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The statue of Chaser the Border Collie is located on Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg.


Hub City Animal Project reveals Chaser statue in downtown Spartanburg

Hub City Animal Project recently held the reveal of a bronze statue of Chaser, the world’s smartest dog, on Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg. The reveal event for the public, permanent statue was held on Monday, May 10th at 10:30 a.m. Chaser the Border Collie had the largest vocabulary of any nonhuman animal and is known as “the dog who knows 1,000 words.” She was also a Spartanburg native. Chaser passed away in 2019 at the age of 15.

In 2004, when Dr. John W. Pilley, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Wofford College, got two-month-old Chaser as a gift from his wife Sally, he wanted to explore the boundaries of the canine mind and delve deeper into the communication between humans and man’s best friend. He set his eye on teaching Chaser human language and discovered that her capacity to learn was beyond his wildest dreams. She mastered the names of more than a thousand toys which would later be incorporated into sentences with multiple elements of grammar.

But at 80 years of age, John knew that if he had a shot at getting his findings published in a peer-reviewed journal, he would need help. So, he reached out to his long-time friend and esteemed colleague, Dr. Alliston K. Reid. As a Reeves Family Professor of Psychology at Wofford, Alliston had extensive experience in the world of scientific journalism and accepted this arduous challenge. He knew that Dr. Pilley’s data was so groundbreaking that they had to devise a rigorous method for testing Chaser that would hold up to powerful, stringent peer review. It would not be easy.

But they did it. In late December 2010, their work was published by the Elsevier journal Behavioural Processes, which went globally viral in over 72 languages – taking not only the canine cognition world by storm but ringing the bell loudly for dog owners all over the world with empirical, scientific evidence that dogs are not only as smart as we think, but capable of so much more. Since 2011 their story has been featured in hundreds of publications such as TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Scientific American, and on television programs like 60 Minutes, Nova ScienceNOW, ABC World News, and The Today Show. Dr. Pilley also penned a New York Times best-selling book with writer Hilary Hinzmann called Chaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows 1000 words. Dr. Pilley passed away in 2018.

Hub City Animal Project, a Spartanburg organization focused on reducing shelter intake, expanding spay/neuter programs, and educating children and families on proper animal care, with the blessing of the Pilley family, sought to bring a statue of Chaser to downtown Spartanburg. The statue will highlight the importance of learning through play and shed light on the serious problem of animal homelessness in Spartanburg County.

“In addition to honoring Chaser and Dr. Pilley, this statue is a visual reminder of Chaser’s love of play and how her unique source of learning has proved to be groundbreaking and inspiring – something we want to share with our community,” said Lora Hodge of Hub City Animal Project. “Through this statue, we hope to show how Dr. Pilley’s teaching method with Chaser can not only deepen our relationship with dogs but can also translate into human education.” Hodge thanked the Pilley family, statue donors, and Monty Mullen of The Balmer Foundation, an organization helping to underwrite the Chaser statue.

Dr. Pilley’s daughter, Deb Pilley Bianchi, said: “This statue and footprints are not just a memorial, they are a legacy. My dad worked with Chaser for the last 13 years of his life. He taught her the names of over one thousand objects, which were her toys, but also the names of people, places, nouns, verbs, and more. The beauty was in the simplicity and methodology my father used, which included play. We have our own definition of genius, and that is giving birth to one’s joy. This is how my dad lived his life and how he worked with Chaser. Dad’s greatest hope was that researchers would pick up where he left off, and that humans would have a greater understanding of dogs and the natural world. That dream is becoming a reality.” Pilley Bianchi encouraged attendees to “channel their inner dog” and emanate the canine qualities of love, kindness, forgiveness, devotion, and innate joy.

Pilley Bianchi also announced the launch of the Chaser Initiative, an organization dedicated to educating children K-12 about the power of play-based training, the importance of Dr. John W. Pilley and Chaser’s legacy, and how it applies to their own lives.

