Published on April 24, 2018 in Pacer Times, University of South Carolina Aiken’s college paper
Communication professor Peggy Elliott will be putting in her last set of grades on July 3.
Elliott is a versatile and dedicated instructor, teaching 11 courses in the communication curriculum but primarily teaches Visual Communication, a core class that she helped develop, along with Public Relations and Writing Across the Media.
Dr. Charmaine Wilson, the communication chair, said, “She has taught 4-5 different classes in one semester, which is demanding.”
Professors typically teach two classes with two sections.
Wilson said that Elliott will be missed for many reasons, including her adaptability and her commitment to her department and the students.
Elliott received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida in 1974. Four years later, from the same university, she received her master’s degree.
While obtaining her master’s, she worked for the Bradford County Telegraph by day and telephone sales by night.
“You need to do what you need to do to get by, right,” Elliott said.
Upon leaving the University of Florida, Elliott worked as a reporter for the Gainesville Bureau, a branch-off of the Florida Times Union.
Elliott recalled some of her favorite stories, one of which that was on Dr. Christian Barnard who developed the first artificial heart. She went to his seminar and was asked by Barnard to have cup of coffee to discuss his work.
“I sat in that hotel café all afternoon,” Elliott said.
She said that writing, along with playing the piano, have always been releases of hers.
“I think I was born curious,” Elliott said. “I thank God for that gift. It’s made me have an interesting life.”
While working at the Florida Times Union, Elliott received a journalism award from the Rotary Foundation International, which allowed her to pick a country of her choice to study writing there for a year.
She took a year off of reporting in the states and travelled to Australia.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Elliott said.
Within the realm of writing, Elliott studied statistics and computer programming in Australia. She tried to develop a computer program that would write news articles.
She described the sense of detachment that one must have when writing on certain subject matter, such as auto-crashes and obituaries.
“You can’t talk about the smell of the blood,” Elliott said.
Elliott thought that a program could be used to input information and spit out an article but realized writing articles, even in detachment, takes a human being.
Elliott was a reporter, but she also taught in the writing labs at the University. She continued her time in higher education when she married her late husband, John, and moved to Spartanburg in 1981.
She taught journalism part time at Converse College, Wofford and USC Upstate. Her focus was on feature writing. She taught students how to write about people.
Elliott also did freelance writing on the side for many publications.
She recalled few of her most memorable stories.
One of those stories became a cover story for Popular Mechanics and was about a solar powered house in Atlanta, where computers ran everything.
Elliott is passionate about people, but her work covers many fields.
She also collaborated with People magazine and did a feature story on Constance Armatage, a fencing instructor who worked at Wofford. Armatage pushed for legislation for retired people, seeking benefits for them.
It was in 1999 that Elliott moved to Aiken for her husband’s job. Elliott carried her work with her. She started a public relations and marketing company called O’Neal Communications, which was maintained by Elliott and a few of her employees inside of her home.
Years later, in Elliott’s church, the seed of her career at USCA was planted. There, she met Dr. Deidre Martin, a former director of advancement at USCA. Martin needed help covering a public relations course for 2-3 semesters, and Elliott took up the offer.
Elliott was soon given the opportunity to work full-time.
“My job at USCA has benefited me in a lot of ways,” Elliott said. “Teaching has helped me relate to what’s going on today. College student keep you sharp.”
She said she is going to miss being around young people, and many of her former students will miss her.
“I look up to people like her. She would always make sure that I knew what I was doing,” Austin Cheshire said. Cheshire is a senior communication major who’s taken several classes with Elliott.
Elliott said she would also miss her coworkers.
“USCA has absolutely terrific, warm, caring faculty,” Elliott said. “Here, we are given permission and are even encouraged to be hopeful (for the students) and nurturing.”
She commented on the other universities she’s been affiliated with and said that rather than weeding out the weak, USCA, as a whole, tries to be as inclusive as possible.
“The faculty have really held me up,” she said.
Elliott has been acknowledged for her work at USCA. Recognitions cover her office walls, such as several service awards.
She was also the advisor for Pacer Times from 2008 until 2015, for which she was nominated for the Advisor of the Year award.
When Elliott took on the job, there were virtually no staff members and all stories were being wired from universities around the country.
Communication professor and current Pacer Times advisor Jeff Wallace said, “She’s been most gracious in answering questions.”
Wallace knew Elliott since she first started teaching.
“It’s nice to have colleagues who you consider your friends. She will be missed,” he said.
Elliott said after she retires, she will continue to write and photograph people, places and things.
During Elliott’s interview, Spanish professor Dr. Timothy Ashton passed her doorway, carrying a peculiar instrument made out of armadillo called a churrango. Elliott invited him in for a couple of questions about its history and sound.
After he left, she said in excitement, “That’s a story.”
The writing won’t cease for Elliott any time soon.
Elliott will also be spending more time with her family. She has two children, a daughter Megan and a son John, who lives in Atlanta with her granddaughter, Adelyn.
She also wants to travel.
“There’s many places in the United States that I haven’t seen yet,” Elliott said.