December 6, 2017

CCU, FMU partner with Baruch Foundation to create new humanities institute

CCU, FMU partner with Baruch Foundation to create new humanities institute

Coastal Carolina University and Francis Marion University have entered into an agreement recently with the Belle W. Baruch Foundation to create the Belle W. Baruch Institute for South Carolina Studies at Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000-acre research reserve located on the South Carolina coast near Georgetown.

The three institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that calls for the new institute, when finally formed, to offer students and faculty at CCU and FMU the opportunity to “engage in the study of the cultural and historical heritage of South Carolina with an emphasis on the relationship between humans and the coastal environment that has shaped our shared heritage.” The three partnering entities will also participate in exchanges in fields of mutual interest, and in the development and presentation of public educational programs.

Leaders from the two universities and the foundation lauded the partnership.

“We look forward to collaborating with Francis Marion University and the Belle Baruch Foundation on projects related to the unique and magnificent Hobcaw property,” said CCU President David A. DeCenzo. “This joint agreement will open an important new chapter in the research and teaching capacities of our institutions.”

“Francis Marion is delighted to be joining Coastal and the Belle W. Baruch Foundation in creating the South Carolina Institute,” said Dr. Fred Carter, president of FMU. “We are pleased with the teaching, research and service opportunities that this collaboration will provide. Hobcaw Barony is one of the most historic and scenic sites along the Carolina coast. It will keep faculty and students from both schools engaged in challenging and vital work for decades to come.”

George Chastain, executive director of the Belle Baruch Foundation, said the new institute is a logical next step in the development of Hobcaw Barony as a center for research in South Carolina.

“The foundation has worked with our university partners for decades to better understand our unique ecology through research at Hobcaw Barony,” said Chastain. “Now, with the creation of this new institute, resources will be available to explore the relationship of man to the environment through studying the 6,000 years of human occupation at this special site. We are truly excited to have Coastal Carolina and Francis Marion join in our work at Hobcaw Barony.”

Hobcaw Barony is the former estate and hunting preserve of financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch, and it offers a rich trove of research topics.

The property has previously been used for research and study in marine biology and forestry, but its potential as a site for research in the humanities is largely unrealized. The vast coastal tract includes Native American sites, Colonial-era sites and antebellum slave quarters later used by freedmen after the Civil War. The two universities, and eventually research partners from other academic institutions, expect scholars to engage in research in history, archaeology, political science, sociology and more.

The institute will be governed by a three-member board comprised of the presidents of the two universities and the executive director of the Belle Baruch Foundation.

The MOU calls for fundraising through grants, endowments and other types of funding from state, federal, public or private sources.

The nonprofit Belle W. Baruch Foundation is the owner of Hobcaw Barony. The property, which originally encompassed several antebellum rice plantations, was purchased by financier Bernard Baruch in the early 1900s. Upon the death of his daughter Belle Baruch in 1964, the estate became a nature and research preserve. Because the tract offers a rich diversity of ecosystems as well as many historical sites, including slave cabins, cemeteries and the Baruch home, it is an excellent location for education and research in the sciences and humanities.