On Thursday, November 19, leaders from across the Spartanburg community and District 7 gathered in-person and virtually to honor former Spartanburg School District 7 Superintendent Russell Booker’s 28-year career in education. Held outside of the new District 7 Fine Arts Center at Spartanburg High School, the event was billed as the dedication ceremony for the recently named Dr. Russell Booker Atrium. However, it included a surprise element at the end as South Carolina Representatives Rita Allison and Max Hyde presented Booker with the Order of the Palmetto on behalf of Governor Henry McMaster. The Order of the Palmetto is the State of South Carolina’s highest civilian honor and recognizes extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. Allison said, “Service to humanity is truly the best work of life, and Dr. Booker, you not only believe that, but you have also put that into action. Your caring and your giving with a servant’s heart has spoken loudly, not only to this community, to this school, but to the entire state.”
Jeff Stevens, who succeeded Booker as superintendent in July of 2020, expressed to his mentor and former colleague, “Your invaluable contributions have elevated the visibility and reputation of District 7 such that, today, we are nationally recognized for excellence and innovation. You will long be remembered for your visionary leadership and tireless commitment to District Seven’s mission. From championing our one-to-one digital initiative that put mobile technology in the hands of every student, to strengthening District 7’s emphasis on early learning; and from developing public-private partnerships that broaden educational opportunities for students, to championing capital improvements that resulted in two new-state-of-the-art schools, you instilled a spirit of pride that has invigorated every aspect of teaching and learning in our schools.”
A video paying tribute to Dr. Booker’s impact featured former Spartanburg Mayor Bill Barnet, United Way of the Piedmont CEO Paige Stephenson, Assistant City Manager Mitch Kennedy, USC Upstate Distinguished Chancellor Emeritus and former Spartanburg Academic Movement Executive Director Dr. John Stockwell, national StriveTogether Network CEO Jennifer Blatz, and Booker’s oldest son, Grant, who attends the United States Naval Academy.
Dr. Booker, his wife, Sheryl, and his mother, Martha Booker, cut the ribbon together to officially dedicate the atrium.