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Angus Cotton may have the best Southern name since Rhett Butler.
But he's not from around here.
He's an Iowa native who might seem local because of all of his leadership in the Lowcountry since he and Beverly arrived in 1980. He came to open and manage the oceanfront Marriott hotel on Hilton Head Island. That property is now a Crowne Plaza, and Cotton has long since retired. He can cite co-founding the Heritage Classic Foundation with Joe Fraser among his many efforts to make the Lowcountry a better place to live and raise a family.
But it is Cotton's recently announced retirement as chairman of the Technical College of the Lowcountry Commission that forces a look at how well we're doing at producing home-grown talent and keeping it here.
Cotton is a poster child for the in-migration of human capital that has transformed Beaufort County. He joined a flood of newcomers who had seen the world and expected higher standards of living than this poor, rural region was used to. In Cotton's case, he had run the international division for Marriott. His longtime commission vice chairman, Art Brown of Hilton Head, is a retired four-star general. And the TCL Foundation was resuscitated by another retiree, the late Ken McLean.
Brown says Cotton brought good personnel and financial management to the TCL Commission when he became chairman in 1992. He also brought a heavy dose of hospitality leadership.
"Over this period," Brown said, "we've seen a transformation, a change of focus from 'Here are our courses, come get it' to 'What courses do you need and where can we teach them to best serve you?' "
TCL evolved from the Mather School that was opened in Beaufort in 1868 by outsiders trying to elevate the Lowcountry by educating the daughters of former slaves.
Now it serves four counties -- Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton -- still reeling from the poverty and lack of opportunity of the 19th-century Lowcountry.
What was seen as a school for losers is now seen as a bright spot for winners. The transformation is reflected in TCL's highly visible, modern building in Okatie.
A lot of local talent has helped it get there, like former board members Fred S. Washington Jr. and W. Brantley Harvey Jr. Beaufort native Robert P. Trask, president and CEO of Atlantic Community Bank, this week succeeds Brown as TCL Foundation chairman.
Smart people are concerned about Beaufort County's ability to continue to attract the human capital of an Angus Cotton, who at 83 has earned a rest. If more of our human capital is going to be from around here, TCL will be a big reason.