Although he never knew his namesake, Frank Lever III recalls that his grandfather believed the act of Congress that created a nationwide Extension system in America was “almost entirely a product of South Carolina thinking.”
And at a ceremony in early June, four professionals who spent their careers carrying out the vision of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 in the state where it was conceptualized were inducted into an exclusive club also bearing the name of the former trustee of Clemson College and U.S. Congressman.
“I can’t imagine that he’s not up there with a big smile on his face,” Frank Lever III said of his late grandfather at the ceremony.
The members of the 2023 Class of the A. Frank Lever County Extension Agents Hall of Fame who were inducted in a ceremony at Clemson University’s T. Ed Garrison Arena are Sharon Grice (Marion County), Amos Wells (Anderson), Jack Whetstone (Georgetown) and Powell Smith (Lexington County).
Created in 2014 in celebration of the centennial of the Cooperative Extension Service, the hall of fame honors the careers of “longtime, front-line county agents” whose service had an important economic impact on the communities they served.
It bears the name of Rep. Frank Lever of South Carolina who, with Sen. Hoke Smith of Georgia, authored the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 that created Extension to take research-based agricultural and food-science knowledge from colleges and universities and put it in the hands of working people.
The new class follows the Class of 2022, which was comprised of Frank Fitzsimons III (Berkeley, Dorchester, Charleston and Georgetown), Clara Rice Hanvey (Williamsburg), David A. Parker (Cherokee and Spartanburg) and Leslee D. Spivey (Williamsburg).
“Over 100 years since it’s inception, Cooperative Extension still works to fulfill the complete and absolute revolution in social, economic and financial conditions to which Mr. Lever referred to in his description of Extension’s potential,” Lever Hall of Fame Chairman Chalmers Mikell said.
Keith Belli, dean of Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, which contains Clemson Extension, said that having an Extension service — the outreach arm of its land-grant mission — is what made Clemson “special and different” rather than “essentially the same as any other university that does teaching and research in this state or any other.”
“Without Extension, we’re an ivory tower,” Belli said. “With Extension, we’re silos and barns and fields and communities.”
CLASS OF 2023
Sharon Grice got her Extension career started in 1985 and worked with the Marion County 4-H program for 34 years — and says she enjoyed every minute.
As proof, Grice offers that retirement didn’t exactly suit her at first.
“The first time I retired I told the director that sometimes I think I need to pay Extension for giving me a job,” she said. “Because I loved it so much.”
Grice received numerous awards for her faithful service to her community, including the South Carolina Achievement in Service Award, Distinguished Service Award, Continued Excellence in 4-H Award Meritorious 4-H Award and South Carolina 4-H State Director Award. Grice also received a Resolution from the South Carolina Senate in 2019 for her outstanding work in Marion County.
Grice worked for South Carolina 4-H from 1985 to 2012 and was then rehired part time from 2012 to 2019. In nominating Grice, former South Carolina 4-H State Director Pam Ardern said, “Sharon was best known for her enthusiasm and caring spirit. She wanted to provide the youth of Marion County programs that would benefit them the most. By the time she retired, everyone in Marion County knew Ms. Sharon.”
Amos Wells spent 30 years in the Extension service from 1965-95 and impacted his community in numerous ways — notably helping to establish a local farmers market so that small farmers could sell directly to consumers, which would increase their bottom line.
Wells also headed up a special programs committee to help low-income individuals throughout Anderson County and provided Simplified Farm Records in-service training for small farmers. Other programs Wells participated in throughout the county included “Community Cupboard” for church pastors and other leaders in the community and several free garden clinics.
“It’s not an 8-to-5 job; you work until the job is done. … As I think back and reflect back, Extension has changed the look of rural America throughout South Carolina. When you look at farmland and rural America used to have rundown houses, and now they’re nice-looking houses with yard lights, the fences now, they have use of herbicides and pesticides, our field days will demonstrate the latest equipment to show folks how they can improve themselves — and it’s helped to make life a lot better.”
During his 33-year tenure with the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, Jack Whetstone can be credited with propelling Clemson to its leadership position in South Carolina in aquaculture, fisheries and pond management outreach.
Seeking out his expertise, Jack has been asked to represent Clemson Extension on regional and national advisory boards on aquatic plant management and aquaculture, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“Jack is the epitome — like the other honorees today — of an Extension agent. Jack is one of those people who, no matter who you are or what you need or what level of education you have, Jack can talk to you and can teach to you how to do things better and help you improve yourself and help the community,” Clemson Vice President of Clemson Public Service and Agriculture George Askew said.
