The Batson Hewitt, Jr. Library

Trident Academy


Mary M. Silgals

September 30, 2003


To better understand the origin of the Batson Hewitt, Jr. Library at Trident Academy, a school for children with learning disabilities, a history of the school and the educational climate of the period need to be examined. In the 1970’s, the research into learning disabilities and educational methods was not a new field, but one in which researchers had become very involved, developing new theories and treatment methods. Prior to the founding of Trident Academy in 1974, children in the Charleston, South Carolina, area who were diagnosed as having dyslexia or learning disabilities received Saturday and summer tutoring at the Charleston Reading Clinic. The tutoring sessions were held in a meeting room in a church in Charleston. Parents would bring their child and stay while their child was being tutored in reading. Meanwhile, a parent would tutor someone else’s child in reading. The Charleston Reading Clinic was a “Shedd School” or a school whose teaching philosophy was based upon the research of Dr. Charles L. Shedd of the Reading Research Foundation. Dr. Shedd was one of the early researchers into dyslexia. His primary objective was the research aspect. “Each child who enters the program is a research subject. Through the findings of the research the program is able to help children in the program.” (Thompson)

In the early 1970’s, parents of students attending the Charleston Reading Clinic were asked to meet to discuss the future of the program. Included in the meeting were a group of physicians, educators, and businessmen. The result of the meeting was a resolution that a new school be established to meet the needs of the children in the community who were diagnosed with learning disabilities. All the parents’ time and energy spent on weekends and summer tutoring would now be focused upon a full time school. Out of that meeting twenty-eight parents of the Reading Clinic each contributed to the formation of Trident Academy Corporation by signing a note from their own banks. In 1972, the Trident Academy Corporation purchased five mobile classrooms which were placed at the rear of the Mr. Pleasant Memorial Cemetery, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The land for the mobile units was donated by Mr. Bill Detyens at the cost of $1.00 per year. Bill and Sally Detyens had children who attended the Charleston Reading Clinic. Mr. Detyens was a successful businessman who, although left school at the age of fourteen, became the owner of a ship repair business, Detyens Shipyard. By the end of two years, the original twenty-eight notes were paid off. In 1975, a generous donation of seven and a-half acres and the financial backing of ten prominent concerned citizens laid the financial ground work for Trident Academy.

In 1974, thirty-six regular faculty members conducted carefully planned individual curriculum and remedial language lessons for one hundred fifteen full time students in grades K-12. In addition to local students, there were several students from other states and various cities throughout South Carolina who attended Trident Academy and boarded with local families. Members of the same group that founded Trident now served as its Board of Directors. Construction of permanent facilities commenced in 1975. The community rallied around the development of the school and the first main building of the school was constructed at cost.

Paula Craig, Nancy Welsh and Joannie Gerkin, LEAD teachers and tutors who have been employed at Trident Academy since its inception, described the library in the first building as consisting of some books on a book shelf. The first library collection was developed slowly each year as funds increased and people donated books through a fund raising project, the Birthday Book Club. Eventually, the collection increased to an amount large enough to warrant a small room the size of a closet. Later the collection was located in one of the smaller classrooms.

In December 1982, the Trident Academy Long Range Planning Committee met to discuss future facility improvements. It was suggested that in the ten year plan, the first building to be constructed would be a multipurpose classroom, library and multipurpose facility. Efforts were under way to plan the capital funding campaign necessary to construct the building and the intent of the Long Range Planning Committee was to be able to pay cash for it.

In May 1986, the Trident Academy General Campaign Plan, “Open Minds to Success, One-On–One” was prepared by Allen Mac, Inc. of Winston-Salem, NC. The plan was initiated to determine the level of constituency support to meet the needs of the preliminary planning study. Members of the Board of Directors, past parents, current parents, alumni, friends and community leaders were surveyed to gauge their support for these capital needs. The results of the Planning Study showed substantial support for the Educational Center. Along with other improvements, the Educational Center would provide for an expanded library facility. The campaign was officially begun by a unanimous vote of the Trident Academy Board of Directors on September 23, 1985. The Board of Directors soon became 100% in support of the campaign by making contributions totaling over $40,000. In early December, Trident Academy received the largest single gift in its history when Mr. Detyens announced a $250,000 commitment to the campaign. Mr. Detyens who was the first individual solicited beyond the Board, said that his gift could be used as a challenge to all donors on a $1 for every $3 basis. With the momentum of this gift, the Campaign Steering Committee worked through the winter and spring making over 130 personal visits to many individuals who had been close to the school. This Advance Gift effort raised another $150,000. “As a long term benefit of the Campaign for “Opening Minds to Success, One-On-One,” the report stated, “we see a growing primary objective to be the development of a close group of strong Trident supporters. Calling them “owners” for lack of a better term, for what Trident needs is greater “constituency ownership.”

In the fall of 1988, the Batson Hewitt, Jr. Library was opened in the completed new wing of the school. Named in his honor, Mr. Hewitt was a Board president whose son attended Trident Academy. The first librarian was Lynn Ward who had taught library skills to the students and had built the collection from a few books on a shelf to a collection worthy of its own facility. The library opened with 6,000 titles color coded to accommodate the varied age levels of the students. As in the past, lower school students continue today to come to the library once a week for library story time and library skills instruction appropriate for the age group. Library skills instruction is given to middle and upper school students as their teachers request.

During the last twelve years, the library has continued to expand its collection under the management of librarian Terry Field. Today’s library collection consists of approximately 11,500 titles. In addition, the Ed Duckett Computer Lab located within the library, provides seven computers for Internet and library research. There are an additional five computers within the study area of the library to be used for research and catalog needs. Internet access is available through a modern high speed T-1 line system. In 1997, the old card catalog and inventory system was replaced by a computerized one. To encourage reading comprehension, the Reading Counts Program, consisting of approximately 1,200 titles, is available to all students and teachers. The collection of audio-visual materials continues to grow. Daily newspapers and a variety of magazines are provided for pleasure and informational reading. A parent resource collection on topics relating to learning disabilities is available for parent check-out.

The 1970’s was a period in Charleston, South Carolina, when there was a large societal interest in assisting children with learning disabilities as a method towards self-improvement. Fortunately, it was also a time when the economic prosperity provided sizeable and individual wealth that encouraged philanthropic giving. A combination of knowledgeable physicians, concerned parents, dedicated educators, and philanthropic businessmen were responsible for the origin of Trident Academy and the Batson Hewitt, Jr. Library and its continued success in providing the informational needs of the school’s students, faculty, staff and parents.





"Academy Breaks Ground for New Complex." Charleston Post and Courier

28 February 1988:

Craig, Paula. Personal Interview. 26 September 2003.

Detyens, Bill. Charleston's Bill Detyens: An Autobiography. Sullivan's Island: Professional Research Publishing Company, 1985.

Field, Terry. Personal Interview. 22 September 2003

“General Campaign Plan”, Trident Academy Board of Director’s Minutes, May 1986

Gerkins, Joannie. Personal Interview. 26 September 2003.

Harrington, Myron. Personal Interview. 27 September 2003.

Long Range Plans”, Trident Academy Board of Directors Minutes, December 1982.

Thompson, P. (1992). “Dr. Charles L. Shedd: A History of His Work.” Retrieved Sep. 27, 2003, from Shedd Academy:

Trident Academy, “Student Information Guide,” Fall 1988

Trident Academy, “Community Support for the School,” circa 1984

Welsh, Nancy. Personal Interview. 26 September 2003