Bob Guinn and Ed Pappas of the Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program: Training tomorrow’s leaders today

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By Lanier Laney

Ever since moving to the Lowcountry, both Bob Guinn and Ed Pappas have immersed themselves in volunteer activities. So much so, that they now head a program that gives residents an inside look about how the city and county work, as well as providing information about local nonprofit institutions so participants will know how best to apply their own volunteer interests and leadership skills.

Ed Pappas and Bob Guinn
Ed Pappas and Bob Guinn

For the past 21 years, Clemson University Extension Service has sponsored the Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program. This program, dedicated to encouraging volunteerism and community involvement, seeks mentoring by existing leaders for its participants and is geared toward training tomorrow’s community leaders

Thirty-five senior leadership participants spend one day a week involved with community leaders and local experts. Every Wednesday, from January to early April, the class meets at a topic-specific venue such as Penn Center, USCB, Parris Island, Honey Horn, and Town Hall, to name a few. A typical 12 week program involves over 100 speakers at over several dozen locations within Beaufort County. To date, more than 735 people have completed the program, and Beaufort is a better place because of it.

Bob is director of the program and Ed could be described as the program’s Number 1 volunteer “extraordinaire.” For the past 16 years he has helped oversee planning, developing and implementing the next year’s program with other student graduates. He’s currently working on the 2015 class.

Says Ed, “In June 1997, I retired after a 30 year corporate career, in a variety of capacities, with AT&T in Basking Ridge, NJ. And with my wife, Sandra Chavez (who also worked at AT&T), we relocated in 1998 to Callawassie Island.

“We immediately fell in love with the Lowcountry, the environment, the history, the culture. Living most of our adult lives in the Northeast, we thirsted for more information about the area.

“In November 1998, we enrolled in Clemson Extension’s Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program which gave us in-depth knowledge and exposure to a diverse set of government, civic, social and nonprofit institutions in Beaufort County. Beaufort County Senior Leadership gave us more knowledge of Beaufort County in 12 weeks than we gained from living in our home county in New Jersey in 12 years.”

After taking the program, both Ed and Sandra became involved with area nonprofits. Ed stayed on as a volunteer and currently chairs the Clemson University State Advisory Council, whose goal is to promote and support extension activities to favorably impact the quality of life of all South Carolina citizens. He also became a volunteer with environmental organizations and issues, starting with Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs and eventually becoming a board members on the Rural & Critical Lands Preservation Board, Port Royal Sound Foundation and Low Country Institute.

His wife Sandra became equally involved: First as a volunteer with nonprofits, then as chairperson for the Lowcountry Human Development Center in Okatie and United Way of the Lowcountry.

Knoxville, Tenn., native Bob Guinn is the lead agent for Beaufort, Jasper, and Colleton counties for Clemson University Extension. As an employee of Clemson, he is in charge of the many outreach programs and teaching efforts the extension conducts in the area. He also is the executive director of the State Extension Advisory Council.

He met the love of his life, wife Karen, at the University of Tennessee, where he worked before coming to Clemson, in 1979. Karen is a retired math teacher, and they are proud of their two sons — Robert and Christopher — who graduated from Beaufort High School and are now at the College of Charleston and Clemson University, repesctively.

Bob said, “In extension, we like to help people improve the quality of their lives.” To that end, he has conducted, supported, and taught leadership skills in over 65 leadership programs across the state in Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, Lexington, Hampton, Allendale, Orangeburg and Bamberg counties.

Bob was also vice-president for Habitat for Humanity of the Lowcountry for two years, a member of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce for many years, and president of the Lowcountry Wellness Organization for years. He enjoys sailboat racing and is currently outfitting a sailboat with the plan of exploring the Intracoastal Waterway.

Says Ed, “In my 16 years with Beaufort County Senior Leadership, I have met an amazing and diverse number of persons who have gone on to share their life experiences and careers with the citizens of Beaufort County. I am humbled and enriched by having played a part of their continuing journey. I am grateful to Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension Service for introducing me to the opportunities for civic engagement; for inspiring me to ‘give back’ some of the richness of my life experiences and career so to positively contribute to the quality of life of South Carolina citizens.”

To sign up for next year’s Beaufort County Senior Leadership program, go to www.beaufortseniorleadership.com.