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Furman presents awards at Bell Tower Ball

|||Charles Davis

Last updated February 24, 2020

By News administrator

Watch video presentations about the award winners

Furman University recently presented awards at its annual Bell Tower Ball, which took place at the Greenville Convention Center on Saturday, Feb. 22.

The event celebrated the accomplishments of members of the Furman community, honoring several alumni, a corporate partner and friends of the university for their professional achievements and for generosity, service and leadership to the university and the community.

President Elizabeth Davis, Richard W. Riley, and Alec Taylor, Furman Board of Trustees Chair.

Richard W. Riley ’54 received the Bell Tower Award, which is presented each year to an alumnus who has realized exceptional achievement and has given meritorious service to Furman. The award is just short of the honorary degree.

Secretary Riley is the former U.S. Secretary of Education and former governor of South Carolina. He currently is a senior partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. 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.

Ronald Olsen, Deborah Malac ’77, and Don Gordon, Executive Director of the Riley Institute.

Deborah Malac ’77 received the Carl F. Kohrt Distinguished Alumni Award, which is awarded annually in recognition of significant professional or personal accomplishments and in gratitude for continued loyalty to Furman.

After receiving her degree in international studies from Furman, Malac earned a master’s degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia. Malac joined the U.S. Department of State in 1981, and the majority of her foreign service career has been concentrated in Africa. In 2012 former President Barack Obama nominated her to be the ambassador to Liberia; in 2015 she became the U.S. ambassador to Uganda.

Derek Snook ’08 and Courtney Tollison-Hartness, Assistant Professor of History.

Derek Snook ’08 was awarded the Tom A. Triplitt Outstanding Young Alumni Award, which recognizes an alumnus from the last 15 years who has brought honor or recognition to Furman through individual accomplishments.

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. Snook’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. In addition, he has authored two books: “The Definition of Success” and “Driving w/ Strangers: Meditations from Mongolia to London”.

Cam and Tony McDade ’79.

Tony McDade ’79 was presented with the Gordon L. Blackwell Alumni Service Award, which honors an individual who has dedicated extraordinary service to the greater community.

After graduating Furman with a degree in history, McDade continued his education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity degree in 1981, and at Columbia Theological Seminary, where he earned a doctoral degree in ministry in 2001. McDade is currently the executive director of United Ministries, a Greenville community agency that offers an array of holistic services that help people rise above poverty.

Charles Davis, First Gentleman, and Meghan Barp, President and CEO of UWGC.

United Way of Greenville County (UWGC) received the University Partnership Award, which honors an organization or individual for working with Furman to meaningfully contribute to the local or broader community by engaging citizens, promoting public scholarship and working for the betterment of society.

The goal of UWGC is to break down barriers, connect communities and change lives. Furman and UWGC have the common desire to make Greenville County a place where everyone has the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential. Together, Furman and UWGC released a study in 2019 on the effects of gentrification surrounding the explosive growth in Greenville.

Dan and Ellie Boda were presented the Honorary Alumni Award, which commends individuals who are not graduates of Furman but who have made significant contributions to its welfare, reputation, prestige and pursuit of excellence. The Bodas have established a legacy of support that will impact Furman students in

George Ligler ’71 and Ellie and Dan Boda.


Kevin Byrne ’91 received the Wayne and Rubye Reid Award, which recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to the career development of Furman students. He 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.

Jim and Cindy Mabry and Kris Kapoor, Chief Investment Officer.

Jim and Cindy Mabry were presented the Engaged Parent Award, which honors the parents of a Furman student or graduate in appreciation for their commitment to education and leadership as volunteers. 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.


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