science, and as Charlie Magazine reports, he has plans. Big plans. “Chris wants to make Charleston an epicenter for computer science, but not a carbon copy of Silicon Valley or Boston. He wants to capitalize on Charleston’s independent personality to produce its own talent and career center.”

Toni Reale ’01 is now a College of Charleston faculty member in environmental geology, an eco-friendly event planner and soon-to-be owner of a roving floral shop in a 1971 Bedford van. Blue Planet Green is the first eco-friendly event planning firm in Charleston and Toni says, “One of the most rewarding things for us is working with vendors that don’t recycle or have green initiatives… and showing them how to do these things.”

James Smith, a junior at the College, has aspirations of running for office or creating an organization similar to the Clinton Global Initiative. As a freshman, he started the College Democrats and recently accepted a position as deputy communications and media director for Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert-Busch’s Congressional campaign. He says, “It’s not about Republican or Democrat. It’s about being a progressive organizer for the next generation.”

Jacob Raymond, assistant dock master, is making sailing accessible to all through community recreation programs. He had never stepped foot on a boat when famed dock master Colin Bentley took him under his wing. Now, Jacob says, “I would never have been able to afford sailing without CofC. I feel indebted. I’m giving back to a program that gave so much to me.”

Patricia Lessane has been the executive director of the Avery Research Center for three years and in that time has hosted several conferences, which have been called groundbreaking. Her vision for Avery is for it to become the premier center in the Southeast for the African American Diaspora.

Stan Gray is part of the College’s Division of Marketing and Communications, and he’s also a musician, writer, husband, father, and most recently, executive producer of Dig South. Dig South is a festival where attendees will gain perspective on everything from technology to marketing and social media. Think: South by Southwest, minus the cowboy boots.

Brady Quirk-Garvan ’08 used his political science degree to clock six months on Obama’s presidential campaign in Southern Ohio. He says, “I learned how to talk to people about change in a way that doesn’t scare them. We have to find commonalities and ways that people can relate. Focus on the things that connect us, not divide us.”

Brad Ball ’04 is managing partner at Poogan’s Porch, proprietor and win director at downtown wine bar Social, owner of La Wine Agency and one of the entreprenurs behind Wine Awesomeness. He says, “I like to stay very busy, obviously.”

Nikki Seibert (MES ’09) is the director of sustainable energy at Lowcountry Local First. “Nikki hopes to educate on how to utilize the natural resources around town. By taking it back to the earth, she believes, we can help build a better Charleston, a stronger Charleston… a tastier Charleston.”

Cary Ann Hearst ’01 is singer and songwriter for Shovels & Rope, an indie bluegrass-meets-nervy-rock-and-roll band. She (and husband Michael Trent) recently appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and she was named a top songwriter.

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