Mr. Charlie Coker’s impact on the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics

July 3, 2024

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – July 03, 2024 — The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM) family wishes to express their deepest condolences to the Coker family. GSSM will forever be in debt to Mr. Charles Westfield “Charlie” Coker.

Current president, Danny Dorsel, GSSM Class of 1990, remarks that “the GSSM campus is named E=mc2. One of the Cs stands for Charlie Coker and the other two are for Carol Campbell and Roger Milliken. All three men embody excellence — the E in our campus name —in whatever they do. One of Mr. Coker’s mantras was, ‘While times may change, the standards of excellence do not.’ The over 2,700 GSSM alumni worldwide owe a huge thank you to Mr. Coker for being the great visionary man that he was.”

Former GSSM president, Dr. Murray Brockman, reflected that “Charlie Coker combined tremendous ability with honor, wisdom, compassion, humility and common sense to a degree beyond any other person I have met. GSSM simply would not exist if he had not envisioned it and made it happen. Thanks to the strong and wise principles he helped build into the school — principles of education, of independence, honor, and excellence — it has survived and thrived through years of change.”

Former GSSM president, Dr. Lee Cox stated “Governor’s School would probably not exist without Charlie Coker. He spearheaded the private campaign that capitalized the cost of the school, an effort that still stands as a unique public/private partnership in creating one of the best schools of its kind in the nation. And within two or three years of the school’s founding, he partnered with Charleston businesswoman Nella Barkley to create the Governor’s School Foundation. He and Nella also partnered to lead the school’s first capital campaign and started an endowment for the school that continues to support the unique offerings of the school to this date. Charlie and his wife Joan always took a strong personal interest in the school and were among its most ardent cheerleaders.”

Current Board of Trustees Chairman, Bob Brown, commented that "when I moved to Hartsville thirty years ago, it didn't take long to start hearing the name Charlie Coker. At that time, he was the CEO of Sonoco and very involved in many things in our town, our state, and around the world. I had the good fortune of getting to know and interact with Charlie over the last three decades, and he left me with a wonderful sense of what it means to be in service to those around you. I've enjoyed having many levels of involvement with GSSM for the last twenty years, and I've taken my involvement with the school seriously because of the example set for me by Charlie. Thank you for the life lessons, Mr. (Please call me Charlie) Coker.”

Mr. Charlie Coker's legacy will continue to inspire the GSSM community for generations to come, as we strive to uphold the principles of excellence, honor, and service that he so passionately championed.