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Wofford to confer four honorary degrees at Commencement

Honorary Degree recipients 2009: James Clyburn, Bill Barnet, Henry Gibson, Francis Robicsek
2009-03-31

(MEDIA: For high-resolution photos of the recipients, click on the thumbnails below, then right-click and save to your computer.  If you have problems, please contact Laura Corbin, laura.corbin@wofford.edu or 597-4180.)

 

Barnet, Clyburn, Gibson, Robicsek to be recognized May 17


SPARTANBURG, S.C.
– U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Spartanburg Mayor William Barnet III, Wofford College alumnus Dr. Henry W. Gibson and Charlotte cardiac surgery pioneer and art collector Dr. Francis Robicsek will receive honorary degrees from the college during 2009 Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 17, 2009, on the lawn of Main Building.

Clyburn has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1992, when he was elected to represent the Sixth Congressional District of South Carolina with 56 percent of the vote. In 2006, he unanimously was elected by his fellow Democratic colleagues as the Majority Whip for the 110th Congress, the third-ranking position in the House. He will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. He had served 18 years as South Carolina Human Rights Commissioner.

Barnet, CEO of Barnet & Co., was elected mayor of Spartanburg in November 2001 as a write-in candidate and has served since, being re-elected in 2005. Barnet helped his father operate the family-owned company, which in 2000 was doing business in more than 50 countries, since the mid-1960s. In April 2001, he sold the company’s assets to a management group and continues as the chairman.

Gibson, a family physician who has practiced for more than 50 years in the Barnwell, S.C., community and who still, at age 84, makes house calls, is the founder of the Carolina Honduras Health Foundation, which provides medical services to the impoverished population of Honduras. In November 2008, he was recognized as the Family Physician of the Year by the South Carolina Academy of Family Physicians. He will receive an honorary doctor of science degree.

Robicsek is one of the most distinguished thoracic and cardiovascular surgeons working in the United States today, now serving as the chief of staff of the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. At age 83, he still travels each year to eastern Europe and other parts of the underdeveloped world to perform free heart surgeries on children in need of his special expertise. He also is a recognized authority on such disparate subjects as Mayan inscriptions, Leonardo da Vinci, American religious art, and Greek and Russian iconography. He will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.


(FULL BIOGRAPHIES OF THE FOUR RECIPIENTS FOLLOW)

The Commencement Exercises will be held beginning at 9:30 a.m. on the lawn of Main Building. (Rain location will be Benjamin Johnson Arena.) Wofford will confer some 270 degrees during Commencement, and the Class of 1959 will be featured participants in the ceremonies and events surrounding it.

Also at Commencement, the college will present the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards to two students and two non-students. The Roger Milliken Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Science and the Philip Covington Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Humanities and Social Sciences also will be presented to faculty members.

BIOGRAPHIES OF HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS:

/uploadedImages/newsroom/newsImagesPhotos/clyburnJames300dpi.jpgTHE HONORABLE JAMES E. CLYBURN

The Honorable James E. Clyburn was born July 21, 1940, in rural Sumter, S.C. He was educated in the schools of that community, ultimately graduating from Mather Academy in Camden. In 1962, he graduated as a student leader from South Carolina State College in Orangeburg.

Clyburn was elected president of his NAACP youth chapter when he was 12 years old, participated in numerous marches and demonstrations, and was selected as a star witness in a 1960 Orangeburg civil disobedience case. He later was jailed in a 1961 march on the South Carolina State House that resulted in the landmark breach of the peace case Edwards v South Carolina.

Following college, Clyburn started working as a history teacher in Charleston, S.C., later serving as an employment counselor and director of two youth and community development programs, and eventually directing a migrant and seasonal farm workers program. After he narrowly lost an election in 1970 for the S.C. House of Representatives, then-Gov. John C. West appointed Clyburn to his staff, and four years later made him the state Human Affairs Commissioner. At that time, he was the first African-American to serve as an advisor to a South Carolina governor since Reconstruction.

In 1992, after serving as Human Affairs Commissioner for 18 years, Clyburn ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from the Sixth Congressional District of South Carolina, and won with 56 percent of the vote. He continues to hold this Congressional seat today, and in 2006 he was elected unanimously by his fellow Democratic colleagues as the Majority Whip for the 110th Congress, the third-ranking position in the House of Representatives.

Clyburn and his wife, Emily, have three daughters and two grandchildren. The Clyburns have been staunch supporters of their alma mater, South Carolina State University, and have raised more than $1.5 million for an endowed fund in archives and history at the institution. Clyburn has been honored by numerous colleges and universities and served an eight-year term on the Wofford College Board of Trustees, from 1990 to 1998.

WILLIAM BARNET III

/uploadedImages/newsroom/newsImagesPhotos/barnetBill300dpi.jpgWilliam (Bill) Barnet III, CEO of Barnet Co., was elected mayor of Spartanburg in November 2001 as a write-in candidate. He has served as mayor since, being re-elected in 2005. Barnet helped his father operate the family-owned company, which in 2000 was doing business in more than 50 countries, since the mid-1960s. In April 2001, he sold the company’s assets to a management group and continues as the chairman.

