When Spencer and Reverend Minnie Anderson decided to establish an endowed scholarship at Claflin University to honor the memory of their two sons, Michael Cutler and the Rev. Dr. Otis Cutler Jr., who died 28 days apart, they were guided by several significant reasons. First, they wanted to create a purposeful and enduring symbol of their sons' compassion for others and their commitment to improving the lives of everyone around them. Second, the endowment also reflects their support of academic achievement and dedication to community service. A third reason was for the scholarship to serve as a tribute in honor of their third son, Mark Cutler, a branch manager at BB&T in Beaufort, S.C.
The Spencer and Rev. Minnie Anderson Endowed Scholarship Fund was created with the Anderson's gift of $20,000 to Claflin University. A scholarship will be awarded annually to a student from the state of South Carolina majoring in biology who maintains at minimum 3.3 grade point average. The Andersons are hopeful that the recipient will continue their education in medical school or participate in research that will contribute to finding a cure for terminal illnesses.
"Both Spencer and I believe science, research and preparing students for STEM careers is very important," said Minnie Anderson. "This endowed scholarship helps preserve our memories of Michael and Otis and helps us to move forward in a meaningful way. The scholarship will also bring increased awareness for research and address health-related issues."
The Anderson's endowment aligns with President Henry N. Tisdale's goal to increase funding for scholarships during his final year as the University's transformative and visionary leader. Tisdale announced last spring that he will retire on June 30, 2019, after 25 years as Claflin's eighth president.
"We thank you and your family for your commitment to Claflin," said Tisdale during the check presentation. "I am committed to increasing scholarships and endowments in my final year because we need more endowments and scholarships to recruit outstanding students and help them remain in school."
The Andersons had traveled to Maryland for Christmas to see Otis who was hospitalized for a rare form of brain cancer. Michael, a 48-year-old fire protection engineer who resided in San Jose, California, also planned to join them but suffered a pulmonary embolism and died on December 22 in his home.
"Michael and his son, Christopher were reviewing blueprints," said Spencer, a 1999 Claflin graduate who presently serves as the interim director of auxiliary services at Claflin. "His death was sudden and very unexpected."
Christopher who worked closely with his father has inherited the family business, Innovative Technologies.
Minnie said that Michael had visited every continent but Antarctica. He was a single parent and he launched two non-profit organizations to benefit other single parents. He also had a special affinity for HBCU's.
"Michael graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's in fire protection engineering," said Minnie, who has a bachelor's from the University of Baltimore. She also earned a master's from Liberty University and is matriculating a master's at Asbury Theological Seminary. "I did not graduate from Claflin but I feel as if they have adopted me."
Otis died on January 19, 2018. He was the senior pastor at Rebirth Ministries in Baltimore, Md. He also served as a lobbyist where he fought for economic equality for minority communities. He was a graduate of Morgan State University where he earned a bachelor's in philosophy. Otis received a master's degree from Howard University School of Divinity in religious studies, he also earned a doctoral degree in leadership from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.
Otis attended school with the late S.C. Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine people killed in 2015 at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
"After Spencer and I were united in holy matrimony we talked about having a purpose for our marriage and this scholarship fulfills this desire," said Rev. Minnie Anderson.
Mark continues to carry out the vision of he and his brothers in helping to prepare young people for future endeavors.
"This scholarship to Claflin University exemplifies our family's commitment to help young people achieve their goals," said Rev. Minnie Anderson.
The endowment forever unites the Anderson family through the support they are providing for Claflin students and the University's emphasis on producing outstanding STEM graduates.
The Andersons stated, "We are hopeful that our contribution will inspire other alumni and Claflin supporters to establish or contribute to existing endowments."