When Muriel O’Tuel attended her first day of school in rural North Carolina, she expected to learn to read straightaway. She didn’t expect her teacher to ask the question, “Who was Humpty Dumpty?” Growing up on a farm, she hadn’t heard of Humpty Dumpty’s journey off the brick wall before, but her kind teacher didn’t belittle her. Instead, she told Muriel, “You must not worry – we have a lot to learn this year.”
“She changed my map of the world forever,” explained Muriel. She wanted to be just like her kind teacher and was forever inspired to work in education and service to others, work she continues with her involvement at Waccamaw Community Foundation.
Muriel’s work as an educator drove her journey from a farm in North Carolina to her current home in North Myrtle Beach. She worked hard, and in high school, her love of literature and music prompted her to become an English teacher. However, she never forgot where she came from – Muriel was a first generation college student. “That’s why I really care about literacy and the rural schools,” Muriel explained.
An undergraduate degree couldn’t satisfy Muriel’s insatiable desire to help others learn, so after teaching for a few years, she continued on to graduate school to study counseling, psychology and school administration, eventually earning her Ph.D. That degree led her to take a position as the first female administrator for Summerville schools in Dorchester School District Two. Motivated to innovate, Muriel did more than push papers.
“I became an advocate for parents and teachers, and of course students. That was a new role for many administrators.”
She continued to work hard in Summerville, building partnerships between Dorchester County and Trident United Way to help students in rural areas like St. George. Muriel also pursued what would become her signature touch: business partnerships. When teachers didn’t have materials, Muriel would work with local business owners to fill the need.
Muriel has lived in Horry County for nearly 30 years now, first arriving to work as the Assistant Superintendent of Horry County Schools – the third largest district in the state. She went above and beyond in her work, visiting all the schools regularly.
“That’s my nature,” Muriel elaborated. “I’m a good listener and a maximizer. I want things to get better.” Muriel didn’t just make existing situations better; she also started new initiatives. One signature of her tenure was the Youth Leadership Program that exposed students to local and regional government through the Conway Chamber of Commerce.
Now at Waccamaw, one of her many community organizations, Muriel sits on the Board of Directors and works with our Grants and Executive Committees. “This is an ideal place for me to use my strengths working with grants and scholarships,” Muriel shared.
“Being actively connected and engaged with donors means more giving, which translates into more transformed lives,” she continued. “My passion is education and through grants to nonprofit organizations, Waccamaw is making a different in preparing our youth to become contributing and competitive citizens in this global society.”
Muriel has united her passion with Waccamaw’s purpose: connecting donors with causes they care about. We’re ever so grateful to have her on board.