News from campus and beyond

Furman honors alumni, inducts new members to Benefactors Circle

Chad Bennett

In mid-May, Furman’s trustees, boards and councils converged on campus for the annual Leadership Summit Weekend. In addition to regular meetings, key volunteers and donors gathered for the presentation of the year’s four alumni awards, Benefactors Circle induction, keynote assembly, and the yearly gala, Night of the Stars.  The latter event celebrated the culmination of the $400 million Because Furman Matters campaign.

Honoring top Benefactors

There is a special honor roll at Furman recognizing the university’s top donors.  Those who cumulatively committed $1 million or more throughout a lifetime are honored at the Benefactors Circle adjacent to Cherrydale Alumni House. The names, which are engraved in granite beneath the careful watch of University founder Richard Furman, are familiar ones: Duke, Blackwell, Daniel, Hollingsworth and Townes, to name a few.

On May 16, Furman added three more names to the roster of extraordinary philanthropy: “B.K.” and Frances Bryan, Doug ’72 and Tricia Freeman, and Robert ’83 and Margaret Platt Hill.

William K Bryan, Sr. and Frances Jones Bryan

A native of New Bern, North Carolina, and graduate of Louisburg College, William King “B.K.” and Frances Jones Bryan made Greenville their home in 1946. A veteran of World War II as a B-24 pilot in Italy, B.K. went on to have a successful entrepreneurial career. He owned WKB Enterprises, Allied Corp, WKB Ltd, and General Wholesale Distributors and Charter Distributors of Greenville. He also served as a partner for Charter Aviation. A generous philanthropist and champion of civic organizations in Greenville, he served on the boards of the Greenville Hospital Foundation, Center for Developmental Services, Palmetto Society and Tocqueville Society of the United Way, and the Greenville Free Medical Clinic. He was a passionate advocate for healthcare, particularly for children, and his life’s work was dedicated to improving the lives of others. His service to Furman included membership on the Board of Trustees, Executive Committee of the Furman Forever Campaign, and as chair to both the Advisory Council and the Richard Furman Society.

Frances Jones Bryan, also from New Bern, North Carolina, attended the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina. A mother of four and grandmother of six, she was a homemaker and devoted member of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

The Bryan Center for Military Science, Frances Jones Bryan Garden Room of the Daniel Memorial Chapel, and the Bryan Research Laboratory in the Townes Center for Science are fitting campus spaces that bear their names and stand as testaments to their generosity. Established in 2006 by friends and family, the William King Bryan Endowed Scholarship will honor B.K.’s legacy for future generations of students.

Douglas K. Freeman ’72 and Patricia Slate Freeman

Doug and Patricia Freeman with Furman Interim President Carl Kohrt.

Doug and Patricia Freeman with Furman Interim President Carl Kohrt.

A bank consultant with more than 40 years of experience in the financial services industry, Doug Freeman graduated from Furman in 1972 with a major in Economics and Business Administration. He then received his MBA from the University of South Carolina in 1975. He has held senior-level positions at major regional and national institutions, including Bank of America, NationsBank, Barnett Bank, and Wells Fargo. He has served as chairman of the industry think tank and education group Bank Administration Institute, as well as the retail bank trade group Consumer Bankers Association. He is a former member of the Thrift Advisory Board for the Federal Reserve System and has been an advocate for public and private sector collaboration through his work on the Economic Development Commission in California and Enterprise Florida. An avid supporter of education, Freeman has taught for 35 years at the Graduate School of Retail Banking at Furman University. In addition to his service as a Furman Trustee, he is also on the board of trustees for the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

Born in High Point, North Carolina, Patricia Slate Freeman is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. The Freemans have two daughters who both graduated from Furman — Dorothy in 2004 and Nan in 2007.

Their benefactions to Furman include the establishment of three endowed scholarships. The Dr. B.L. Freeman, Jr. ’43 Scholarship is  named in honor of Doug’s father, and the Nan Freeman ’07 and Dorothy Freeman ’04 Scholarships honor their daughters. The Freeman Lecture Hall in the Townes Center for Science and a classroom suite in Hipp Hall also recognize their philanthropy. They are faithful members of the Richard Furman Society.

