This year, Calvary Day School’s class of 1989 will be celebrating 30 years since they graduated. Many Cavaliers in that class are still very active in the Calvary community, and Renee Hutson Connolly is one of those. Even while living in Blythewood, South Carolina, she has made it a priority to give back to the student body through serving as a guest speaker for Calvary Day School’s Career Day.
Dr. Connolly was a Cavalier from 1983-1989 (7th-12th grade). Like many families, Renee’s parents made a sacrifice to enroll her in private school. For her parents, the safe and supportive Christian environment was worth it. Renee was an active student, participating in Middle School Band, cheer from 8th-12th grade, Anchor Club, National Honor Society, FCA, Track, newspaper, and winning the Miss CHS Pageant in 1988.
After attending Calvary, Dr. Connolly graduated from Armstrong State College in 1993 with a BA in English. She continued her studies at the University of South Carolina and graduated with a MEd in Educational Administration in 1999 and a PhD in Educational Administration in 2007. Renee has a diverse career background, working for the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, Senator Sam Nunn, Congressman Jack Kingston, and also worked in Armstrong’s Division of Student Affairs. Her professional experience in South Carolina includes the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and twelve years in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina, serving as Director of Education Development in Graduate Medical Education at Prisma Health-Midlands. Renee has been married to Sean Connolly of Atlanta for twenty-one years, and they have an eleven-year-old daughter named Katherine.
Renee says that her favorite memories from Calvary are the relationships, football games, prom, senior trip, and great teachers. Renee also added that taking calculus was her least favorite memory from Calvary, although it wasn’t calculus teacher Mrs. Outzs’s fault! When asked about how Calvary helped her in her collegiate or professional career, Renee stated that Calvary set her up to understand what was important: seeking support from good teachers while doing my part to prepare. She said that Calvary offered strong rigor that was comparable to her college level. Connolly said that she always felt challenged but supported in her academics.
Dr. Connolly said that most of what she saw as the biggest challenges students faced were outside temptations that are hard at any age like substance abuse and peer pressure. Even though students were challenged outside of school, supportive teachers were there to support and love them. One of Renee’s biggest influences was Mrs. Jane Lyman. Mrs. Lyman was Renee’s homeroom teacher, Spanish teacher, and cheerleading coach. Connolly described Lyman as “young, personable, and relatable.” Renee also mentioned Cindy Clark and Susan Outzs as positive influences at Calvary.
Connolly’s advice to current Calvary students is to not let negative experiences ruin the high school experience as a whole. Renee states that she loved being at Calvary and that her experiences there shaped her into who she is today. Connolly also advises students to finish college and take risks. She encourages current high school students to work to the best of their ability, be kind, and try new things in order to find new passions that shape who they are after high school.