Meeting the Senator: NOAA Hollings Scholars Socialize with their Benefactor

Last week, I had the great pleasure of having dinner with Senator Fritz Hollings and the 2011 and 2012 NOAA Hollings Scholars at the University of South Carolina’s Hollings Library.

E.F. Hollings and C. Benitez-Nelson

Sen. Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings with the author, Claudia Benitez-Nelson

The Senator has done a number of great works, but perhaps some of you don’t realize what an incredible supporter he is of our ocean environment.  In 1969, Hollings led the way in the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Created to guide the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, this agency now includes not only the national weather service and hurricane center, but is leading the way in preserving our oceans through the establishment of NOAA marine sanctuaries.  Hollings did not stop there, in 1971-1972, Senator Hollings wrote the Coastal Zone Management Act in an effort to manage the coastal zone.  During that same period, he strongly supported the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which would establish a 15-year moratorium on the taking and importation of marine mammals and created programs to minimize damage during fishing.

In 2005, the last year of Senator Hollings’ final term in office, he helped to establish the NOAA Hollings Scholarship Program, with the main goal of increasing undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, improving environmental literacy, and promoting stewardship of the ocean and atmosphere.  Since that time, the Marine Science Program within the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of South Carolina has had 17 students receive this prestigious scholarship, which not only includes tuition support of up to $8000 for two years, but includes a summer internship at one of the many NOAA facilities across the country.  Over the past three years, 12 University of South Carolina students have been named Hollings Scholars, making us the 4thin the country for the number of recipients.

Hollings and NOAA scholars

During the event, the Senator happily posed with Benitez-Nelson and the NOAA Hollings scholars.

Nine Marine Science Hollings Scholars had the pleasure of meeting the Senator over dinner.  They listened to his colorful stories regarding the creation of NOAA and his ardent support of our oceans over the past several decades as a Senator from South Carolina.  Students discussed their NOAA research, their plans for the upcoming summer, and their goals upon graduation.  They asked and received advice from the Senator about their future careers and how to preserve the oceans for the future.

Meeting Senator Hollings was an incredible experience and one that my undergraduates and I will cherish for years to come.  I hope I can convince the Senator to make this an annual event, so that he can see the incredible legacy he is building for our future.

Contributed by Claudia Benitez-Nelson

(The Ernest F. Hollings papers are open for research at SCPC)

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