Baker and Habisreutinger Honored With USC Upstate Chancellor’s Distinguished Gold Dome Award
Spartanburg, S.C. - Paula Black Baker and Marianna Black Habisreutinger were presented with the University of South Carolina Upstate’s highest honor on Wednesday, the Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Gold Dome Award, for their sincere loyalty and commitment to the University and its future. The University presented this award to the sisters for their long-standing support of the Mary Black School of Nursing at USC Upstate, named in honor of their grandmother, Mary Louisa Snoddy Black.
Dr. Marsha Dowell, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of the Mary Black School of Nursing at USC Upstate, credited the Black family with giving the University the resources and vision to grow its nursing program. When the nursing program began in 1967, it enrolled 36 students and had eight faculty members. Today the program boasts 966 nursing students and 42 full-time faculty members. Presently USC Upstate graduates approximately 300 nursing students each year.
“The vision of the Black family has allowed us to grow our nursing program into one of the Southeast’s most highly regarded nursing institutions that offers a four-year degree,” said Dowell. “We have expanded from a traditional mode of teaching to on-site instruction, distance learning and inter-institutional articulation, to accommodate students who are diverse in background, age, race, ethnicity, educational experiences, and needs. Our faculty are experts in their fields and our alumni are highly-qualified healthcare professionals who are practicing in 36 states and on four continents.”
Baker and Habisreutinger’s dedication and contributions to healthcare and education in Spartanburg can easily be traced back to their grandfather Dr. Hugh Ratchford Black, who was a pioneer, innovator and leader in the field of medicine. He founded three hospitals in Spartanburg – St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the 1890’s, Spartanburg Hospital in 1904 and Mary Black Hospital in 1924. He lobbied for the signatures necessary to establish Spartanburg General Hospital in 1921 and performed the first surgery there (on his son Paul) and admitted its first patient.
Dr. Black and his sons, Dr. Sam Orr Black and Dr. Hugh Snoddy Black, operated the original Mary Black School of Nursing in conjunction with the Mary Black Hospital from 1926 to 1951. During these years, 300 nursing students were educated, paying no tuition, room and board, or fees for books and supplies. These expenses were picked up by the Doctors Black.
“Our grandfather and uncles saw the need for more medical professionals in this community during those early years and fortunately, they were in a position to provide an education for these young nursing students,” said Habisreutinger.
When USC Upstate (then USC Spartanburg) needed to build a separate building for its nursing school, the Black family saw a perfect opportunity to revive the name of the former Mary Black School of Nursing. Their aunt, Mary Kate Black Phillips, donated the money to name the nursing school and help fund the construction of the new facility.
“The marrying of the Mary Black School of the Nursing with the University was a perfect fit,” said Baker. “Practicing medicine has carried down for generations in our family so we are all committed to helping create a healthier community.”
Indeed, Habisreutinger and Baker are carrying on the legacy of giving back unselfishly to their community. Both are involved in numerous charity endeavors and community projects. They attribute their vast contributions, with great humility and grace, to growing up in a family that had a great love for the Spartanburg community.
“Paula and I grew up surrounded by family members who felt blessed to be a part of the Spartanburg community and they wanted to give back,” said Habisreutinger. “We absorbed that attitude and when I think about what my family has done in the past, it makes me want to do likewise.”
Baker echoed the sentiment, “Giving back to the community just comes naturally to me. I want to see things continually improve in Spartanburg for our future generations.”
Dr. John Stockwell, chancellor of USC Upstate, is tremendously grateful for Paula Black Baker and Marianna Black Habisreutinger, their ancestors who came before them, and their children and grandchildren who will continue their legacy after them.
“Spartanburg, the Upstate region, and the state of South Carolina are truly blessed to have the Mary Black School of Nursing located here in Spartanburg,” said Stockwell. “Our faculty are training a highly-skilled corps of healthcare professionals who will work to continually meet the medical needs of South Carolina. There is a very high chance that each of us will at some point in our lives be cared for by a graduate of the Mary Black School of Nursing at USC Upstate.”
USC Upstate, a coeducational, public, comprehensive metropolitan institution, is located conveniently along the thriving economic I-85 corridor with campuses in Spartanburg and Greenville. As a senior comprehensive public institution of the University of South Carolina, the University’s primary responsibilities are to offer baccalaureate education to the citizens of Upstate South Carolina and to offer selected master’s degrees in response to regional demand. USC Upstate is home to 5,000 students from 38 states and 71 nations.