Dr. Alliston K. Reid, Professor of Psychology at Wofford, also spoke about the importance of his scientific work with Dr. Pilley and Chaser and how greatly both are missed.

William Gray with McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture spoke on behalf of OneSpartanburg, Inc. “Thank you to the Hub City Animal Project, the Pilley family, and the Balmer Foundation for this incredible gift to Spartan-burg,” Gray said. “We all know that we have a unique downtown, and this statue is another wonderful attribute. We encourage locals and visitors alike to come downtown, learn about Chaser, step in Dr. Pilley’s footprints, and enjoy Spartan-burg.” Gray serves on the Executive Board at OneSpartanburg, Inc. and is the Vice Chair of the Downtown Development Partnership (an initiative of OneSpartanburg, Inc.).

Betsy Scott of Cloudland, Georgia, was commissioned to create the statue. Scott has earned recognition as one of America’s most respected wildlife sculptors and is the co-creator of the Wofford College Terrier, a 1,000-pound statue located at the entrance of the Campus Life Building.

Hub City Animal Project (hubcityanimalproject.com) tackles the issues at the root of animal homelessness in Spartanburg County through education, prevention, and empowerment. With funding and collaboration, the organization helps animal welfare groups and municipalities get the resources they need to create long-term change and reduce shelter intake in our community.

Chaser the Border Collie (chaserthebordercollie.com), the world’s smartest dog, had the largest vocabulary of any nonhuman animal and is known as “the dog who knows 1,000 words.” She was a Spartanburg native. Trained by her owner, Dr. John W. Pilley, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Wofford College, Chaser’s story has been featured in hundreds of publications such as TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Scientific American, and on television programs like 60 Minutes, Nova Science NOW, ABC World News, and The Today Show. Chaser passed away in 2019 at the age of 15.






Spartanburg Community College President G. Michael Mikota, Ph.D., left, and USC Upstate Interim Chancellor Derham Cole, right, met on Monday, June 7, outside USC Upstate’s John C. Stockwell Administration Building to announce the expansion of the Direct Connect Transfer Program. The program will enable students who have earned an Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree from any two-year, regionally accredited institution the opportunity to transfer seamlessly to USC Upstate.


USC Upstate, Spartanburg Community Colleges announce partnership recognizing technical degrees as fulfillment of general education requirements 

The University of South Carolina Upstate recently announced the expansion of its Direct Connect Transfer Program, enabling students who have earned an Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree from any two-year, regionally accredited institution to transfer seamlessly to USC Upstate. Specifically, the expanded program recognizes lower-level, general education credits earned at two-year colleges, including Spartanburg Community College (SCC), and supports the transition of students who wish to complete a four-year degree at USC Upstate in a variety of majors.

“Our Direct Connect program is rooted in student success and enhances our ability to impact baccalaureate completion rates in the region,” said USC Upstate Interim Chancellor Derham Cole. “Providing an accessible, career-relevant education to as many students as possible fits squarely in our mission as a regional comprehensive university while fulfilling a strategic objective to provide an enhanced quality of life for citizens of the Upstate.”

“By broadening our transfer policy, we are removing many of the roadblocks transfer students often face,” added USC Upstate Provost David Schecter. “Our enhanced program creates a simplified pathway into any one of the outstanding baccalaureate programs at USC Upstate.”

Direct Connect guarantees admission to USC Upstate to students who graduate with an AA, AS or select Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees from Greenville Tech, Piedmont Technical College, Spartanburg Community, and Tri-County Technical College, among many others in the state, provided they meet the minimum grade point average (GPA).

“Spartanburg Commun-ity College and USC Upstate have had a long history of working together to provide extraordinary opportunities for students while also improving the quality of life and the economic vitality for the Upstate region of South Carolina,” said Dr. G. Michael Mikota, SCC’s president. “This expanded partnership and ‘direct connection’ provides for the most affordable and accessible pathway for students chasing their dreams to attain a baccalaureate degree. When you combine the Direct Connect opportunity with Spartanburg Community College’s tuition-free initiative for the 2021-2022 academic year, we have the potential to impact the lives of our citizens for generations to come.”

