Remembering Dick Singleton: Friends pay tribute
The passing of Edward M. “Dick” Singleton on May 12 marked the end of an era for Coastal Carolina University. He occupied a special position in the history of the institution. The college was only 9 years old when he was named chancellor in 1963. He led the institution for the next 20 years, guiding its rise from a local, two-year campus of 100 students to a comprehensive, four-year college with an enrollment of 3,200 students.
But Dick Singleton’s association with Coastal Carolina extended far beyond his career as chancellor. In the years after his retirement, he continued to serve the institution with his heart and soul. He was a symbol of dedication, offering his wisdom and experience as an adviser to subsequent administrations. A lifelong sports enthusiast, Dr. Singleton was without question the Chanticleers’ greatest fan. He coached the college’s baseball and basketball teams in the early 1960s and, as chancellor, led Chanticleer athletics from junior college to NAIA status. After retiring as chancellor, he was named the first commissioner of the Big South Conference. For many years he rarely missed a baseball game, and he was a familiar and beloved figurel around campus.
Perhaps Dick Singleton’s greatest legacy as an educator is the influence he had on others. The following tributes by alumni, associates and friends attest to his personal engagement, his loyalty and integrity, and his ability to inspire the best in others.
Gary Gilmore, head baseball coach
Dr. Singleton had a profound impact on my life. Without his support, I am sure I would have never been hired as a baseball coach at Coastal Carolina University. Dr. Singleton was a mentor in my life. He was like a second father to me.
I still remember our numerous conversations over the years. Once I graduated from Coastal and entered the real world, I shared many of my frustrations and successes with him. He always had terrific, life-shaping advice for me. I remember when I was a student at Coastal Carolina, you could set your watch waiting for him to show up at practice each afternoon at the end of his work day. He never seemed to miss a game; he was our biggest fan!
One of my fondest memories was having dinner with him and Mrs. Pat two years ago. After dinner we watched the ALCS Championship game between the Red Sox and Yankees. During the game, it was quiet until the Red Sox screwed up. It was difficult for him to speak, but he said, “Get that damn pitcher out!” and “Manny can’t hit the curve ball!” What a fun night that was for me! Through it all, till the very end, he was the consummate baseball man, a Red Sox fan through and through. But nothing compared to his love for Coastal Carolina University and our baseball team. He will always be our ultimate Chanticleer.
Eddie Dyer, chief operating officer
Dick Singleton's life was one of great accomplishments, but it was also one of small kindnesses, those small things that are done with great love. “Small kindnesses” seem to flourish in small Southern towns. They are the glue that holds a community and a society together. Dick Singleton knew that, and Dick Singleton practiced it. Whether it was going out of his way to do a favor or making a small loan or visiting a friend who needed a visitor or simply saying a kind word of encouragement, he had that gift.
In all of the years that I knew him and in all of the times that I was in his presence, I witnessed many of those small kindnesses, and I saw him treat everyone—from the janitors at Coastal to the governors of this state—with the same courtesy and respect.
Of Dick Singleton's many accomplishments, the one that stands out most is Coastal Carolina. The story of his tenure as the chief executive at Coastal is a great tale. It embodies his hopes, dreams, struggles, challenges, contests and downright fights to forge a little campus into a freestanding university with only the sky as its limit. He made it possible.
David DeCenzo, CCU president
Over the past four years as president, it was comforting to know that Dick Singleton established a level of excellence for the Office of President at Coastal. I fully understood what he had accomplished in providing the foundation for the CCU we enjoy today. Dick was a great source of strength and inspiration to me. I fully accepted the exciting challenge I had as president to take the next steps in the vision for our institution that Dick had such a great hand in shaping a few decades ago. I will never forget his visits to my office and his words of encouragement. Chancellor Singleton was a true professional, a dedicated man, and someone I am proud to say was my friend.
