People around Wofford long ago used to wonder just how much Confederate money T. Keller Cogswell had buried in his back yard.
Why, you ask? Well, Keller's family printed a lot of the Confederacy's money. Walker, Evans, and Cogswell had existed in Charleston for over a hundred years when Keller became a vice president of the printing company. That was the job he held in 1956 when he left the family business to accept Wofford's call to lead its alumni office.
A Charleston native if ever there was one, Thomas Keller Cogswell attended the Porter Military Academy and the College of Charleston before becoming a Wofford student. A 1933 graduate, Cogswell served in the World War II era army, then resumed his career in Charleston. He was active in many civic and professional groups, such as Sertoma, the Executive Club of Charleston, the French Society, the Chamber of Commerce, and the American Legion. He became a leader at Bethel Methodist in Charleston, was lay leader of the Charleston District, and then represented South Carolina at Jurisdictional Conference. He led Wofford's fund-raising efforts around Charleston as well, and the college asked him to serve as general chairman of the 1954 Centennial Development Campaign in the Charleston area.
In 1956, President Pendleton Gaines prevailed on Keller to leave Charleston to become director of alumni affairs and public relations at the college. In nearly 20 years on the college staff, Keller Cogswell was the public face of the college around the state and around the southeast. He helped get the message about the institution out among friends of the college, helped smooth ruffled feathers when the college chose to desegregate, and got Wofford into alumni wills. Some of the work he did in the 1960s and early 1970s is still paying dividends for the college.
I thought it was odd that when I flipped through his file to write this piece that I found so little about his time at Wofford to share. However, as the public relations officer, he would have been busy promoting the college, its faculty and its students, and not himself.
I never met Keller, though I've heard plenty of stories. One of them involved a confused and comical explanation to the Methodist Conference that was meeting on campus as to how the phone system worked. Somewhere in a box of tapes I suspect there's a copy of that, and I hope to find it one of these days. It's supposed to be hysterical.
What I found surprising was that so few stories about him had made it into his file. There's no Cogswell oral history interview, and I haven't even found a tape of what his very pronounced Charleston Geechee accent sounded like. I do know that he was a much-beloved character here on the campus, though his language could sometimes be a little salty.
If you have a Keller Cogswell story, won't you share it with me?