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College of Arts and Sciences

  • 12 people smiling as they receive awards.

Recognition of Excellence Celebration

The annual Recognition of Excellence Celebration celebrates distinguished alumni and friends of the College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated outstanding achievement, and service to their profession or to society. Recipients join an esteemed group of honorees who are leaders in industry, the arts, nonprofits, and government. The 2020 and 2021 Honorees were celebrated on September 29, 2022, at a reception with President Amiridis at the Spigner House.

2021 Award Recipients

Ray wears a navy quarter zip pullover and smiles against the camera against a dark background.

Distinguished Service Award:

Kassy Alia Ray, Ph.D.

Kassy Alia Ray is the founder and CEO of Serve & Connect, a nonprofit organization focused on fostering positive change through sustainable police-community partnerships. A graduate of the University of South Carolina with her doctorate in clinical-community psychology, Kassy founded the organization after her husband, Greg Alia, an officer with the Forest Acres Police Department, was shot and killed in 2015.

Alia Ray’s work draws on her personal experiences, combined with her expertise in Community Psychology to foster transformative change in police-community relationships. She is a member of several boards and workgroups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police subcommittee on community policing and the American Psychological Association's Presidential taskforce on reducing police officer use of force.

Introduction Video

Adams stands on the Horseshoe wearing a black shirt and garnet scarf.

Dean’s Award:

Kelly Adams

Kelly Adams has been a leader in campaign management, community and government relations, grassroots advocacy and local and state policy for more than a decade. She currently serves as managing director, state and local government affairs, for Williams, an energy infrastructure company. Adams previously worked for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, managing multiple campaigns, and as a senior associate for The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Adams has been repeatedly honored for her advocacy work. She recently earned a dual Master of Arts in Government and Master of Business Administration degree from Johns Hopkins University. At Adams request, Williams donated $1.5 million to support USC’s Center for Civil Rights.

Introduction Video

Knapp wears a black shirt and blazer and stands in an office with a large piece of abstact artwork.

Distinguished Faculty Award:  

Loren Knapp, Ph.D.

Loren Knapp is a retired professor and associate dean who spent 40 years enhancing the student experience at the University of South Carolina. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he joined the University of South Carolina in 1980 as a post-doctoral fellow before becoming a research assistant professor. His research focuses on the evolution of birds and their feathers.

He served in several leadership roles, including director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Biological Sciences and associate dean for enrollment management, advising and retention in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is commended for advancing many policies designed to enhance student opportunities and achievement.

Introduction Video

Youle sits at a desk wearing a sweater over a button down.

Distinguished Alumni Award:  

Richard J. Youle, Ph.D.

Richard J. Youle is a renowned neurobiologist and molecular biologist who continues to pioneer innovative research that advances science, including developing new therapies for bone marrow transplantation and brain tumor treatment. Since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, Youle has published more than 200 peer-reviewed research articles and has been awarded 26 patents to date.

Youle has been a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health since 1978 and serves as acting chief of the surgical neurological branch and chief of the biochemistry section of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. He received NIH director’s awards in 1997 and 2011 and the 2021 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for groundbreaking research on Parkinson’s disease.

Introduction Video

Croft has long blonde hair and poses in front of flower bushes wearing a black blazer and white blouse.

Distinguished Young Alumni Award:  

Kari Croft

Kari Croft founded Da Vinci RISE High School in Los Angeles, which was funded by an XQ Super Schools $10 million grant. As former Principle and Executive Director, Croft led RISE to launch three sites around the city,and RISE has graduated over 150 students, nearly 50% of whom were navigating foster care, housing instability or the juvenile justice system.

An alumna of the University of South Carolina, Croft went on to earn a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Harvard graduate school of education. She is now pursuing a Masters of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. In addition, Croft has served as policy advisor fellow for Los Angeles unified school district and is the managing director of community and policy impact at Teach For America and a policy analyst at Cause Impacts.

Introduction Video

Jim and Elaine Johnson at a banquet

Institutional Support Award:  

Jim and Elaine Johnson

Jim and Elaine Johnson are the parents of the late Ann Johnson, who died unexpectedly in December of 2016. In honor of Ann Johnson’s legacy as an excellent scholar and teacher, Jim and Elaine Johnson (with daughter Katherine Lewandowski) endowed and established the Ann Johnson Institute for Science, Technology and Society.

Ann Johnson was a faculty member of the history and philosophy departments at the University of South Carolina from 2004-2015, when she took a position at Cornell University. Colleagues at both South Carolina and Cornell remember Ann as a loyal and supportive friend as well as an invested educator who gave generously of her time. The Ann Johnson Institute aims to carry forward her legacy by funding interdisciplinary communities of research and pedagogy.

Introduction Video

2020 Award Recipients

Wilson smiles at the camera in military uniform in front of official flags.

Distinguished Service Award:

Major General Cornell A. Wilson, Jr.

Major General Cornell A. Wilson, Jr. is a decorated retired United States Marine Corps veteran who served for 38 years after graduating from the University of South Carolina with a chemistry degree in 1972. He spent over 15 years in high-level positions handling strategic planning, policy development and global security operations. He has also served as cabinet secretary for the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and as military advisor for the governor of North Carolina.

Maj. Gen. Wilson Jr.’s last assignment was as Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces South in Miami, Fl., and as Deputy Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., before retiring in 2010. His many service commendations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.

Introduction Video

Randall wears a white blouse and black blazer with a turquoise necklace. She has a blonde bob and smiles at the camera.

Dean’s Award:

Karen Painter Randall

Karen Painter Randall is a partner and certified civil trial attorney at Connell Foley LLP, where she chairs the cybersecurity, data privacy and incident response group. Considered a national thought leader, she has extensive experience advising clients on cyber risk management, cybersecurity, privacy laws and regulations and incident response.

