FMU renames road to honor Heyward for selfless service
FLORENCE, S.C. — Francis Marion University on Friday afternoon honored one of its own for the many roles he has played over the years in teaching math, developing students and leading the university.
Patriot Drive, upon which stands a bronze statue of Gen. Francis Marion and which serves as one of the main east-west thoroughfares through the campus, was renamed Heyward Drive in honor of Dr. Joseph E. Heyward, who accepted the honor before a standing-room-only crowd in Thomason Auditorium in the university’s nursing school.
“If I need notes to introduce Joe Heyward, it’s time to retire,” university President Fred Carter said he told his wife as he prepared for Friday’s ceremony, absent notes.
Carter credited Heyward with being “one of the architects of the development of the university.”
Heyward, a Wilson High School graduate, went on to earn degrees from Hampton University, Morgan State University and the University of South Carolina. He taught math and physics in Florence School District 1 where he also served as assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent before working two different times at the university. From 1983 to 2006 he served as vice president of the university and, on three occasions, as the university provost for a total of four years.
“There is a special place in Joe’s heart for the men and women who come through this institution,” Carter told the crowd. “Many of those students, better than three decades, were able to get through this institution because they had a mentor, they had a counselor, they had an adviser by the name of Joe Heyward.”
“He not only helped them find money in many instances, he offered them sound advice. He helped them graduate. He sat back as they crossed the stage and the biggest smile in the room was always Joe Heyward,” Carter said.
“When I first came as president Joe was my provost for the first year. That was a year in which I got to choose my provost and he served as the interim. My first decision turned out to be one of my best decisions,” Carter said. “During the course of that year Joe would nudge me in one direction or another and he would walk behind me and whisper a little bit of advice that was always sorely needed and always appreciated.”
FMU Trustees Chairman Robert Lee used a basketball reference and described Heyward as the university’s “sixth man” who played whatever role that was needed at the time.
“Never has he said ‘what’s in it for me?’ It was always what role do I need to fill,” Lee said. “Today we’re going to honor him for something he didn’t seek. He didn’t set out for. He didn’t ask for. We’re going to recognize him for the service he gave, for the person he’s been for the students who’ve been here and the students who are here.”
“I am grateful for the kind thoughts and you are to be blessed for the generosity,” Heyward said after a sign post was unveiled during the ceremony.
Heyward said he took to heart his Rotarian motto, service over self.
“I’m still overwhelmed,” Heyward said. “This is such an incredible honor.”
Heyward has also served as area representative for former Sen. Fritz Hollings as well as in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve.
Heyward has been active in a number of professional and community organizations throughout his life, including Cumberland United Methodist Church, the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, The South Carolina Housing Authority Board, the Greenwood Genetics Center Board, the Pelican House Board and of course FMU’s African-American Faculty and Staff Coalition.
Heyward and his wife, Evelyn, have three children and six grandchildren.