Wofford Environmental Studies Center 

(This  article is used with the permission of the Spartanburg  Herald-Journal. Originally published on July 30, 2009. Written by Gary Clancy. Photograph by Mike Bonner.)

John Lane could soon become the only professor in America who kayaks to work.

Lane, an English professor, is director of Wofford College's new Glendale Shoals Environmental Studies Center, which was completed this week after seven months of construction to restore the old cotton mill office along the banks of Lawson's Fork Creek.

Following a stunning $1.2 million face-lift, the building will house Wofford's new environmental studies major and minor program, which began in the spring with two introductory courses and will go into full swing next month for the fall semester.

"This is a dream teaching space," said Kaye Savage, the new academic program director who arrived in Spartanburg three weeks ago from Vanderbilt University. "All the years that I've been teaching and collected samples in the field, you could never come right back and do what you needed to do, and here we've got it. It's the best setup in America, I'm sure, for this kind of thing."

Wofford students will be able to gather water, plant and sediment samples from the river, walk up the hill, hang up their waders in a mud room/sample processing room and then put the samples under a microscope in the lab.

"We'll be identifying various plants, analyzing water samples for contaminants and comparing it with other areas around the watershed," Savage said. "It's going to be a long-term project to survey and characterize this place, what type of contaminants may have built up around the dam and the (environmental) impact of recreational activities."
The program will take a strong interdisciplinary approach, with an emphasis on science, social science and humanities, in order to give students an understanding of various perspectives on environmental issues and the ability to effectively communicate to different audiences, Savage said.

This aspect appealed to Wofford rising senior Carrie Baker, who will become the program's first graduate next spring.

"I just feel like there will be a lot of different opportunities opened up for me because of it being a broad major," said Baker, who considered switching her major from biology to accounting last spring before the ES program came along.

"With all of that background, plus all the other classes I've taken, I just feel like I'll be set to go in any direction that I want to go in."


The LEED-certified renovation of the building was designed by Donald Love of the Spartanburg firm McMillan, Smith & Partners. Love is an expert in historical restorations who also designed the renovation of Wofford's main building in 2006.

The center's community room will host classes, seminars, special events and the Santee Cooper Lecture Series on Sustainability and Energy Issues.

Open to the Wofford community, students from Spartanburg County public schools and interested residents, the lecture series will bring in speakers from around the world twice a semester beginning this fall.
An adjoining room, meanwhile, will serve as a library.

In it is restored furniture from the original mill office, including a cabinet that Lane thinks was probably built by a carpenter at the mill about 110 years ago, as well as an original mantel.
"It's amazing that it survived and that it wasn't salvaged," Lane said.

The building also features much of the original flooring. And all the signs for the center's private-donor acknowledgements are being made from recycled slate from the old roof of Trinity United Methodist Church in Converse Heights.


A stroll outside the building reveals an oasis for nature lovers -- a rushing river for kayakers (including Lane, who lives just upstream from the center), a recently completed half-mile walking trail created by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation and a planned vineyard and herb and vegetable garden. Owner Glyn Morris donated the former mill office and three acres of surrounding property to Wofford last year to develop the ES center.

"This is the first time this side of the river has opened up (to the public) in more than 100 years," Lane said, "so it's pretty exciting. I really do think that once we get (the whole area) established it's going to be our (version of Greenville's) Reedy River Park."

The Spartanburg Area Conservancy owns 13 acres of land across the river and is establishing the site as a riverfront park, while the PCF owns the river's six-acre flood plain where it has developed the Glendale Outdoor Leadership School.

"We like to think of it as a 23-acre classroom, because we have 23 protected acres here," Lane said. "We're looking at this property as one big piece of property, so even though we'll all have our own pieces of it, we'll all have access to all of it."

The Goodall Center continues to win honors. On March 29, 2012, the Center received the Exemplary Project Award from the U.S. Green Building Council-South Carolina Chapter. The award recognizes outstanding projects with the ability to inspire others to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Read the full story at Goodall Center Award.
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