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Wofford Honors DeBerry, Hodge; 243 Receive Diplomas

Sunday, May 18, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC—Wofford College conferred honorary degrees on two alumni while presenting diplomas to 243 graduates during its commencement exercises today (Sunday, May 18, 2003). The college also presented the prestigious Sullivan Awards to two students and two non-students, and recognized the 2003 honor graduate.

As has become tradition, college President Benjamin B. Dunlap addressed the students, faculty, staff and guests at the ceremony, held in Benjamin Johnson Arena.

Angela Gail Pierce of Florence, S.C., was recognized as the honor graduate, achieving the highest grade point average of the graduating seniors. Pierce, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Al Pierce of Florence, is Phi Beta Kappa and a dean’s list student. The biology and Spanish major is an Anna Todd Wofford Scholar, member of Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honor Society, Campus Union, Wofford Ambassadors, Student Affairs Committee and a cheerleader.

Also recognized were three retiring faculty members: Dr. Talmage Skinner, the Perkins-Prothro Chaplain and Professor of Religion; Dr. James R. Gross, the Mr. and Mrs. T.R. Garrison Professor of English and Theatre, chairman of the Fine Arts Department, and founder and director of the Wofford Theatre Workshop; and Dr. Bill Mount, the Albert C. Outler Professor and chairman of the Religion Department. Skinner, a 1956 Wofford College graduate, has been at the college since 1986. Gross joined the faculty in 1966, while Mount came in 1977.

Jimmy and Marsha Gibbs, a Spartanburg couple known for their philanthropy throughout the community, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan awards for non-students, respectively.

The student Mary Mildred Sullivan Award was presented to Allyson Gibson, a graduating senior from The Woodlands, Tex., while the student Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award was given to Nick Haughey, a graduating senior from Rock Hill, S.C.

The Gibbs, who have been married for 28 years, have given their time, energy and resources to numerous Spartanburg projects and causes. Jimmy Gibbs is founder of Gibbs International, a privately owned company that buys and sells textile equipment, machinery and property worldwide, and Risk-Tech, a full-service environmental health services provider. He also is involved in a number of property redevelopment projects, including the conversion of the former Beaumont Mill property on North Pine Street for new medical offices as well as the planned home of the Racing Museum of the South and the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame.

He is a member of the board of trustees at Wofford College and a former member of the boards of Converse College, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation and BB&T bank. In 1993, he was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, and in 1997, he was awarded an honorary doctor laws degree from Wofford.

Marsha Gibbs is a trustee at Converse College and is on the boards of the United Way of the Piedmont, Mobile Meals, the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation, and advisory boards for the National Bank of South Carolina and the Spartanburg County Foundation’s Citizens Scholars program.

Together, the Gibbs were recognized in 2002 as the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind’s Philanthropists of the Year and received the Red Cross Henri Dunant Society distinction. They were named the 1998 Philanthropists of the Year by Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. They provided the lead gift to build Spartanburg’s world-class Gibbs Cancer Center at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.

One of their current passions is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a literary initiative that mails a book a month to pre-school children. Their start-up gift represented $1 for each child under the age of 5 living in Spartanburg County, and Marsha Gibbs continues to lead the fundraising for this United Way program.

Allyson Gibson, a physics major, was Wofford College’s 17th Presidential International Scholar, spending the 2001-2002 academic year traveling in developing countries studying indigenous music and the impact of globalization on that music and culture. An aspiring astronaut, she attended the NASA Academy at Goddard Space Flight Center in 2000. She received an honorable mention on the USA Today College Academic Team in 2001.

Gibson, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. James Gibson of The Woodlands, Tex., recently received the departmental award in physics. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Blue Key National Honor Fraternity, and is a dean’s list student. She also is a member of Kappa Delta social sorority, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, Campus Union delegate and Social Affairs Committee. She served on the Presidential Search Committee that chose Dunlap as Wofford’s 10th president.