Barnet has played a key role in South Carolina’s education reform effort. From the PASS Commission to working on the passage of the Education Accountability Act to chairing the state’s Education Oversight Committee, he has been at the epicenter of education improvement. One of his initiatives has been the College Town Consortium of Spartanburg’s six colleges and universities designed to strengthen their working relationships and connection to the community.

Barnet has served as chairman of the Palmetto Business Forum and is the former chairman of the Converse College Board of Trustees. He also has served on a variety of local and state boards. He is the past president of the S.C. Textile Manufacturers Association. A member of FleetBoston Financial Group’s board of directors since 1985, he was named in 2004 to the board of directors of Bank of America. He also was inducted in 2004 into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame. He is a board member of Bank of America and Duke Energy Corp., in addition to the Duke Endowment. He is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto.

DR. HENRY WRIGHT GIBSON


/uploadedImages/newsroom/newsImagesPhotos/gibsonHenry300dpi.jpgDr. Henry Wright Gibson was born June 18, 1924, in Batesburg, S.C. Service as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force interrupted his Wofford education, which began in 1941. He graduated from Wofford College (B. S) in 1946, and earned the M.D. degree in 1950 from the Medical University of South Carolina.

For more than 50 years, Gibson has been a family physician in rural Barnwell, S.C. In this small community, he Gibson is a legendary character, serving as the quintessential country doctor who still, at nearly 85 years of age, makes house calls. He is a leading citizen of the community, a United Methodist lay leader, and the father of four grown daughters. He has a grandson who will graduate from Wofford during the May 17 Commencement Exercises.

Gibson founded a revolutionary medical mission to serve those in need in Honduras. In 1987, he made his first trip to Honduras and worked on the island of Utila doing medical mission work. On his second trip, in 1989, he visited a number of small, ill-equipped and understaffed clinics throughout the region, many accessible only by canoe. In 1994, he decided to undertake a massive effort to rally financial support from the greater Barnwell community and beyond to be dedicated to supporting medical work in Honduras. In 1995, the Carolina Honduras Health Foundation was started, and more than $50,000 was raised by the end of that year.

In 1997, a new Carolina Health Clinic was opened in Limon so that doctors and dentists would no longer have to work from makeshift clinic facilities. In 1999, an education building was added to the medical/dental facility, and in 2000, a satellite clinic was opened in Icoteas, about an hour’s drive from Limon. In 2007, 18 medical teams with more than 275 volunteers made trips into the area, seeing more than 15,000 patients and filling more than 45,000 prescriptions.

Gibson recently completed his 35th mission trip to Honduras, and is still actively engaged in growing the work of the clinics there and spreading the positive impact of those he has influenced to be involved in this massive humanitarian effort. In November 2008, he Gibson was recognized as the Family Physician of the Year by the South Carolina Academy of Family Physicians.

DR. FRANCIS ROBICSEK

/uploadedImages/newsroom/newsImagesPhotos/robicsekFrancis300dpi.jpgDr. Francis Robicsek, who was born July 4, 1925, is one of the most distinguished thoracic and cardiovascular surgeons working in the United States today, now serving as the chief of staff of the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.

Robicsek’s life exemplifies the best in a liberal education and humanitarian compassion. At age 83, he still travels each year to eastern Europe and other parts of the underdeveloped world to perform free heart surgeries on children in need of his special expertise.

In addition to his success in medicine, Robicsek is also a recognized authority on such disparate subjects as Mayan inscriptions, Leonardo da Vinci, American religious art, and Greek and Russian iconography. As a collector, he has donated numerous works of art to museums, most notably the Mint Museum in Charlotte, where a wing bears his name. Through his time, publications, lectures and donations, he generously has shared his gifts with others. Because Robicsek recognized the considerable collection of paintings by Hungarian artists given to Wofford several years ago by the late Sandor Teszler, a friendship has been established between the college and Robicsek. He has loaned portions of his collection to Wofford for display, has made several donations of art works to the college, and lectured on campus on Leonardo da Vinci’s Anatomy of the Heart in 2003.

A native of Mikolsc, Hungary, Robicsek was educated in his native country in the 1950s. He was selected for a fellowship and residency in thoracic surgery at Charlotte Memorial Hospital in 1957, and has been in the region since. Robicsek is one of the most recognized medical practitioners in the world. He is responsible for the publication of seven books, more than 500 medical/scientific articles, and more than 450 presentations at national and international scientific meetings. In 1976, he was named Citizen of the Year for the state of North Carolina and for the city of Charlotte. Surgical suites at hospitals in Hungary and the United States have been named to honor his work, and in 1999, he was listed among 100 Carolinians of the Century by the Charlotte Observer.