A proud graduate of the University of South Carolina, Painter Randall received her B.A. from the Honors College, her M.A. in Public Administration and her J.D. from the School of Law. She received three presidential appointments to the American Bar Association’s cybersecurity legal task force and was named the task force’s private sector liaison. In addition, she leads the USC School of Law’s cybersecurity legal task force and directs its annual national cybersecurity institute.

Introduction Video

Anderson wears a green printed wrap dress and looks pensive standing in front of a mirror with the reflection of ballet students.

Distinguished Faculty Award:  

Susan Ellenbast Anderson

Susan Anderson is the founding director of the nationally recognized University of South Carolina Dance Program and Company. Her professional artistic work includes the creation of more than 100 original ballets. Amongher proudest achievements is the securing, design and implementation of the university's new multi-million-dollar dance center.

In June of 2018, Anderson retired from the university and soon returned to serve as the executive director of the USC Board of Dance as well as to produce the Annual Dance Gala. She also continues to teach as well as direct the SC Summer Dance Conservatory.

Introduction Video

Jefferson stands in front of the White House lawn wearing a red blazer and black dress.

Distinguished Young Alumna Award:

Chanda Jefferson, M.T./Ed.M.

Chanda Jefferson is a decorated STEAM educator and leader who has served the South Carolina public school system and has been recognized for her unmatched dedication to her students. Since earning her master's in teaching from the University of South Carolina, she has received the 2014 Outstanding Biology Teacher Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers, was named 2018 Teacher of the Year at Fairfield Central High School and went on to become the 2020 South Carolina Teacher of the Year.

For the past two years, Jefferson has worked in Washington, D.C., as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. In this role she applied her extensive knowledge and classroom experience to national education programs and served as a policy advisor for Congressman David Trone.

Introduction Video

Pendarvis stands at a podium in the SC State House wearing a blue suit.

Distinguished Young Alumnus Award:

State Representative Marvin R. Pendarvis, Esq.

State Representative Marvin R. Pendarvis, Esq. was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2017 and serves House District 113. Representing his hometown of North Charleston, S.C., Pendarvis advocates for education, affordable housing and economic empowerment. His many civic duties include serving on a number of committees and boards as well as the giving back to his community through the Garrett Academy school improvement council and the steering committee of the Trident United Ways Young Leaders United program.

An alumnus of the University of South Carolina, Pendarvis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the Honors College and went on to graduate from the School of Law in 2014 – just three years before he took office. He is a senior attorney with Pendarvis Law, LLC and has been recognized for his accomplishments in serving and advocating for his community.

Introduction Video

Zeus Inc logo features a blue Z on a white background.

Institutional Support Award:


Zeus Industrial Products, Inc., is the global leader in advanced polymer solutions, with applications in industries such as medical, automotive, aerospace, energy, fluid management, fiber optics, and many others. Headquartered in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Zeus employs more than 2,000 people worldwide. In addition to hiring many alumni of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Zeus has put modern technology into the hands of students through equipment donations.

Introduction Video

Previous Winners 

  • Distinguished Service Award: Ann Cameron
  • Distinguished Young Alumna: Lindsay Richardson
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Allen Klump
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award: Neil Jacobs
  • Dean's Award: Henrie Treadwell
  • Institutional Support Award: The Knight Foundation Donor Fund at the Central Carolina Community Foundation
  • Distinguished Alumna Award: Marva A. Smalls
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Ryan C. Holt
  • Distinguished Service Award: Vasa W. Cate, M.D.
  • Dean's Award: Tommy Hickman
  • Institutional Support Award: The Duke Endowment
  • Distinguished Alumnus: Major General James M. Richardson, Jr.
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Jotaka L. Eaddy
  • Distinguished Service: Gregory Thomas Alia (posthumously)
  • Dean's Award: John C. Parry
  • Institutional Support Award: DEA Survivors Benefit Fund
  • Distinguished Alumna: Ms. Anne Hale Miglarese
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Mr. Tommy D. Preston, Jr.
  • Distinguished Service: Ms. Laura Bauld Turner
  • Dean's Award: Ms. Carolyn T. Polston
  • Institutional Support Award: Michelin North America
  • Distinguished Alumna: Ms. Marcia Lee Hale
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Mr. Mike Randal Colter
  • Distinguished Service: Ms. Shirley D. Mills
  • Dean's Award: Mr. John Kevin Hoey
  • Institutional Support: Mr. Jeffrey Leving, Father's Rights
  • Institutional Support Award: Bilinski Educational Foundation
  • Distinguished Alumna: The Honorable Kathryn S. Smith
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Mr. Robert Temple Samuels
  • Distinguished Service: Dr. Jason C. Hu
  • Dean's Award: Mr. Michael Tongour
  • Distinguished Alumna: The Honorable Lindsey O. Graham
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Mr. Nicholas Ray Morris
  • Distinguished Service: Dr. Walter B. Edgar
  • Dean's Award: Mr. Scott Howell
  • Distinguished Alumna: Dr. Gail M. Morrison
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Mr. Daniel D'Alberto
  • Distinguished Service: Ms. Lynn Robertson
  • Dean's Award: Dr. Lois Duke Whitaker
  • Institutional Support Award: Watson-Brown Foundation
  • Distinguished Alumnus: Dr. Janine Anne Davidson, Mr. Mike Randal Colter
  • Distinguished Young Alumnus: Mr. Francis John Person
  • Distinguished Service: The Honorable James E. Smith, Jr.
  • Institutional Support Award: IAVO Research and Scientific


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