Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Wofford National Alumni Association to Honor Four

June 23, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC – Horticulturalist Michael A. Dirr and landscape architect Rick Webel, whose ideas inspired the Wofford College campus arboretum, will join Russell C. King ’56 and Ann Silverberg Williamson ’95 as recipients of Wofford National Alumni Association honors during Homecoming Weekend 2003.

Dirr and Webel both will receive the Distinguished Citizen Award.

Dirr is considered by many to be the nation’s most influential and respected expert on ornamental trees and shrubs. During his 29 years as a faculty member — first at the University of Illinois-Champaign and later at the University of Georgia — he won more than 20 awards for research, writing and teaching. He trained more than 30 masters and doctoral students and wrote more than 300 articles and seven books. He is best known for his masterwork, “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.”

Richard “Rick” Webel is the current managing partner of the renowned landscape architecture firm of Innocenti & Webel, founded in 1931. The firm’s work is founded on traditional designs, seasoned practices, and the bonds established with long-term clients. It seeks value not from novelty but from predictability and permanence. It is especially well known for corporate and higher education campuses in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

More than 4,500 trees have been planted on the Wofford campus since 1992, when the idea of a campus-wide arboretum was conceived. Approximately 2,700 of them representing 97 varieties have been incorporated into trails winding across the campus. Kiosks at the starting point of each tour offer full-color brochures for self-guides tours. The formal opening of the arboretum was held Nov. 15, 2002.

King will receive the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of 22 years of outstanding service on the Wofford board of trustees. During his multiple terms as chairman at various times over the years, the college completed its 1987 master plan and also conducted a presidential search in 2000. King also has been a major donor to the college, and his recent seven-figure gift made it possible to build the Russell C. King Field and bring NCAA Division I baseball to the campus.

Now working as a business consultant, King joined Sonoco Products Co. in Hartsville, S.C., as a management trainee in 1956 and retired as its president and chief operating officer in 1994. While in Hartsville, he was very active in civic work, both on the local and state level. He and his wife, Kathy, reside in Atlanta. He has three adult children, including Russell C. “Rusty” King III ’81.

The Young Alumna of the Year, Williamson heads the Louisiana Office of Family Support with the title of state assistant secretary of social services. Appointed to her position on Aug. 13, 2001, her responsibilities include overseeing an annual budget that exceeds $800 million and directing more than 2,800 staff members. Major cash assistance programs under the OFS umbrella include FITAP (also known as welfare) FIND Work, Food Stamps and Child Care.

Williamson completed her master’s degree in social work, with honors, at Louisiana State University in 1998 and, while working in the office of Gov. Mike Foster, she acquired a reputation as a thoughtful and compassionate analyst of the challenges and opportunities facing social services in her native state. Before accepting her present position, she worked as director of the Louisiana Association of Non-Profit Organizations (LANO) and as a business retention specialist with the Memphis Center City Commission. A native of Thibodaux, La., she is married to Tyler Everitt Williamson. They live in Baton Rouge.

The awards will be presented during Wofford College’s Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 10-12.