Additionally, students who declare early their intention to pursue a bachelor’s degree through Direct Connect may qualify for other program benefits, including an accelerated admissions process. By partnering with two-year institutions, USC Upstate is well positioned to serve students who may wish to consider options for continuing their education.

“Direct Connect provides students with an opportunity to participate in orientation, advising and to work with our financial aid officers,” said Donette Stewart, vice chancellor for Admissions and Enrollment Services at USC Upstate. “Students are eligible to receive comprehensive, on-site advising from both their two-year college advisors and Upstate advisors, which can help ensure that students are enrolling in the courses they’ll need to complete degree requirements in their chosen field.”

“Graduating from SCC with an AA or AS degree before transferring to USC Upstate is a win-win for our students,” added Kem Harvey, associate vice president of Instruction at SCC. “Whether a new college student or an adult learner, our partnership with USC Upstate provides students with a solid plan for moving toward their career goals in a timely, coordinated and cost-effective way.”

AA and AS students with a 2.0 GPA and a grade of “C” or better in all transfer courses will be eligible to apply. Students who do not complete a degree will be able to transfer credits on a course-by-course basis. While USC Upstate will accept AA and AS degrees as fulfillment of general education credits, additional 100- or 200-level courses may be required due to degree requirements in some majors. Students will still be required to meet any GPA or other admissions requirements of the program to which they have applied. This program will not affect any upper-division general education requirements, prerequisite requirements and residency requirements.

“USC Upstate is proud to be one of South Carolina’s top destinations for transfer students,” Schecter said. “We are delighted to increase opportunities for students and to strengthen our relationships with two-year, regionally accredited colleges in the state and beyond.”





Thornwell president Elliot Smith to retire following a decade of faithful service

Clinton - Thornwell, a non-profit organization committed to the most innovative and effective solutions to help children and families in need across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, is announcing the retirement of Reverend Elliot Smith as Thornwell’s 9th president effective August 6th. Smith has faithfully served as president for 10 years. His humble leadership is credited for Thornwell’s growth in three states and the expansion of innovative programs and services including, but not limited to, foster care, in-home family therapy, academic services, and the establishment of Thornwell’s Child Development Center.

“These last 10 years serving in this role have been the most rewarding and fulfilling of my 30+ years in ministry. I attribute this to Thornwell’s partners in ministry who walk alongside us each day to prevent child abuse and neglect, build up and reunite families, and support healthy communities in the name of Jesus Christ,” said Smith. “I am truly humbled and forever grateful for the difference they make in the lives of vulnerable children and families.”

Following Smith’s retirement, Thornwell’s Board of Trustees has unanimously and enthusiastically selected current executive vice president, Lindy Scott, to serve as interim president. Scott has devoted 41 years in service to children and families at Thornwell. Her intimate knowledge and high standards of all Thornwell's programs and services, paired with her deep knowledge of the changing regulatory and social environment in which Thornwell operates make her uniquely equipped to serve in this capacity.

“It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve under Elliot’s profound leadership. Thornwell is better and we are better because he chose to answer God’s call to this ministry.” said Scott. “I thank the Board for this opportunity as we thoughtfully – and prayerfully – search for Thornwell’s next Presi-dent.”

The Board of Trustees has engaged an Atlanta executive search firm, Boardwalk Consulting, to guide their process to recruit, select and call Thornwell’s 10th president. The Board has also formed a search committee to aid in this process.

“Elliot transformed Thornwell and its ministries over the decade that he has been our leader. He has truly earned the right to catch his breath, settle into a forever place, and spend time with his family,” said Board Chairman, Craig Garner. “I’m confident that the search for our next leader will be fruitful and I look forward to participating in this important process.”