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Tracy Swinton Bailey ’95

Tracy Swinton Bailey ’95, PhD, of Myrtle Beach, SC, is the Chief Executive Officer of Freedom Readers, an after school and summer literacy program that improves reading skills in low-income communities through one-on-one tutoring, free books for home libraries, and inspiring a high-energy learning environment. Dr. Bailey founded the nonprofit in 2010 to “give back to communities in much the same way that the College of Charleston gave back to me.”

Dr. Bailey is originally from Georgetown, SC, and considered attending college at the University of South Carolina, Duke, and Mt. Holyoke. She was introduced to the College in 1990 through the Governor’s School for Academics and “fell in love with the campus, and was fortunate enough to be offered the Randolph Scholarship upon acceptance.”

Dr. Bailey as a sophomore in 
1993 from the Comet yearbook

Dr. Bailey lived in the St. Philip Street residence hall (now known as Berry) her freshman year, moved into Craig her sophomore year, and spent her junior year in Rutledge. “My favorite place at the College was the Cistern,” she says. “I would go there often and find a quiet place in the sun where I could read and study. There was something powerful about the combined beauty and history of the place that made me appreciate the significance of my being there.”

Some of Dr. Bailey’s favorite memories of her time at the College include performing with the CofC Gospel Choir. “There was something extremely uplifting about raising my voice with 50 of my fellow Cougars to bless the world with a positive message,” she says. “And I can’t forget Dr. Nan Morrison and her Shakespeare class. What an amazing adventure that was. I have never had another instructor that struck fear into so many hearts, but was so well-loved.”

Dr. Bailey with husband, Issac,
and children, Kyle & Lyric

The College community taught Dr. Bailey an invaluable lesson. “I learned the true importance of community,” she shares. “It was during my four years on campus that it dawned on me that my success would never depend solely on my intellect or my ambition. My success would always be tied up with the success or failure of the people in my sphere of influence. Despite whatever differences in perspective or world view, my roommates and I looked out for one another, went out of our way to make sure that we stayed safe. Some of the relationships that I established there have lasted for decades and have left an indelible impact on my life.”

For today’s Cougars, Dr. Bailey encourages students to be different: “I would advise students to take risks. Life is short and we don’t know what the future may bring. While students have the advantage of youth on their side, they should deliberately shake off the urge to consistently walk in lockstep with everyone else. It’s innovation that the world needs, people who can look at challenges and find new and pioneering ways to address them. None of that can happen unless individual students are willing to say yes to the opportunities that present themselves while they are enrolled. Students need to get involved with campus life and use their gifts to make a difference.”