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Wofford Homecoming Weekend Oct. 10-11

Monday, October 06, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC – Homecoming Weekend at Wofford College, Friday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 11, will be filled with activities beyond the reunions and a football game.

Horticulturalist Michael A. Dirr and landscape architect Rick Webel, whose ideas inspired the Wofford College Arboretum, will join Russell C. King (Class of 1956) and Ann Silverberg Williamson (1995) as recipients of Wofford National Alumni Association honors. Ceremonies will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11, in the Papadopoulos Building.

At 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dr. J.R. Gross, who recently retired as chairman of the Wofford department of fine arts and who was the founder of the Wofford Theater Workshop, will be honored as the J.R. Gross Cascading Steps on the campus portion of the Liberty Trail is dedicated in his honor. The water feature, which includes 37 steps to commemorate Gross’ years at Wofford, also honors all faculty members, past and present. In addition, Wofford’s section of the Liberty Trail, which connects to the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s walking path, will be dedicated and Russell Raines will be recognized for the contributions he made to the section in honor of his family and the hospital. Eventually, the entire Liberty Trail will become part of the statewide Palmetto Trail.

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.”

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 masterplan 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.

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 is deputy secretary of the Department of Social Services for the state of Louisiana. Now second in line for administration of the agency, she is charged with developing a strategic action plan for the entire department. At Wofford, Williamson majored in religion and won the department’s Charles Nesbitt Award. She 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.

Previously, Williamson served two years as head of the Louisiana Office of Family Support, directing more than 2,800 staff members and overseeing a budget that exceeded $800 million. She also 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.

Wofford’s Homecoming Weekend will begin with private reunions being held on Friday, Oct. 10, in restaurants and other venues in downtown Spartanburg, along with a Wofford-only Street Party and Pep Rally on Magnolia Street.

Saturday’s activities will include campus tours and faculty receptions, along with numerous other activities. After the football game against Elon University at 1:30 p.m., the annual Terrier Ball will be held at 7 p.m. in the Benjamin Johnson Arena, featuring food, entertainment, and live and silent auctions. Tickets to that event are available for $50; call 597-4090. All proceeds go to support scholarships for Wofford student-athletes.