Mike Bonnette is Beaufort’s new big man on campus

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By Lanier Laney

Beaufort has a new man on campus in charge of fundraising for the Center for the Arts as well as all other fundraising for USCB including the Historic Beaufort Campus, now dedicated to arts education, and the Hilton Gateway Campus. His name is Mike Bonnette, and he is the assistant vice chancellor for development.

The Bonnette family: Amy, Laura, Mike and Carson.
The Bonnette family: Amy, Laura, Mike and Carson.

Mike was raised in Orangeburg, SC, but now, after being here a year, he says that Beaufort definitely feels like home to him and his wife, Amy.

“Beaufortonians feel like ‘home folks’ to us. We are most comfortable around the oyster-shucking table or walking along the water at chambers park,” he said.

Amy, a Greenville native, met Mike at Clemson where he got an undergraduate and Masters degree. They have been married for 13 years with two children they adore — son Carson, 6, and daughter Laura, 3.

Mike is currently working to finish a Ph.D in Educational Leadership in the next two years.

Amy has worked in donor relations and special events in higher education and nonprofits for many years, and is currently working a part-time job in human resources while raising their two young children.

Mike is a big man — over 6 feet tall with wide shoulders. He got that way by working hard from a very young age on his father’s dairy farm where he also learned a lot about business. He was headed for a career in agri-business in North Carolina, but because of a great experience he had had at Clemson University as a graduate assistant for the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, he decided to dedicate his life to Alumni Relations and Fundraising for higher education and spent the next nine years of his life doing that at two top Division 1 institutions in South Carolina and Mississippi before coming to Beaufort.

Says Mike, “After working in the business world for six years, I felt the pull back to higher education and am very happy to now be doing what I love in a part of the country I love.  Being back in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and positively affecting the lives of students who grew up like me is very rewarding.” He adds, “I looked for a way to be a part of higher education but interact with folks in a business-like way.  Fundraising has given me the opportunity to do that.”

Mike has high praise for Chancellor Jane Upshaw. He said, “USCB has grown so much in recent years under Dr. Upshaw’s leadership and I am truly honored to be a part of the future. We are working to build the foundation of quality donor interaction and continue to grow our sense of history and tradition as a four-year institution. My past experiences have enabled me to bring knowledge of how those pieces come together over time to make a truly unique student and donor experience. I see this line of work as a partnership of support for an institution we care very much about. That is exciting to be a part of!”

He adds, “I think it is important to note that USCB is working hard to raise money in support of the Center for the Arts in Beaufort. We see this as an important opportunity for outreach in the community and have for a long time. We are supporting the institution by putting money into arts education at Historic Beaufort campus, but need support from the community to keep the Center for the Arts in top form as it provides a much-needed cultural gathering space for patrons of the arts in Beaufort. I look forward to working with all the constituency groups of the Center For the Arts to find these support dollars.”

Says Center for the Arts Executive Director Bonnie Hargrove, “Mike is the perfect addition to the team at USCB. He understands the importance of the historic campus to students and our community. Mike’s winning smile and infectious laugh make him a joy to work with and I know great things are in store for USCB’s historic campus because Mike will lead the way.”

Mike also has a personal interest in the continued success of the Center for the Arts because he is an avid music fan, both as a guitar and piano player and listener. Says Mike, “I very much like to know the history and back story of songs and their recording artists. I often drive my friends (and wife) crazy with useless music trivia. I also like to listen to all kinds of music very loud so I can pick up on the intricacies of the arrangements and instrumentation.”

As for the future, Mike says he “looks forward to being an agent for continued growth of USCB.”

He invites all those who believe in the Beaufort Campus and Center for the Arts to please contact him and help contribute to the facility and its programs that will benefit them and future generations.