We were saddened to learn of the passing last week of Emilie Towler, a visionary woman who gave so much to the Aiken community. She was 92.

Towler was professor emeritus of psychology at USC Aiken, a department she started more than 40 years ago.

She also was instrumental is starting the Tri-Development Center in Aiken, a caring agency that helps people with special needs.

She retired several years ago and she and her husband, Oscar, lived in Brentwood, Tenn. The couple came to Aiken in 1953 when Oscar took a job as a nuclear physicist at what is now the Savannah River Site. They were married for 67 years and had five children.

Since her death, many have spoken about the appreciation they have for Towler’s gifts as an educator and for her commitment to Aiken and South Carolina.

“She was a strong professional at a time when that role was just emerging for women,” said Tom Hallman, who retired last year as the USCA chancellor.

“She led the way for many others, both male and female. Mrs. Towler was an important part of the institution’s history – a leader in the community and on the campus.”

One of her daughters, Kimberly Towler, said her mother was far ahead of her time and was concerned that, for years after she arrived in Aiken, adults and children with special needs had no opportunities outside the home.

“She went into schools and homes and would help them with skills,” Kimberly told the Aiken Standard.

During her years in Aiken, Emilie Towler was appointed as the chairwoman for the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, president of the South Carolina chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization Sisterhood which provides educational opportunities for young women, was named the Aiken Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year in 1992 and was awarded the Order of the Palmetto.

She and her husband were accomplished musicians and fostered a love for music in their children.

Even though she and her husband had moved from Aiken, her legacy has been lasting and her work will continue to help our community for years to come.