News from campus and beyond

Furman presents awards at Bell Tower Ball

|||Charles Davis

Last updated February 18, 2020

By News administrator

Furman University presented a number of major awards at its annual Bell Tower Ball Saturday, Feb. 22.

The event, which took place at the Greenville Convention Center, celebrated the accomplishments of members of the Furman community. Several alumni, a corporate partner and friends of the university were honored for their professional achievements and for their generosity, service and leadership to the university and community.

Carl F. Kohrt Distinguished Alumni Award
Deborah Malac ’77

Presented in recognition of significant professional or personal accomplishments and in gratitude for continued loyalty to Furman University. 

Deborah joined the U.S. Department of State in 1981, and the majority of her foreign service career has been concentrated in Africa. In 2015, former President Barack Obama nominated Deborah to be the U.S. ambassador to Uganda. She is the former ambassador to Liberia.

Deborah’s previous assignments with the State Department include service as Director of the Office of East African Affairs; Director of the Mid-Level Division in the Office of Career Development and Assignments in the Bureau of Human Resources; Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Deputy Director in the Office of East African Affairs; and Deputy Director in the Office of Agricultural, Biotechnology and Textiles Trade Affairs and Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.

She has also served as a political officer in Bangkok, Thailand and Pretoria, South Africa; Desk Officer for South Africa and Laos; Officer-in-Charge of the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs; and as a consular/economic officer in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

Tom A. Triplitt Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Derek Snook ’08

Recognizes an alumnus who graduated in the past 20 years and who has brought honor or recognition to Furman through individual accomplishments or as a volunteer. 

Derek Snook has been an advocate for the homeless for most of his adult life. Following his graduation from Furman in 2008, he spent a year voluntarily living in a halfway house for the homeless. Derek’s experiences there inspired him to establish In Every Story (IES) Labor Services, an employment agency dedicated to connecting its clients with permanent and financially stable employment.

After running IES for six years, Derek spent 2018 traveling the world, living in a co-living space for entrepreneurs in Brooklyn, a monastery in France, an intergenerational community in the Netherlands, a community for those with disabilities in Slovenia, and a refugee camp in Greece.

Upon his return in 2019, he founded CoLife, a network of shared living and working spaces located in Charleston, South Carolina.

In addition to authoring two books – “The Definition of Success” and “Driving w/ Strangers: Meditations from Mongolia to London” – he writes for The Huffington Post, has been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review and has given a TEDx talk in Charleston.

Gordon L. Blackwell Alumni Service Award
Tony McDade ’79

Recognizes an individual who has dedicated extraordinary service to Furman or the greater community, advancing the university’s position as a private institution with a public mission. 

Rev. Anthony W. McDade is the Executive Director of United Ministries, a Greenville community agency that offers an array of holistic services that help people to rise above poverty. Previously, he served as the executive director of the Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (GAIHN) for 13 years, until the organization combined with United Ministries in July 2016.

An ordained Baptist minister, Tony’s mission and career have centered on transforming and empowering the lives of those in need. His current leadership through United Ministries serves the community through a combination of homeless services, crisis assistance, and education and employment services that guide people on their journey toward achieving self-sufficiency. He previously served as an educator and administrator in several congregations, including the First Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina, (1996-2003) and the First Baptist Church in Clemson (1987-1996).

Tony also provides an important voice for the displaced members of our community in his role as a member of the board of directors at Hollingsworth Funds and as an active member of Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy.

United Way of Greenville County

University Partnership Award
United Way of Greenville

Presented to an organization or individual who has worked in conjunction with Furman to meaningfully contribute to the local or broader community by engaging citizens, promoting public scholarship and working for the betterment of society.

Guided by a common desire to make Greenville County a place where everyone has the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential, United Way of Greenville County (UWGC) is a strong partner to The Furman Advantage.

In 2018, the UWGC commissioned a first-of-its-kind study on the effects of gentrification surrounding the explosive growth in Greenville. The collaboration between Furman and UWGC resulted in an 87-page analysis, “Change in Greenville County Neighborhoods: Challenges and Opportunities,” which was released in October 2019. The study confirmed that residents are struggling in regards to quality transportation, affordable housing and access to quality housing.

