Daniel Bessinger: Salkehatchie Alum Stays Close to Home

Daniel Bessinger

Daniel Bessinger always knew he wanted to settle down in his hometown, and he worked hard to make that happen.

For many local residents, graduating from high school is a chance to “escape”—it means leaving home, moving to a big city, and experiencing all the things they felt they missed while living in a rural community. But not for Daniel Bessinger. Leaving home was something he did because he had to, because it meant he could fulfill his ultimate goal: returning home to Ehrhardt, finding a good job, and settling back into his hometown. USC Salkehatchie was a major part of making that happen. After he graduated from Andrew Jackson Academy in 1999, he began attending USC Salkehatchie as a springboard to the Columbia campus. “I grew up in Ehrhardt,” he says. “My dad owns two small businesses, my mom is a school teacher, and I have absolutely, positively no desire to ever live anywhere but here. I wasn’t prepared to go straight to Columbia, coming from such a small town and high school, and Salkehatchie made sense.” Being able to commute to campus and save money on tuition and living expenses for the first two years was the reason Salkehatchie was always Bessinger’s first choice. “The classes were smaller, and you really got to know your professors,” he says. “The experience and education I gained at Salk definitely prepared me for Columbia and for life. Looking back on it, it was the perfect decision for me.” Since his time on the campus, Bessinger’s life has been an almost perfect example of how education can propel a person forward. He earned his associate’s in science in May 2001 from Salkehatchie, then his BA in business administration/finance from USC Columbia in 2003 and his master’s in human resources from the University’s Moore School of Business in 2004. During his time in Columbia, he served as an intern in S.C. Sen. Glenn McConnell’s office and completed a three-month human resources internship at a company in Michigan. His interest in business and finance was kindled during classes at Salkehatchie and grew when he took more classes in Columbia. The graduate degree became a necessity when he began to consider the lifestyle he wanted and the fact that he wanted to live in Ehrhardt. Now, it’s all paying off. Bessinger was offered and accepted a job right out of college working as a compensation analyst for a national company with offices in Columbia, but he dreamed of living and working near home. That dream came true when he was hired in August 2007 as the human resources manager of Clariant Corporation’s Martin site, four years before his 30th birthday. “It can be a challenge to recruit talented professionals to work in rural locations such as Martin,” says plant manager Eric Riden. “Daniel’s knowledge and experience in the local community have made him an even more valuable addition to our management team.” Daniel and his wife, Jodie, own a home in Ehrhardt. He commutes to work at Clariant, and she commutes to her job as a physical therapist at Colleton Medical Center. When he recently spoke to college students at USC Salkehatchie and high-school students at Andrew Jackson, he offered this advice: “Set goals and work toward those goals, but be realistic about those goals and know what to expect out of the major and career you choose,” he said, “I wanted to live in Ehrhardt and work in the area, and I knew that limited my opportunities. I had to take steps to widen those opportunities as much as I could, so I did what I needed to do to make that happen.”