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Wofford to Honor Alumni DeBerry, Hodge

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC—U.S. Air Force Academy head football coach Fisher DeBerry and Spartanburg surgeon and philanthropist Dr. G.B. Hodge will receive honorary degrees from their alma mater during commencement exercises on Sunday, May 18, 2003.

Honoring them will be a highlight of Wofford’s 149th commencement exercises, which will be held on the lawn of Main Building beginning at 9:30 that morning. As has become tradition, President Benjamin Dunlap will be the speaker.

Activities during Commencement Weekend will include the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony on Saturday, May 17, at 11 a.m., followed by the baccalaureate worship service at 4 p.m., led by the Rev. Dr. Talmage B. Skinner Jr. (Class of 1956), the retiring Perkins-Prothro chaplain and professor of religion.

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.

Hodge will receive an honorary doctor of science degree, while DeBerry will be presented with an honorary doctor of humanities degree.