MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Many across the Lowcountry are stunned at the news of longtime Wando High School principal Lucy Beckham's death.
Mount Pleasant Police responded to the 66-year-old's home early Monday morning, where a Charleston County deputy coroner said she passed away sometime Sunday night from natural causes.
"I couldn't believe it," said Mindy Robertson, a parent of a student who graduated under Beckham's leadership. "I am shocked."
Shocked, stunned, and astonished were just a few of the words heard several times Monday following the news of Beckham's passing.
She had most recently been named as Executive Principal of East Cooper Schools in July, after her 17 years as Principal at Wando High School.
"I'm devastated," said Robertson. "My daughter graduated last year from Wando. We went to Italy with Lucy and the Wando chorus, and she is just amazing."
Parents said she had an impact on many.
While some may say she was tough on the students, others said it helped push them forward.
"She enforced the rules of Wando, while having a heart and understanding the differences children had and their various needs to get them out of school," said Tracey Jones, another parent.
"Being a principal at the largest high school in the state, in itself, states the kind of person she is," said Dr. Stephenie Hewett, Ed.D, Associate Professor at The Citadel School of Education. "It's not easy."
Beckham has close ties with the Citadel, receiving her Master's and Specialist's degrees in school administration.
Dr. Hewett says she will also be missed there.
"She was highlighted here at the Citadel as one of the finest in our Hall of Fame," Dr. Hewett said. "Then in 2014 we celebrated Lucy's life as part of our Women's History Month.
"You could just tell, genuinely, she loved the students and wanted the best for everyone in the community," Robertson said.
Officials from around the state shared their sympathies Monday.
Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said Beckham was a, "forward thinker who enhanced the lives of all who knew her."
College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell said, "Lucy symbolized the spirit, pride and values of the College, and I know her impact will be felt for generations to come."
Beckham was a 1970 graduate of the College, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics.
"She truly loved her students and always kept their best interests as her top priority," said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.
Beckham received numerous awards over her 40 years in education.
In 2009 Beckham was named National High School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principles.
A memorial vigil will be held Friday at Wando High School from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in honor of Beckham's life. Friends and family of hers will be there.
A funeral will be held at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian church at 11 a.m. Saturday, her burial will be private.
A spokesperson with the Charleston County School District said if the community would like to donate in Beckham's name, to give to the Dream Weavers Fund at Wando High School.