New Winthrop president making campus her home

adouglas@heraldonline.comJune 14, 2013 

  • About the house

    Each of Winthrop University's presidents has lived in the President's House. Built by Capt. W.H. Stewart, the home was offered as a president's home as part of Rock Hill's winning bid to move Winthrop to the town in 1893. First fashioned in the Queen Anne Victorian style, the house underwent a major renovation in 1917 when balconies, turrets and other Victorian features were removed. The house was moved back from Oakland Avenue about 50 feet, and brick veneer was added. It includes the Eleanor Roosevelt Bathroom, built for the first lady's personal use during a visit to Winthrop in 1943.

    - Winthrop University

— Winthrop University’s 10th president and “first dude” are settling in their new home in Rock Hill this weekend, in preparation for Jayne Marie Comstock to start on July 1.

On Friday morning, the incoming Winthrop president Comstock and her husband, Larry Williamson, had help with the heavy lifting from members of the university’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

Local moving company Two Men and A Truck brought down the couple’s belongings from their home in Washington, D.C., where Comstock has been serving as director of the Executive Leadership Group for the American Council on Education.

Earlier this month, the couple moved in some items from their home in Florida.

Some of their furniture in D.C. was left behind with former Butler University students who are just starting their careers in the nation’s capital. Comstock served as Butler’s provost and vice president for academic affairs before taking a sabbatical to work at the American Council on Education.

Some of those former students sat in classes Williamson taught at Butler.

On Friday, he proudly donned a Winthrop name tag with the words “first dude” on it.

Chosen earlier this year by the university’s Board of Trustees, Comstock replaces retiring Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio next month.

DiGiorgio will retire on June 30, bringing to an end his 24-year tenure as Winthrop’s president.

After a year-long sabbatical, he’ll return to campus as president emeritus and distinguished professor of public service and leadership.

The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members said on Friday that campus spirits are high in anticipation of Comstock’s arrival.

The first couple’s dog, 9-year-old Cocoa, has been a hit with students, they said, and Comstock’s outgoing personality seems to be a good fit for the school.

Cocoa made herself at home in Winthrop’s President’s House on Friday as movers unloaded a truck and Comstock and Williamson unpacked some of their belongings.

Some of the first items to go on the shelf were the couple’s collection of blue vases – a tradition started when Comstock’s grandmother gave her a blue vase.

Comstock later passed on the original vase in her collection to a younger family member but she and Williamson have picked up more than 30 blue vases since then.

“It’s a remembrance of everywhere we’ve been,” she said.

Prior to moving to Indianapolis to work at Butler, Comstock served as a vice president at Millikin University and as vice president and dean at Baker University.

She’s also held leadership roles at Saint Louis University's School for Professional Studies and at the University of West Florida.

Williamson is a retired U.S. Navy captain and has an extensive background in higher education administration.

Their arrival in Rock Hill marks the first new family in Winthrop’s President’s House in more than two decades.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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