Retired Penn Center Executive Director Emory Campbell received an honorary doctorate from the University of the South on Saturday, May 14, in Sewanee, Tenn. Submitted photo.

Campbell receives honorary doctorate from Sewanee

From staff reports

Emory Campbell, retired Executive Director of Penn Center, received an honorary doctorate from the University of the South on Saturday, May 14 at a Baccalaureate service at All Saints Chapel in Sewanee, Tenn.

According to a citation read at the ceremony, Campbell was honored for his “lifelong commitment to articulating, preserving, and sharing the riches of a unique natural and cultural environment.”

A Hilton Head Island native with a B.S. in Microbiology and a Master’s in Environmental Engineering, Campbell took over at Penn Center in 1980. According to Sewanee’s citation, in his 22 years at Penn Center, Campbell “insisted that the Gullah language and Gullah customs not be sacrificed in the interest of assimilation.”

“The foods we ate, the songs we sang, the spirits we embraced, the noble families in which we were loved, and the language we spoke,” he has written, were eminently worthy of study and preservation. And this became his life’s work.

Campbell received the Carter G. Woodson Award in 2005, and, in 2008, became Chairman of the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which stretches from Wilmington, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla. He has spoken and written extensively about Gullah history and culture.

“There is an old Gullah saying on the South Carolina sea islands that, in modern English admonishes: ‘Take care of the roots in order to heal the tree,’” the citation reads. “Over a lifetime of service, Emory Campbell has always taken care of the roots.”

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