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Inspiration Award

The Inspiration Award celebrates an individual or group who is supportive of Beaufort County schools and has demonstrated extraordinary dedication, passion, and skills
that influence and inspire students.



Laura Bush

Inspiration Award
Laura Bush.JPG

The Foundation for Educational Excellence honored Laura Bush as the 2023 “Peggy May Inspiration Award” recipient for her more than forty year commitment in education and public service to the Lowcountry community.


The Foundation surprised Mrs. Bush, alongside her family and board members from the Foundation For Educational Excellence, with the honor at the 2023 Lowcountry Fish & Grits Music Festival held at Lowcountry Celebration Park on Hilton Head Island on Oct. 7th. “Laura has made a significant impact for Beaufort County and our schools,” commented Jamie Pinckney, Foundation board member.  “Anyone who has worked with Laura has a story of her genuine interest and smart ideas that no one can forget!”

Bush grew up in Bluffton as one of 14 siblings. She graduated high school in 1962 and lived with her sister in New York and then her brother in Washington, D.C.  In 1963, she returned home to Bluffton to help her mother care for her father and younger siblings.

In 1968, Bush was asked to help in a multi-university study on the malnutrition of African American children in Beaufort county.  By 1970, Bush worked for 10 years with the  Beaufort Jasper County Comprehensive Health program to improve the general nutritional health of minority children and their families.


For several years, Laura worked as a consultant on special water projects for Beaufort-Jasper County Water and Sewer Authority, educating people to give up their wells and hook into the water lines. She was then hired by the Institute for Community Education and Training as a director for the women’s education program charged with organizing a statewide program encouraging women to take on non-traditional jobs – painting, construction, welding. As a result, Bush was one of 50 women nationally to be recognized as a pioneer, putting her in touch with notable women such as Gloria Steinem and Barbara Bush during a tour and a program sponsored by Oprah Winfrey in Washington, D.C.


She spent 13 years as Emergency Assistance Coordinator for Beaufort County and created a countywide management system for local agencies and churches.


Bush was then elected to the Beaufort County School Board where she served for 26 years in positions  including chair, vice chair and secretary. Throughout her school board tenure, Bush was always known as an advocate for the struggling students. She sought much needed programs for special education students, alternative schools for “unaverage” students and assistance for the student athletes who were falling behind in the classroom.


Bush credits her many accomplishments to help from God, the love of her late husband, as well as support from her community and family.


Continuing her positive impact on generations of Beaufort County residents, Bush served on multiple local boards, including Habitat for Humanity of the Lowcountry, as well as several others. Bush was recently appointed to the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.


Receiving numerous awards throughout her public service career, Bush has been recognized by the South Carolina House of Representatives, Beaufort County Council, NAACP, South Carolina School Board, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bluffton MLK Committee.


The Peggy May Inspiration Award recognizes an individual who has been supportive of or attended Beaufort County public schools and whose accomplishments have distinguished him/her in their chosen profession. The passion, skills and success of this individual have positively influenced and inspired others, including Beaufort County School District students, to recognize potential, opportunities and encourages students to invent their own futures. The award is named for former recipient, the late Peggy May, who served as county and state Director of Adult Literacy, and Board chair of the Foundation for Educational Excellence.

 “We are honored to present this award to Laura Bush for her lifetime of work that has focused on our communities and education,” stated Lisa Carroll, Foundation Board Chair.


  • 2022 Recipient: David Lauderdale Beginning at The Packet in 1977 as reporter, Lauderdale worked his way up from news editor to managing editor to editorial page editor before retiring in 2020. Throughout his career, he has always been an advocate for the people of our community and his support has been evident in his inspirational writing that has touched the lives of so many.

  • 2021 Recipient: EVERYONE working in the Beaufort County School District In a unique twist, the
    Foundation recognized everyone in each school for their efforts to keep students connected and
    involved, whether in person or virtually - over 3,000 educators, administrators, custodians,
    cafeteria workers, maintenance personnel, plus many, many more who labored behind the
    scenes to make the best of a difficult situation.

  • 2020 Recipient: Kathy Cramer  While teaching special education in the Beaufort County School system, as well as acting as the Co-Director of Area 8 Special Olympics, she worked diligently to fulfill her dream of seeing Special Olympics categorized as a school sport. After 33 years of teaching, Kathy retired from the school system to dedicate herself full-time to providing recreational opportunities to those with special needs.


  • 2019 Recipient: Dr. Jane T. UpshawDistinguished Chancellor Emerita, University of South Carolina Beaufort, who has shown devoted leadership throughout her career for the advancement of education  in the Lowcountry

  • 2018 Recipient: Dr. Emory Campbell, recognized for contributions in the cultural and environmental heritage of the Lowcountry

  • 2017 Recipients: The Esquivel Family, champions for the Latino community

  • 2016 Recipient: Dr. Narendra P. Sharma, the founder of the Neighborhood Outreach Connection

  • 2015 Recipient: Peggy May, a retired educator, former chair of the Foundation for Educational Excellence, and former county and state Director of Adult Literacy

  • 2014 Recipient: Candice Glover,  2008 Beaufort High School graduate, who rose through the ranks to become the 2013 American Idol on FOX 

  • 2013 Recipient: Dr. Wayne Carbiener, former Beaufort County School Board member and avid supporter of the Foundation for Educational Excellence

  • 2012 Recipient: Orchid Paulmeier, accomplished chef, finalist of The Next Food Network Star television series and active parent volunteer at children's schools in Beaufort County

  • 2011 Recipient: David Vincent Young, renowned chef and entrepreneur and 1989 graduate of Hilton Head Island High School

  • 2010 Recipient: Jonathan Green, recognized as one of our nation's outstanding African American artists and 1973 graduate of Beaufort High School 

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