Mike Pruitt, entrepreneur and alumnus
Sometimes I would receive a letter from him with a newspaper clipping and a note in it—“I ran across this and thought you might like to have it.” That was just like him. He gave us so much, as students and as ball players. When you're a young kid from out of state, away from home for the first time in your life, you look for someone to be a sort of father figure, and that's what Dick Singleton was to me. He was at every game. He told the team, “If you make it to the World Series, I'll give you a trip you'll never forget.” We did, and he rented a bus that took us to the world series in Lubbuck, Texas, stopping off for games at the University of Arkansas and Oklahoma State along the way. He was right: none of us ever forgot that trip. His sense of passion and caring has stayed with me all my life.
George F. “Buddy” Sasser, former director of athletics
I have many fond memories of my friend Dick Singleton. He was my elementary physical education teacher, middle school football coach, high school teacher and high school basketball coach. I worked under Dr. Singleton when he was superintendent of Horry County Public Schools. He was instrumental in my returning to Conway as director of athletics at Coastal Carolina University.
Dr. Singleton was also my Sunday School teacher when I was in high school in Conway. We worked together often as members of Kingston Presbyterian Church in recent years. He was like a father to me when I was growing up, and he had a tremendous positive influence on my life. He was such a great leader and friend to so many people. He has probably influenced more people in our area than any individual.
Dr. Singleton will be missed by all. He will always be in my heart and memories. I respected and loved him so much.
Coke Floyd, businessman and former student
I attended Coastal from September 1965 through January 1968 when it was a two-year branch of USC. The only building there my first year was the original building that housed both administration and classrooms (now the Edward M. Singleton Building), and the Student Union Building was added by my second year.
I had the distinct honor and privilege of working part time in the bookstore and made trips to and from Columbia to pick up supplies in the old 1965 light blue Chevrolet Impala station wagon. Dr. Singleton was my boss, but, more importantly, he was my friend, as he was to all students. Our families went to the same church in Conway growing up, so I had known him all of my adult life. He WAS and IS a legend in Horry County education and was very well respected throughout all of South Carolina. He loved Coastal Carolina and was the “Heart and Soul” of it during its formative years, and there will never be anyone any more dedicated than he was. He will be missed by all who knew and loved him.
M. Dale Floyd, businessman and former student
I have known Dick Singleton since the second grade, not only as an educator but as fellow members of Kingston Presbyterian Church. He was either my coach, referee or umpire for Little League and Babe Ruth baseball as well as for basketball. Not only was he a mentor, but he showed how to be involved in sports as well as the community. After I graduated from Conway High School in 1960, I felt that our lives wouldn't cross again. However, to my delight, in my second year at Coastal Carolina, he became chancellor. What a great feeling it was to have our relationship rekindled! Not only did he lead the school to great accomplishments, he was also the first basketball coach when we started a team that played other USC branches. My condolences go to Pat and the family in their great loss. I hope that CCU will continue to honor great people such as Dick Singleton at graduation and other major events.
Matt Hogue, associate vice president for marketing
Father. Coach. Leader. Visionary. Statesman. Few lives can boast of all these titles, but they befit Dr. Singleton. But among all the accolades and accomplishments that marked his giant life, it was his humility that stood out during our friendship. He refused to take credit for anything and went to great lengths to make sure no one was left without deserved recognition. His stature and status were greatly overshadowed by his generosity and modesty. I was always inspired and refreshed by this character. His legacy was one of service to so many, and for me to have called Dick Singleton a friend was a great honor. We will miss him dearly but forever be enriched by his example and influence.
John Vrooman, professor emeritus and former coach
Beyond one’s parents and immediate family, few of us can point to another person and say, “He changed my life for the better. Without his actions, influence and friendship, my path may not have taken the many positive directions I have enjoyed.”
Dick Singleton was such a person in my life and in the lives of countless others. When he hired me to teach at Coastal Carolina, he introduced me to a group of people committed to a vision that has produced a wonderful university and a lifetime affiliation for many.
Dr. Singleton’s love for the college he nurtured and for the people of Horry County set an example of devotion and community service that has been carried forward by the many students, faculty and staff whose lives he touched.