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CCU Atheneum: Russell Vaden is one of 10 contestants vying for the Mr. Myrtle Beach title.
Russell Vaden is one of 10 contestants vying for the Mr. Myrtle Beach title.

Can a CCU professor find happiness as Mr. Myrtle Beach?

by Mona Prufer
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On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, Russell Vaden is a mild-mannered education professor at Coastal Carolina University. The rest of the time, at least until Sept. 18, he is one of 10 contestants vying for the title of Mr. Myrtle Beach, a community fundraiser for Katie’s Project.

CCU education students Allison Mitchell and Rob Spiro were “the culprits” who nominated their teacher for the contest, Vaden said, adding that they “failed to tell me about it.”

“Suddenly, the Katie’s Project folks came calling, congratulating me on being a contestant,” says Vaden. “I asked them – ‘a contestant for what?’”

The fundraiser pageant, set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 in Valor Park at Market Common, will benefit the local nonprofit organization that helps provide teenage girls with formal attire for the prom.

Vaden describes Mr. Myrtle Beach as a “tongue-in-cheek man pageant” and is hoping to get enough CCU grassroots support to raise money for a good cause. Students in the Spadoni College of Education are turning it into a campus initiative, Vaden says. “So many of our students are intrigued by this,” he says. “Katie’s Project is a community agency that directly works with and benefits kids in the schools so our future teachers, who are very community-oriented and project-minded, want to help.”

An education faculty member recently held a wine and cheese party, inviting SCOE faculty and staff and asking them to bring donations.

Education students involved with the CCU chapter of the S.C. Education Association (S-SCEA) are planning a dress drive and bake sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8 on the lawn between Kearns Hall and Kimbel Library. “Campus people are urged to bring in their gently used prom or formal wear, and come buy baked goodies for this good cause,” says Vaden.

During the pageant, contestants will model formal attire and “the hottest fashions” of the season, show off their best talent and wrap up with a question-and-answer. The professor, who plays the guitar, plans to sing Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

Vaden is also practicing his world peace response, hoping to do better than the hapless young woman who represented South Carolina in the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant.

A panel of celebrity judges along with audience votes (and online votes) will determine the winner of the evening.

Online viewers are also voting for their favorites (at $5 a vote), and Vaden was leading the pack at last glance. He is urging the Coastal community to support his candidacy. Cast your vote at:

“This is not just about poise and talent,” says Vaden, admitting that it’s his first and probably his last beauty pageant. “This is more about being community-minded and raising awareness.”

Vaden, a professor in educational psychology and research, is the faculty adviser for the S-SCEA and has accompanied students to service projects in San Diego and New Orleans.

He earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Memphis. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, the National Association for School Psychologists, and the American Counseling Association. Prior to his teaching career, Vaden worked in school and mental health settings where he specialized in providing diagnostic and intervention services to people with developmental disabilities.

Aside from his professional life, Vaden enjoys volleyball, bowling, karaoke and biking. He is an active participant for the American Heart Association, the Autism Speaks Foundation, and the SC Mental Health Project. He likes to bowl and play volleyball, along with playing the piano and guitar.

“Dean [Dianne] Mark asked me if I had to go on tour if I won,” says Vaden, who is clearly enjoying the attention. “I certainly hope not! I think the winner will become a face for Katie’s Project. I am looking for opportunities that CCU can partner with them.”

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