Robert E. Hill, Jr. ’83 and Margaret Platt Hill ’83

Robert and Margaret Platt Hill

Robert and Margaret Platt Hill

Robert Hill, a 1983 Furman graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration, is currently Vice Chair of the Furman Board of Trustees. Since 2009, he has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Acosta, a full-service sales, marketing, and service company in Jacksonville, Florida. Formerly President of Siler Brokerage, a family business established in 1927, he managed sales and marketing for numerous consumer packaged goods companies when Acosta acquired Siler in 1994. He went on to become Acosta’s Chief Operating Officer in 2004 and to lead the company to record financial results. In addition to his service on the Furman Board, he is a trustee for Jacksonville University, chairs the board of Baptist Healthcare System and JAXUSA Partnership of the Jacksonville Chamber, and is a board member of Baptist Medical Center and Big Brother/Big Sisters of North Florida.

Margaret Platt Hill majored in English and graduated magna cum laude in the Class of 1983. She is a former editor with Mercer University Press. She currently chairs the diaconate at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church and is a member of the board of Learn to Read in Duval County. She has served on boards for WJCT, a public radio and television station, and Speaking of Women’s Health. She is a volunteer and member of the advisory board of Hill Breast Center at Baptist Medical Center, and is an active volunteer for local public schools.

Together, Robert and Margaret have a tradition of service and generosity to Furman. They are past chairs of the Richard Furman Society Executive Committee and served on the Because Furman Matters Campaign Executive Committee. The Hill Atrium and Hill Courtyard of the Trone Student Center bear their names, as does the laboratory in the Townes Center for Science. Their benefactions support the Partners Scholarship Program, Richard Furman Society, and Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection.

The Hills have two children, one of whom, Marshall, is a 2012 Furman graduate.

Alumni lauded

Furman honors four distinguished alumni every year, who are nominated and selected by the Young Alumni Council and Alumni Board of Directors.

Wayne and Rubye Reid Career Services Award: Jeff Walker ‘03

The Reid Award is named in honor of Wayne ’68 and Rubye Reid and recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to the career development of Furman students.

Though he spent his early life in Florida, four years at Furman convinced Jeff Walker that Greenville was home. After receiving a master’s degree in accountancy from the University of Georgia, Jeff began a successful career with Elliott Davis, a Greenville accounting firm, where he has remained for the past ten years and currently works as a senior manager.

As the accounting firm continued to grow and expand, they recognized a need to recruit top students in order to build their infrastructure and serve the successful clients they hoped to continue to attract. Jeff began working on the executive recruiting committee four years ago and initiated a process to make Furman one of the firm’s focus schools for identifying new talent.

“The results have been exceptional. I have had the privilege of hiring 12 Furman accounting students for internships and full time positions with the firm. We also accepted three current students into our leadership program for this summer,” Jeff said.

Jeff was named one of Greenville Magazine’s “Best and Brightest” in 2012, where he was lauded for his leadership and mentoring skills, as well as a knack for maintaining strong relationships with both clients and prospects. While a student at Furman, Jeff honed his leadership skills as vice president of Sigma Nu fraternity and through the Shucker Leadership Program.

Jeff is an active member of the Paladin Club, is Board Chair in Greenville for SAFY (Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth), and has two daughters with his wife, Jaclyn.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award: Chad Bennett ‘03

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have graduated within the past fifteen years and who have expressed the finest of the Furman tradition through service to their profession and their community.

Chad Bennett

Chad Bennett

Chad Bennett understands the value of the internship experience, and he shares his own success in the entertainment industry with Furman students and alumni.

Founder and CEO of Populus Brands, an innovative brand-building company that drives franchise growth, incremental revenue, and consumer engagement, the Charleston native most recently worked for Reveille Productions, company that produced and branded well-known entities like The Biggest Loser and MasterChef. As vice president of brand development, he built the department from the ground up, changing the landscape of the business around reality programming. His experience redefining and recreating new business models around reality and digital content prepared him to found Populus Brands.

Chad has produced more than 650 hours of network and cable programming, developed and launched over 1000 products and brand extensions leading to more than $500 million in consumer spending, and executed hundreds of integrations and marketing extensions responsible for significant revenue and billions of marketing impressions.

