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The Richland Two Education Foundation is hosting its third annual Order of the Flame Ceremony on Thursday, November 18 at 6 p.m. at the Richland Two Institute of Innovation Conference Center located at 763 Fashion Drive, Columbia, SC. Established in 2018, the Order of the Flame recognizes graduates, former employees and friends of Richland School District Two who have enriched the lives of others through their contributions of time, talent or resources. 

This year’s honorees are former students London Harrell and Justice Stewart; former superintendent, Dr. Stephen Hefner; former school board member, Calvin “Chip” Jackson; and Dr. Sharon Buddin O’Keefe, a former principal. The awardees were nominated by members of the community.
London Elaine Harrell
London Elaine Harrell, 2016 graduate of Spring Valley High School, also attended the Center for Knowledge and E. L. Wright Middle School where she was a student in the Leadership Academy at Wright (LAW) magnet program. She was a leader and active member in a number of school activities, organizations, clubs and community causes. Miss Harrell was awarded Spring Valley's highest student honor, The Order of Thor for her infectious school spirit and leadership. 

As a rising senior at the University of Central Florida majoring in Event Management, Miss Harrell was struck and killed by an impaired driver in 2019 while walking near campus. Her strong dedication to service set her apart as an exceptional human being. She saw service to others as a mandate, not something done for attention. London Harrell is being remembered as a unicorn who embodied the notion of service to others.

Dr. Stephen W. Hefner
On Christmas Eve 1970, Steve Hefner received official notice that he was being drafted into the U.S. Army. Shortly thereafter, he was whisked away from his position as an English teacher at Poplar Bluff Senior High School (Missouri) near the family farm where he had grown up. His service in the Army brought him to South Carolina and opened up opportunities and experiences he could never have envisioned. He now recognizes that being drafted was one of many divine interventions in his life.

His last place of military service was Fort Jackson. Following an honorable discharge and the receipt of the Army Commendation Medal, he landed a job as a guidance counselor at Spring Valley High School (1974).  He held several positions in the district before being selected to serve as the Associate Superintendent for Instruction in 1990, then Superintendent in 1994. In his post-retirement life, Dr. Hefner served as the Superintendent of Lexington and Richland School District 5 (2011–2018) and as the Interim Superintendent of Lexington School District 3 (2019-2020).  He has also recently written his memoirs for his granddaughters; the title of his memoirs is—surprise, surprise-- “Divine Interventions.”

Calvin “Chip” Jackson
Calvin “Chip” Jackson was a stalwart leader of public education and made positive impacts on the lives of many students, their families and our community. His dedication will never be forgotten as many remember the gentleness of his manner and fierceness of his conviction to make a difference. Mr. Jackson exemplified the values of leadership, service, integrity, and community involvement in every aspect of his life. He served in many capacities and held several positions throughout his community, school district, the city of Columbia, the state of South Carolina, and beyond. 

Mr. Jackson served on the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees for eight years. He was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, serving two terms as chairman. He supported the district in ensuring that the necessary funding and infrastructure were in place, residents were represented, and students were given the tools for success. He was elected to Richland County Council District 9 in November 2016 and proudly served his constituents until his unexpected death in August 2020.

Dr. Sharon Buddin O’Keefe
Dr. Sharon Buddin O’Keefe, affectionately known as Buddin or B, was a guiding force during her years of service in Richland Two. She possessed the personal qualities and the administrative ability essential to successful leadership in education; so much so that in 2002, she was named the National Principal of the Year, the first South Carolinian to attain that honor.

Her entire career, which touched six decades, was dedicated to the service of education and Richland Two was the benefactor. After a few stints in Richland One, Dr. Buddin O’Keefe came to Dent Middle School, where she taught social studies and became an administrative assistant. Onward to Spring Valley High School, her positions included Director of Student Activities, Assistant Principal, and Director of the Wilson Technology Center. She was named principal of the brand new Ridge View High School and during her stay the school was recognized as Palmetto’s Finest, School of Promise Renewal, Red Carpet and Palmetto Gold. Her next stop was the opening of Blythewood High School, where she successfully put into place small learning communities that gave a fast growing school a feeling of intimacy. 

Justice Reginé Stewart
Justice Reginé Stewart was a passionate and giving young lady. After attending Forest Lake and Rice Creek Elementary schools, Dent Middle School, in 2014 she graduated from Richland Northeast High School. In 2020, Ms. Stewart obtained the rank of 1st Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and also published her first book of poetry titled “Kairos” under her pen name, Jay Reginé. In June 2021, Ms. Stewart was struck and killed by an impaired driver while jogging near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. 

Ms. Stewart was a faithful attendee at RNE Grads Give Back. Students found her to be approachable, honest, and an inspiration. She spoke proudly of the education she received in Richland Two and how it prepared her for college. Ms. Stewart was a decorated member of the Richland Northeast NJROTC program, Horizon Honors Program, and the Palmetto Center for the Arts. The Frederick C. Branch Leadership Scholarship was awarded to her to attend Spelman College NROTC program. At age 25, Ms. Stewart was one of only 70 Black women who are officers in the US Marine Corps.