Statue to honor Governor’s School for the Arts founder
Virginia Uldrick, the driving force behind establishing the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, is being honored with a statue at the school’s entrance. Lyn Riddle wrote this profile of Uldrick for The Greenville News.
(Image: Uldrick with SCGSAH students from the Class of 2012.)
Mementos of a life in the arts fill Virginia Uldrick’s French country-style home on Roper Mountain.
The elegant, slim figurine given to the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner winner rests on a table in a two-story foyer. A large framed photo of the first group to perform in the Singing Christmas Tree is on the wall in a hallway. In the den hangs the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian award given by the state of South Carolina.
Dozens more items represent a career that spanned 53 years, all but one in Greenville County: music teacher, choral director, founder and administrator of two public arts schools, fundraiser, one so persistent people have been known to say, “There she is again.”
Her achievements will be honored once again with a statue to be unveiled in late spring in the roundabout on Howe Street at the entrance to her signature achievement, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.
The school sits high on the bluff where Furman University once stood overlooking the Reedy River. At 70, after working on the concept for 14 years, she became the school’s first president when it opened in 1999.
She was the woman in the forefront, but in her home, the touchstones of family are readily apparent, husband Marion, son Michael, daughter Lisa. Photos and portraits of another time before so much loss came her way.
What few people know is that while Uldrick was achieving almost every professional goal she set for herself, she was also dealing with health concerns and the death of her son when he was 17 and a brain injury suffered by her husband in his last years in a freak fall in the garage. She’s had cancer twice and back surgeries as well.
“There was many a day when she stood to conduct and she was in a lot of pain,” said her daughter, Lisa Uldrick, a vice president for BB&T. “She never complained. She quickly prayed about it and said ‘God give me strength’ and she’d go on.”
It was a lesson she learned from her mother, rooted in a strict, church-focused family in 1930s Greenville.