Whetstone accepted his induction by sharing a story of former Clemson dean and professor, Luther P. Anderson, from the onset of his Extension career that he says stuck with him throughout.
“Dr. Anderson used to say, ‘You know what’s interesting about Clemson University is that we don’t have one front door. We have a front door in every county and every experiment station and at the university,’” Whetstone recalled. “So, Clemson is there for the people of the state of South Carolina.”
As an entomology specialist, Powell Smith saw many of the problems around the state in vegetable pest management personally and was the “face of Clemson” on numerous farms around the state, according to Extension Research Associated Justin Ballew, who was a co-nominator of Smith’s along with Zack Snipes, whom he met while interning for Smith.
“To say that he gave us a second education would be kind of an understatement,” Ballew said. “We learned a ton about producing food and vegetable crops, and we learned a lot about insects and plant disease, but probably the biggest thing that Zack and I took away from working with Powell was a love for Extension work.”
During his career, Smith worked extensively with Extension agents to bring modern practices to smaller growers and limited-resource growers. He made many rewarding contacts with these growers and helped them learn to grow healthy crops in a sustainable fashion.
“I’ve seen a lot of change in South Carolina — socially, agriculturally and environmentally — and any agent that’s worked 30 years could probably say the same. We all should be proud that we were able to help make that change possible,” Smith said.
CLASS OF 2022
Frank FitzSimons began his career in 1978 as a County Extension Agent in Dorchester County. He later served as County Extension Director for Georgetown County, County Extension Director for Richland County, and County Extension Agent in Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston Counties.
FitzSimons exemplified a lifelong commitment to the principles of an Extension Agent through dedication to effective and relevant Extension programming and successful leadership at the local, state and national levels.
“Frank’s interest was not only in the Extension service, but also in the lives of the many families he served. Anyone who knew Frank or worked with him on any level considered themselves blessed to have known him and felt they had gained a valuable friend in the process,” Clemson Extension Natural Resources Program Team Leader Derrick Phinney said.
Clara Rice Hanvey worked as an Extension Home Economist beginning in 1970. In 1973, she became an Associate County Leader. Later in 1979, she started her work as a County Agent, continuing until her retirement in 1984.
In addition to her work overseeing the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) staff, Hanvey led the county 4-H program and regularly contributed news articles to the McCormick Messenger.
Hanvey served on the Town of McCormick Appearance Committee and chaired the McCormick County Housing for the Aging Committee, serving on this committee from its beginning in the early 1970s and working to complete in housing projects: in 1973, a 24-unit low rent housing project for the elderly, including a recreation building was dedicated, and in 1981, West Town Apartments, a 32-unit complex for the elderly and low income were dedicated.
David A. Parker served as a Clemson liaison to the people of Cherokee and Spartanburg for 35 years as an Extension Agent. He also authored grants, bringing some of the first Integrated Pest Management programs to Cherokee and Spartanburg counties. He hosted and taught IPM programs for strawberries, row crops, livestock, and for the homeowner.
Parker authored numerous publications and regional newsletters ranging from commercial strawberry production to crape myrtle pruning to maximizing profits in the cattle industry. His wit and broad knowledge base made these newsletters very popular and relevant.
“A ‘Clemson Man’ in the truest sense, Parker served as a Clemson liaison to the people of Cherokee and Spartanburg for 35 years. Through his contacts with professors and industry leaders he could always find a solution to a problem,” said Extension County Coordinator Chris LeMaster in nominating Parker.
Leslee D. Spivey left a significant impact upon Williamsburg County. Spivey worked as a County Extension Agent, leading others in Food and Nutrition, Family and Consumer Living, 4-H, Community Development, Family and Community Leaders, and as the EFNEP supervisor. She often served as a mentor to new agents, taking them under her wing and working to make them successful.
Spivey was highly involved with her community through government, school, private and community organizations. She was characterized by one of her supervisors as an energetic, highly skilled individual with a pleasant personality who thrived on her work. Spivey continued to be an advocate and continued to support Extension programs after retirement through her work with ServeSafe and the Williamsburg County Junior Leadership.
“Leslee may have served in a small county, but she made a big impact with her programs and left a lasting legacy on Williamsburg County,” Ardern said in her nomination.
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