Affinity for helping the 'hard working' inspires retired professor to endow scholarship

Amanda Lawson
September 25, 2020
Dr. Alex Pappas and Dean Zoher Kapasi present the Anne F. Pappas Scholarship to a MUSC College of Health Professions student.

Dr. Alexandros “Alex” Pappas, a semi-retired academic pathologist and professor, believes in the merit of hard work. He also believes in helping those who are putting in the work themselves.

Beginning in 1968, when he served as an undergraduate teaching assistant at the University of South Carolina, Pappas always managed to hold down at least one job while making his way through undergraduate and then medical school. In the beginning, he worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant in economics and later in engineering. At MUSC as an undergraduate, he worked doing autopsies on the weekends, as a mortuary attendant, and doing research for the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery on the biochemical effects of bubbler oxygenators and then later membrane oxygenators.

It was a tough road, the balance of coursework while bringing in a paycheck, but it was one Pappas took nonetheless. Now, with the recent commitment to endow the longstanding Anne Pappas Scholarship he funds with his wife, Dr. Ann Ward Maners, he is ensuring other students taking that same path have a helping hand.

“It’s trite to say you do certain things because you like giving back, but it’s true,” Pappas said. “I like to help someone when they have a need. And the hope would be these individuals think about the help they received, maybe later in their lives or their careers, and they turn around and help someone else.”

Pappas established the Anne Pappas Scholarship over 30 years ago in memory of his first wife, a high school English teacher with a passion for education who died a year into their marriage. Initially established to support those pursuing Cytotechnology, Anesthesia for Nurses and Cardiovascular Perfusion, the scholarship is now open to all CHP students.

With support from Maners, a practicing radiation oncologist, Pappas has been contributing $5,000 per year to fund two $2,500 scholarships annually. He recently announced the scholarship fund will increase to $120,000 with an additional $50,000 commitment over the next three years to endow the fund.

“We’ve given to education together for many years, both in South Carolina and in Arkansas,” Pappas said. “We’ve even endowed an art gallery at the University of Little Rock in Arkansas so students there can take an educational summer trip, somewhere nationally or internationally. These aren’t life-changing scholarships; they’re small, but who knows? Maybe they can change someone’s life.”

Ebone Smith-Morant, one of two Anne Pappas Scholarship recipients this year, said the funding has allowed her to continue focusing on her work in behavioral health in rural communities, a cause “near and dear to my heart.”

A third-year student in the Doctor of Health Administration program, Smith-Morant is an avid community leader, volunteering with the Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Association, organizing the Low Country Food Bank, and serving as PTO president at Carvers Bay High School.

“When you’re funding scholarships, you can go a couple of different ways; you can endow larger amounts or you can spread the love around,” said Pappas. “That’s what we choose to do. All together, we have 10 scholarships we fund at five different colleges and universities, but Charleston is where we are both originally from. Back then, it was just a small town where a lot of people knew each other, and people would help you if you needed it. That’s what we’re trying to do with this.”

Now semi-retired after years in academia, Pappas has become a Historic Charleston Garden Docent and is on his way to becoming a licensed tour guide for the city in addition to providing financial support to the community he loves.

“I just enjoy helping,” he said. “I enjoy doing it. And I love this community, so that’s why I’m doing more of it.”