Furman and UWGC also partnered with Prisma Health and Greenville County to create a web-based mapping application that allows residents to search a vetted database of approximately 80 categories of community resources such as childcare centers, senior care, government offices and healthcare facilities. The mobile-friendly app also allows users to find driving directions and phone numbers for those services.

Richard W. Riley ’54

Bell Tower Award
Richard W. Riley ’54

Presented to an alumnus who has realized exceptional achievement and has given meritorious service to Furman. This award is just short of the honorary degree.

Richard W. Riley ’54 is the former U.S. Secretary of Education (1993-2001) and former governor of South Carolina (1979-1987). He currently is a senior partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, with more than 400 attorneys in offices throughout the Carolinas and major cities elsewhere in the Southeast, as well as West Virginia, Boston and Washington, D.C. Secretary Riley counsels clients and works with partners to develop strategy on complex business, governance, financial, education, government relations and legal matters for local, national and international clients. Secretary Riley also is senior partner in the law firm’s affiliate, Education Counsel, which specializes in education advocacy, policy, strategy and law.

Secretary Riley remains an ambassador for improving education in the United States and abroad. He serves on Furman’s board of trustees and is the advisory board chair of the Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership. He has been named distinguished professor at the University of South Carolina, and the College of Education at Winthrop University bears his name, as does the College of Education and Leadership at Walden University. In addition, he speaks, provides leadership and serves in an advisory and collaborative capacity with many other entities across the nation and abroad that support education improvement at all levels.

Ellie and Dan Boda

Honorary Alumni Award
Dan and Ellie Boda

Commends individuals who are not Furman graduates but who have made significant contributions to its welfare, reputation, prestige and pursuit of excellence.

Dan and Ellie Boda hold deep ties to Furman University. Ellie taught flute in Furman’s music department, while Dan, professor of music emeritus, taught courses from 1967 to 1994. Prior to his tenure at Furman, Dan earned a bachelor of arts in music and a Ph.D. from Florida State University, as well as a master’s in music from the Eastman School of Music.

The Boda legacy at Furman is carried on through generations, including their daughter Dr. Elaine Boda ’83; son, Alan Boda ’82 and his wife Rev. Karen Boda ’84; and grandchildren Brian ’14, Katherine ’16 and Allison ’20. In addition, the Bodas have established a legacy of support that will impact students in perpetuity through the Daniel and Eleanor Boda String Player Scholarship, the Eleanor and Daniel Boda Flutist Scholarship, the Daniel and Eleanor Boda Scholarship for Orchestral Conducting, and the Eleanor and Daniel Boda Scholarship for Music Education.

Two of Furman’s most distinguished alumni, Dr. Fran Ligler ’73 and Dr. George Ligler ’71, honored their good friend, Dan Boda, in The Furman Standard program.

Kevin Byrne ’91

Wayne and Rubye Reid Award
Kevin Byrne ’91

Recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to the career development of Furman students.

Kevin T. Byrne is nationally recognized in the areas of public-private partnerships, real estate financing structures and the economic development initiatives surrounding university research parks and innovation districts. As President and CEO of The University Financing Foundation (TUFF), he leads an organization that helps higher education institutions thrive and the communities surrounding those institutions to prosper.

Kevin served as President of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) in 2012 and again in 2014 and has served on two Brookings Institution advisory committees – the Innovation District initiative and the Bass Placemaking initiative.

In November, the AURP honored him with the 2019 Vision Award for his contributions to innovation and economic development through development and support of university-based research parks and innovation districts.

Jim and Cindy Mabry

Engaged Parent Award
Jim and Cindy Mabry

Presented to the parents of a Furman student or graduate in appreciation for their commitment to education and leadership as volunteers.

Jim and Cindy Mabry became active members of the Furman Parents Council and leaders on the Parent Campaign Committee while their sons Philip ’11 and George ’13 were students. In 2010, they endowed the James C. Mabry IV and Cynthia S. Mabry Internship Fund to expose Furman students to foreign cultures, acclimate them to global economic concepts and afford them experiences that would make them more competitive in their career search. Jim served two terms as a member of the Furman Board of Trustees and was instrumental in fundraising efforts toward the construction of the Joe and Diana Hurley Finance and Business Analytics Lab, which opened in Hipp Hall in 2016.

For more information, contact Rebecca Bilott, director of donor relations, at 864-294-3489 and


Contact Us
Clinton Colmenares
Director of News and Media Strategy