Beyond the notoriety his success has brought Furman, Chad aimed to do more to give back to his alma mater. In 2007, he initiated an internship program at Reveille with the help of internship program director Susan Zeiger. In the seven years since the program started, which he now continues at Populus Brands, he has been instrumental in helping nearly 15 Furman students break into one of the toughest industries around – even hiring three for full-time jobs post grad. “I wasn’t aware of a big Furman network out in L.A., so I wanted to open up that industry for our community. I knew Furman students would be hard-working, smart, and professional … so it made sense for me to see how we could establish an internship program,” he said.

Gordon L. Blackwell Alumni Service Award: Marvin Hardy ‘91

The Alumni Service Award is named for the late Gordon L. Blackwell ’60, who served as president of the Alumni Association and was a member of the Board of Trustees. It is presented to alumni who have given loyal and dedicated service to Furman.

Marvin Hardy

Marvin Hardy

Dr. Marvin Hardy was a pediatrician with two thriving medical practices when he had the idea to start a holistic healthcare facility for Orlando’s needy population. After participating in a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic, he began to see that the same needs facing the Dominicans were also present in his own community. “We realized a community problem needed community support,” he said.

Marvin was moved both by his Christian belief and experiences with patients who have jobs but are unable to afford health care for themselves and their children. “It was a burden on my heart, an ache that just didn’t go away. And finally it got to the point where I had to listen to it,” he said.

As his notion spread from a concept to a conceivable vision, other healthcare professionals with similar concerns joined the effort to create a medical home—a place where the working poor and their families can go for basic medical needs and continuing care.

The concept became Grace Medical Home when it opened in late 2009, with Marvin as Medical Director. Led by strong faith and a steady stream of volunteers, Grace aims to provide pediatric and medical services to people who are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Eventually, it could serve 24,000 people. In less than five years, Grace has achieved measurable results such as reducing the number of hospital visits by patients by more than 50 percent and providing regular care for chronic condition patients with diabetes or high blood pressure.

As a Furman student, Marvin was a member of the baseball team and demonstrated his leadership through the Student Alumni Council and the Association of Furman Students (now known as the Student Government Association). With his wife, Carly, Marvin has three children.

Distinguished Alumni Award: Lizanne Thomas ‘79

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually in recognition of significant professional accomplishments and continuing loyalty to Furman.

Lizanne Thomas

Lizanne Thomas

A 1979 cum laude graduate, Lizanne Thomas’s time as a Furman student included honors like the President’s Award for General Excellence, Senior Order, and serving as President of the student government. She received her J.D. in 1982 from Washington and Lee University, where she was managing editor of Law Review. Since then, Lizanne has continued to earn accolades professionally and through her service to Furman.

Lizanne is partner-in-charge of the Atlanta office of the world-wide Jones Day firm, employing 127 local attorneys, where she heads the corporate governance team. A member of the firm since 1982, Lizanne was the first woman to run a top-ten firm in Atlanta. She is experienced in public and private mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and defensive planning. Lizanne is also actively involved in general corporate counseling, including advising boards of directors.

A member of the Board of Directors for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Lizanne serves as chair of the Governance committee, member of the Compensation Committee, and previously served as co-chair of the Special Committee charged with investigating allegations relating to the company. She is also a recurring panelist at director training programs and speaks internationally on corporate governance.

Active in both her Atlanta community and Furman, she currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Research Alliance, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, as vice chair of the Georgia Chapter of CEOs Against Cancer, and is a member of the Atlanta Rotary Club. Lizanne is a former two-term Furman University Trustee, member of the President’s Advisory Council. Additionally, she has played an integral role in developing the new Women in Leadership for Life (WILL) program.

Lizanne is married to fellow Washington and Lee Law alumnus David Black, and they have two sons, Roger and Riley.


Chad Bennett, Lizanne Thomas and Marvin Hardy received major alumni awards.

Chad Bennett, Lizanne Thomas and Marvin Hardy received major alumni awards.

Last updated June 10, 2014
Share This
Contact Us
Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director