SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA—Wofford College will present honorary degrees to three people who have made significant contributions to the college, Spartanburg and the culinary and performing arts fields during its 2023 Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 21.

Patricia Gainey, Brenda Lee Pryce and Alexander Smalls will be honored during the ceremony. Smalls also will serve as the college’s Commencement speaker.

Patricia Gainey, the first woman to coach at Wofford, established the college’s first women’s athletics teams in the early 1980s. Gainey arrived at Wofford in 1979 after earning her master’s degree at Appalachian State University. She started club basketball and volleyball teams for women at Wofford before starting varsity teams in the same sports to compete in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. Gainey left Wofford after five years and spent 32 years working in Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, where she held positions as a teacher, curriculum coordinator, assistant principal, principal and instructional superintendent. She was named the district’s principal of the year in 2015.

Gainey, who is retired, lives in Kernersville, North Carolina. She volunteers with committees focused on youth, including service on the Crosby Scholars Board. She mentored principals at the North Carolina Leadership Academy, and she currently mentors teachers as an adjunct professor at Salem College.

Pryce is a lifelong resident of Spartanburg’s Southside community and a former state legislator. In 1995, she became the first Black woman from Spartanburg elected to the South Carolina Legislature. She served as House District 31’s representative for 10 years. As a legislator, she secured funding for breast cancer education for disadvantaged women in the Upstate, introduced a resolution designating a stretch of South Church Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., served on the legislature’s Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee and managed a successful campaign for Congressman James E. Clyburn.

Pryce is a tireless advocate for sharing and celebrating Spartanburg’s Black history. She co-authored “South of Main,” a book that documents the history of Spartanburg’s Southside and the impact that urban renewal and its failed revitalization efforts had on the community. Pryce has received many awards and served on numerous boards and committees, including the Spartanburg African American Heritage and Culture Committee, which has led efforts for the Southside Cultural Monument that will be unveiled in the summer to celebrate Spartanburg’s Black history. She’s a former member of the college’s President’s Advisory Council.

Smalls is believed to be the only person to win James Beard, Grammy and Tony awards. He’s a Spartanburg native and a former Wofford student who lives in New York. In 2019, Smalls, the author of three cookbooks, received a James Beard Award for his cookbook “Between Harlem and Heaven.” He’s the visionary co-owner of renowned restaurants The Cecil and Minton’s. Minton’s was the birthplace of BeBop in the 1930s, and Smalls’ supper club in the building has live music and Lowcountry cuisine inspired by his childhood. The Cecil, New York City’s first Afro-Asian-American restaurant, was named “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire in 2014.

Smalls received the Creative Spirit Award from the Black alumni of Pratt Institute in 2019. Legendary actress Cicely Tyson presented the award. Over the past three decades, the chef and restaurateur has traveled the world studying the cooking techniques and foodways of the African diaspora. In 2021, Smalls opened the first contemporary modern African dining hall in Dubai. He’s also a world-renowned opera singer and the winner of both a Grammy Award and a Tony Award for the cast recording of “Porgy and Bess,” by George Gershwin, with the Houston Grand Opera. He’s been profiled in countless publications, including The New York Times and Food & Wine.

Find the complete schedule for Wofford’s 2023 Commencement Weekend, including links to livestreams.

Wofford College, established in 1854, is a four-year, residential liberal arts college located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It offers 27 major fields of study to a student body of 1,800 undergraduates. Nationally known for the strength of its academic program, outstanding faculty, study abroad participation and successful graduates, Wofford is recognized consistently as a “best value” and for its commitment to student success and accessibility for low- and middle-income students. The college community has 12 sororities and fraternities as well as 20 NCAA Division I athletics teams.