Service to Clemson University: (1) Dr. Walton H. Owens, Jr. retired in 1995 and began service to Clemson University almost immediately. As immediate past president of the Faculty Senate, he had two responsibilities: (a) to serve as chair of a committee to choose a recipient of a biennial award in Astronomy and (b) to serve on a committee of the Board of Trustees that chooses the recipients of honorary degrees. (2) After completing those tasks, he was selected to serve as President of the Clemson chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Service to South Carolina Government: (1) Several years after his retirement, Walt’s service turned to SC state government. The SC General Assembly passed a measure creating several state-wide task forces to find ways to make the state’s universities more accountable. These were made up primarily of university trustees, university presidents, corporate CEOs, and a few former Faculty Senate Presidents. A few years before his retirement, Professor Owens had spent a sabbatical year on the SC Governor’s Staff, doing research in that subject area. Perhaps because of that, he was appointed to chair the Task Force on Administration and consequently to serve on another, capstone task force that prepared the report to the General Assembly. (2) Also in the 1990s, Walt continued to serve as a Commissioner of South Carolina Educational Television. Having taught a number of courses in public administration, Walt took the position seriously and reached out to line operatives to monitor their work and employee morale. He did this in part to have a more factual basis for completing the annual evaluation of SCETV’s president.
Work in Public Service Organizations: But the work of which Walt is most proud was in the area of mental health. After retirement, he was asked to do legislative and executive advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness South Carolina (NAMI SC). Soon thereafter, he was asked to serve on NAMI SC’s state board of directors. During his tenure on the board, he served as Secretary, then as Vice President and later, several terms as President. Looking back on those years, Professor Owens indicated that the Board realized several tangible accomplishments. Chief among them, he said, was a legislative initiative that would make it possible for a patient to designate a family member (or a friend) who could communicate with his physician so as to help the patient understand his situation and his alternatives. Walt felt that such a provision was much needed for psychiatric patients, while at the same time it was very helpful for others, also. As a result of NAMI SC’s effort – and with support from activists representing the medical community – state law now requires a form (covering all medical fields) which a patient is asked to sign before an initial visit with a physician, acknowledging understanding that option.
In another initiative advocated by NAMI SC, the legislature passed a measure providing for equity in insurance coverage for mental health issues along with physical health issues. (That parity is now required by federal law.)
Community Involvement: (1) For three years in the 1990s Professor Owens served as elder and clerk of session for Fort Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Clemson. (2) Finally, as an avid woodworker, Dr. Owens made several presentations to Clemson Area Woodworkers on things which he had built: a side table in the Federal Period, several curios, a chess table, and (with Professor Kelly Crader) a mountain dulcimer. For several years he also served that organization in a leadership capacity.