Inside Furman is published monthly during the school year by the Furman University Department of Marketing and Public Relations. For story ideas, e-mail John Roberts, editor.
So long, Charlie
If first impressions are lasting ones, then Charlie Brock should ascend into Furman immortality when he retires in May.
Those who have met Brock during his years at Furman don't easily forget him. His impeccable dress, perfectly groomed hair, easy smile and gift of gab endear him to all. Then Brock, a Dick Clark of higher education, zips away in his late-model silver Corvette convertible.
Brock is one of only four Furman employees (Jim Keller in computing and information services, Tony Arrington in chemistry and Judy Rogers in the president's office) to have attended classes on the old downtown campuses. As an assistant academic dean in charge of undergraduate research and internships and a former director of admissions, Brock has uncommon insight into the forces and personalities that have shaped the evolution of Furman during the last half century.
Brock has worked for three presidents and weathered a sea of change at Furman. Benny Walker and Harry Shucker, both vice presidents, cut their teeth in higher education under his watch.
A native of Seneca, Brock's first exposure to the university came during his freshman year in high school in 1948, when he attended a concert given by the Furman Singers, then under the direction of the legendary DuPre Rhame.
Brock, a pianist and member of the school choir, was awestruck. “Since that time I knew there would be no other school for me. I knew I was going to Furman,” he says.
As a Furman student Brock majored in history, played piano during compulsory chapel services, served as editor of the Bonhomie and was voted “most versatile” by his fellow members of the Class of 1956.
After graduating from Furman, Brock taught at Seneca High School for three years while attending graduate school at Clemson. In 1959 he and his wife, Pat, whom he met at Furman, moved to Orlando, Fla., where he took a job as guidance counselor at Colonial High School. Pat taught at a nearby elementary school
Colonial, which educated the sons and daughters of scientists working at nearby Cape Canaveral, was not a typical high school. It often led the state in National Merit semifinalists, and Brock regularly hosted recruiters from the nation's top colleges.
One such recruiter, Brock recalls, was Don Aiesi (political science). “Don was a brand new faculty member representing Furman. He traveled to Colonial recruiting for Furman, as did Lewis Rasor (then the university's registrar).”
Brock severed ties with Colonial in 1968 during a teacher's strike and decided to put his experience in student recruiting to work by moving to the other side of the aisle — college admissions. He worked in the admissions office at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte less than a year before he received a call from his college dean, Frank Bonner.
Bonner arranged a January 1969 meeting in Charlotte between Brock and Furman president Gordon Blackwell. A month later, Brock made the move down Interstate 85 to work in admissions for his alma mater.
Admissions, then part of the registrar's office and housed on the first floor of Furman Hall, consisted of Brock, an administrative assistant and a handful of fresh-faced college graduates who worked as counselors. Shucker, a 1966 Furman graduate, and his future wife, Pam (a member of the Furman Class of 1969), were two of them, as was Walker (Class of 1971). Furman First Lady Susan Shi (Class of 1971) and Susan Gray (Class of 1978 and now director of stewardship) also worked with Brock as admissions counselors.
During the 1970s Furman admissions became much more sophisticated as the office became independent of the registrar's office. In 1981, Admissions moved into spacious new quarters in the basement of the Earle Infirmary. As director, Brock would often leave Greenville in mid-September and return only for brief periods until the first of December. He and his small staff would travel up and down the East Coast, with occasional forays into Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago.
The message then is much the same as it is now. “Most people are impressed at first by Furman's overwhelming beauty. It's our job to get them to see beyond that,” said Brock in a 1982 Furman Magazine interview. “The beauty, the activities, the friendliness on campus are just icing on the cake. We have to get people to look at the heart of the college, which is the educational program.”
Presiding over a period of unprecedented growth and change in admissions, Brock embarked on a new frontier in 1989 when he was named an assistant dean and director of the Furman Advantage Program, an emerging program that coordinated student internships and research opportunities.
Brock began enhancing and developing engaged learning opportunities long before the term became the core of Furman's marketing strategy, and he has matched thousands of Furman students with internships and off-campus research opportunities.
In 2003, U.S. News & World Report ranked Furman fourth in the nation on its list of the best schools for undergraduate research and creative projects, right behind such heavy-hitters as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Brock is quick to credit Furman's academic departments for such recognition, but he does admit to playing a role. “Doing this has been a most wonderful thing,” he says. “I have loved going out and selling this place. Working with our students, faculty and staff has been wonderful. When I leave it will be this and the relationships that I will miss the most.”