Haughey, a finance major, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Haughey of Rock Hill. He is a member of the Wofford football team, a Wofford Scholar and chaired Terrier Play Day. He played quarterback for the Terriers football team for three years until a career-ending injury, but served as an assistant coach. He has accepted a position with Ernst & Young and will pursue graduate work at Notre Dame University this summer. He also was a member of the Newman Club and the Ethos Council. He is a dean’s list student.

Wofford College is one of about 50 colleges and universities, most of them in the South, authorized to present the Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards. The recipients, a graduating senior and a non-student, are named and the awards presented annually during spring commencement ceremonies.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan, born in Indiana in 1826, rose to success in New York City as a respected lawyer and a man who “reached out both hands in constant helpfulness” to others. The award bearing his name was established in 1925 by a Sullivan Memorial Committee and the New York Southern Society, which Sullivan had served as its first president. The award seeks to perpetuate the excellence of character and humanitarian service of Sullivan by recognizing and honoring such qualities in others.

The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award was created in 1940 by the New York chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to honor those who demonstrate the “spirit of helpfulness and an awareness of the beauty and value of the intangible elements of life.”

Fisher DeBerry, head football coach at the Air Force Academy and a 1960 graduate of Wofford, received an honorary doctor of humanities degree while Dr. G.B. Hodge, a Spartanburg surgeon and philanthropist and 1938 Wofford graduate, was presented an honorary doctor of science degree.

After teaching and coaching at the high school level in his native Pee Dee area of South Carolina, DeBerry returned to Wofford as an assistant football coach in the late 1960s. During his time at Wofford, the Terriers enjoyed tremendous success on the gridiron, playing for the NAIA National Championship in 1970. He then became an assistant coach at Appalachian State University before moving to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1980 as an assistant coach; he became head coach there in 1983. He ranks third among NCAA Division I-A head coaches in tenure, following Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. He is the winningest coach in Air Force history.

DeBerry was a letterman in both football and baseball while at Wofford, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1960. He also was a member of Kappa Sigma social fraternity and the Glee Club, and participated in ROTC. While stationed in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area with the U.S. Army, DeBerry earned a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Pittsburgh in 1963.

He has served in leadership positions with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Ronald McDonald House program, the American Cancer Society, Easter Seals, the March of Dimes, the Salvation Army, and the American Hearth Association. He and his wife, LuAnn, have two children and four grandchildren.

Hodge, a 1938 Wofford graduate, practiced general, thoracic and cardiovascular surgery in Spartanburg for more than 50 years before his full retirement in 2000. During that span, he treated more than 65,000 patients and was one of the pioneers in the practice of heart, lung and brain surgery in the region. He practiced at both Spartanburg Regional Medical Center and at Mary Black Memorial Hospital, and was an adjunct faculty member at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Hodge was intricately involved with the development of higher education in the region and the state. In response to a critical need for a larger nursing program in the Spartanburg area, Hodge led the effort in the mid-1960s to establish a nursing degree program housed in Spartanburg. His leadership helped influence the state legislature, as well as the community and business leaders of the state and region, to establish a campus of the University of South Carolina in Spartanburg. He chaired the Spartanburg County Commission on Higher Education from 1967 through 1995, and has helped oversee the growth and development of the institution. He also was among the founders of Spartanburg Day School, continuing as a sustaining trustee today. He has been a generous supporter of “his three colleges and universities,” as he calls Wofford, Vanderbilt University (where he attended medical school) and Duke University (where he spent his surgical residency).

He has served as chairman of the board of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and was instrumental in the formation of its Leadership Spartanburg program. He also has served in leadership capacities for the United Way of the Piedmont and the Episcopal Church of the Advent. He is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, a former Kiwanis Club Citizen of the Year, and has been honored with distinguished service awards from the University of South Carolina and Duke University Medical Center. He has received an honorary degree from the University of South Carolina and a building on the USCS campus bears his name.