Dr. Cynthia Bolton-Gary

Mother and Daughter: Best Friends and Empowered by Pink

April 2019 IssueCynthia 0419

by Mary Hope Roseneau    Photography by
Christian Lee

Dr. Cynthia Bolton-Gary and her daughter Olivia Gary, who is home for spring break from the University of South Carolina, met me for lunch recently at Skull Creek Marina. They are both longtime, hardcore Pink fans! They came armed with two of their favorite Pink issues from years ago. They were both from 2012, and contained pictures of Cynthia and Olivia, just a little girl then, attending Pink Partinis! “We have more issues at home!” Cynthia said, “but these are so great, especially the 100th issue one”, which featured all 100 covers.

Olivia and Cynthia have been fans of Pink since moving to the Island in 2008. Cynthia saw it as a way for newcomers to learn about their new home. (In fact, I saw my first copy of the magazine in her office at University of South Carolina Beaufort in 2010, and she graciously offered it to me to take and read. I couldn’t put it down.) Cynthia confided that for years she has torn out the quote pages and taped them up in the kitchen to inspire her. Cynthia’s favorite: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end,” by John Lennon. Olivia’s pick: “Breathe. It’s just a bad day, not a bad life,” by Post Malone.

Cynthia, a single mom and university professor/administrator, has treasured these quotes and many more from Pink the 11 years she and Olivia have lived in Hilton Head Plantation. Now Olivia is a college freshman, majoring in math, with pre-med track, and a minor in dance, a passion she began on Hilton Head Island.

Cynthia spends long commutes these days as the Associate Dean of the College of Education for Georgia Southern University, Armstrong campus. She makes the most of her time in her car listening to books on CD’s, online, or podcasts. Often Olivia will call her mom during the times she knows she’s making the hour plus commute, and they chat the old-fashioned way—actual talking! Mother and daughter are very close, and it shows.

Cynthia has spent 30-plus years in her education career, starting in Chapel Hill, NC, working with troubled adolescents and now managing a department that offers 40 degrees between Bachelors’, Masters’, and Doctorate levels. She is passionate about her work as an advocate for new teachers. The state of Georgia has a program where young people with a degree can be called “Teacher of Record” in a public school, without having taken an education course to prepare them. Cynthia works with them to create a manageable academic schedule, taking master’s level education courses, while still allowing time to prepare and teach their own classes.

The most rewarding words she’s received lately was from a defeated graduate student, who taught high school all day. She came to Cynthia’s office to drop her classes at Georgia Southern. Cynthia wouldn’t let her, and at the graduation, the girl came to her and said, “Thank you for not letting me quit. I love what I do.”

Cynthia2 0419“Life doesn’t go in straight lines,” she tells me, and Olivia nods, as she’s heard it many times. “Life is what you make it. I know that was true for me.” Cynthia has been a teacher from Pre-K level up to graduate students, with a special interest in teacher education and support. She was the director for the USCB Center for Excellence, which focused on recruiting local minority candidates to become certified, professional teachers. Her caring for students shone through, as she was one of the most well-respected and popular professors on campus.

Looking back on her years as a single mom, balancing work with a young daughter, she recalls the strict rule of being home in the evening and eating dinner with each other. She says it’s a time to catch up on the day, recharge, and enjoy being together. Cooking is Cynthia’s favorite way to relax as well, so dinner times were special.

Asked for advice for other single parents she didn’t hesitate: You need a network—other moms and dads who you can call on for support, and provide it for them as well. Carpooling, extra-curricular activities, after-school care are all tricky, but you can do it, she says. She also credits the Island Recreation Center for after school care and the Hilton Head Dance Theater for many years of nurturing Olivia’s talent in ballet.

Mother and daughter still read Pink every month, and love the positive stories of women (and men!) in the area. They both recommend the Partinis. “You meet people, you win prizes, and have fun!” they agreed.

Up Close:
Favorite place to go on Hilton Head: The “Bluff,” which is the beach a block from their house in Hilton Head Plantation. They love to take their dog “Luke”, and even cat “Poutine” for walks there.

Favorite go-to meal on a busy weekday: Cynthia makes a salad, with a protein added. Olivia recalls the big pot of pinto beans her mom would cook, put in a processor and have healthy homemade refried beans for use lots of ways. “For days,” Cynthia laughed.

Best way to keep in shape: Olivia says it easy with a minor in Dance at USC. Cynthia credits her walks on the beach, as well as Pilates. She recommends the free “5-Day Pilates Jumpstart” by Robin Long on Youtube and www.thebalancedlifeonline.com , which only takes 15-minutes per day. “Who can’t do even 15 minutes a day?”