Retired Lander professor and wife establish fund for history students’ research


Retired Lander professor and wife establish fund for history students’ research

Story by Eric Lawson

Thursday, Aug 01, 2019

Photo by Laura Brown.

Dr. Joel Cleland, Professor of History Emeritus at Lander University, and his wife, Abby, have provided the initial gift to establish a research fund designed for the support of Lander history majors as they pursue research projects and presentation opportunities at conferences.

According to Dr. Lucas McMillan, dean of Lander’s College of Behavioral & Social Sciences, the Joel and Abby Cleland Student Research Fund will fill a significant void in the areas of student research and professional development programs.

“The Cleland Fund will be integral in enhancing our commitment to undergraduate research as part of the History major experience,” said McMillan. “Our students have presented at state, regional and national-level conferences in recent years, so these funds will be of great use.”

In April, a group of Lander students representing a host of majors presented findings from their undergraduate research projects at the 2019 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Marietta, Ga., one of whom has been accepted into the graduate program at the University of Winchester in England.

A Greenwood native, Cleland began his service to Lander in 1974 after earning his bachelor’s degree and doctorate in History from the University of South Carolina. In between, he earned a master’s degree in History from the University of North Carolina.

Before retiring from Lander in 2009, Cleland served in a number of faculty and administrative roles, and eventually served as chair of the university’s Department of History.

“Joel was a wonderful department chair and mentor to me as I was beginning my career at Lander, but what stood out to me most was his incredible warmth and genuine concern for the success and well-being of his students,” reflected Dr. Kevin Witherspoon, the current chair of Lander’s Department of History & Philosophy.

Living near the Lander campus, Cleland has maintained close ties to the university, sometimes serving as moderator for discussions and events on campus.

“Even in retirement, he has been very active in the community and at Lander,” Witherspoon continued, “and I am not surprised at all that he has made this contribution to support students of this generation and beyond.”

As for the stated goal of supporting student research, Cleland said, “Research adds a wealth of importance to the overall work of a student. In addition to the sense of pride one feels in presenting their research, the effort also positions students well for graduate school acceptance.”

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