During her introduction of Coach Abshire in front of the new USC Aiken fountain and its bronze Pacer horse, Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan cited Abshire as a reserved, even shy man.


That drew laughter from community residents attending a dedication ceremony for the new additions to the campus.


There's nothing shy about Abshire, who, with his wife Patty, provided the donation for the fountain – located in front of the Penland Administration Building.


Abshire described his “love affair” with USCA, which started not long after he and his wife Patty moved to Aiken.


“I'm so proud of this university and proud that this statue is now the centerpiece, a gateway to the university in front of the Penland building,” Abshire said.


The fountain will be a part of the Nat Stetson Circle that serves as the entrance to the administrative facility. Stetson served for many years as a member of the Aiken County Commission for Higher Education.


Jordan expressed her gratitude to all past supporters of the university, and now new friends that the Abshires have quickly become.


“Their desire came together to renovate this absolutely gorgeous fountain, which is punctuated by a beautiful bronze horse. We thought the horse would never get here because of visa issues,” Jordan said to more laughter. “Finally, the statue arrived, and the results are gorgeous.”


The Abshires moved to Aiken in 2010 from Bloomington, Ind. Coach worked with his family's Abshire Oil Company and later retired from the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce. The couple has long been involved with higher education, and “we're lucky to be among the institutions on your list,” Jordan said.


Abshire and his family raised and raced Pacers and Trotters, one of them a world champion. It just seemed logical to bring a Pacer to a university with a pacer mascot, he said.


“We're so proud to have a campus that's tied so closely to the horse heritage of our campus,” said Vice Chancellor Dr. Deidre Martin. “Today's addition to our campus shows that in a more visible way.”


Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.