USC Upstate Celebrates 45th Annual Founders Day, Honors Those Who Have Made Outstanding Contributions

February 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm

The Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education will hold its 45th annual Founders Day Celebration where it will honor seven individuals who have contributed greatly to the University of South Carolina Upstate. Founders Day will be held on Thursday, February 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the Campus Life Center Ballroom.

“The Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education is pleased to host this celebration each year as it provides an opportunity to pay particular tribute to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in support of USC Upstate and on behalf of the people we serve,” said Thomas R. Young, III, chairman of the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education.

The G.B. Hodge, M.D. Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest recognition the Commission can grant and is designed to recognize a lifetime of history altering influence on the shape, character and destiny of the University of South Carolina Upstate. This award will be presented to James “Jim” R. Smith ʼ72. A Spartanburg native, Jim Smith long ago established his ties with the University of South Carolina Upstate, then USCS, when he enrolled as a student in 1968.

After finishing his two years on the Spartanburg campus, Jim headed to USC Columbia where he graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Returning to Spartanburg, Jim spent the next 40 years building an illustrious career. An entrepreneurial businessman, Jim has principal interests in real estate brokerage, development and auction marketing. He is the CEO/Senior Partner with the following businesses: Carolina Auction Team, Inc.; Jim Smith & Associates, Inc., REALTORS; Smith & Lowe Development, Inc.; and RMJ Enterprises, LP.

Jim has given very generously to USC Upstate of his time, talent and resources. He served as a board member on the University’s Foundation from 1998-2007. Smith was appointed to the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education in 1991. He served as chair of the Commission from 2001 to 2011 and has since been named Chairman Emeritus.

As a way of paying it forward to future generations, Jim has endowed two scholarships at USC Upstate – in memory of his mother and father. The Frances Elizabeth Sitton Smith Nursing Scholarship and The Clinton Richard Smith Scholarship are awarded annually.  USC Upstate has honored Jim with the Alumni Association Outstanding Service Award in 1975 and the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2000. He was presented with an honorary doctorate in business administration in 2007.

The Award for Distinguished Service honors those who have demonstrated a long and distinguished career of service to the University, characterized by exceptional dedication to the work at hand, and to the institution.  Allison Berrianʼ11, Marcia Easler (posthumous), Dr. Alice Henderson, and Dr. Jack Turner will receive the Award for Distinguished Service.

Berrian earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from USC Upstate in 2011. During her senior year, Allison served as the student government association president and was very involved in the events surrounding the opening of the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics. She is now employed with American Credit Acceptance in downtown Spartanburg as a business analyst for the company’s senior vice president where she works closely with the accounting department on cost savings and cost efficiency models.


Easler worked as a financial aid counselor at USC Upstate, helping countless students realize their dreams of obtaining a college degree. Her former co-workers fondly remember Marcia as a sweet and wonderful person whose passing has left a void in their office. A native of Albany, Georgia, Marcia earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Coker College. Before coming to USC Upstate, she worked at payroll manager for Centerplate and Spartan Radiocasting (WSPA-TV).



Henderson, who received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan, arrived on the USC Upstate campus in 1970 to teach history. Her special interests focused on European and American history since 1800, women’s history, and history of the civil rights movement. She was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Europe.

Selected for the International Research and Exchange Fellowship in 1988, Henderson spent a semester with her husband doing research in East Berlin, the year before the Berlin Wall came down. The result of their research on German musical history, was a co-authored a book dealing with 19th century German music.  Her subsequent research in American history resulted in a book on the New York State Antislavery Society and articles in the Encyclopedia of South Carolina, Textile Town and several publications on women’s history.  She continued to teach full-time until 1998 when she was named Distinguished Professor Emerita. Henderson continues to teach on a part-time basis.

Since 1974, thousands of students have studied biology at USC Upstate under the instruction of Dr. Jack Turner. He has broadened their minds with environmental science, microbiology, ecology, and aquatic ecology. Turner represents the very best of teaching, service, and scholarship at USC Upstate.  He is an outstanding teacher who is greatly appreciated by his students, a committed individual to his profession, and an extremely active individual in giving to the community.

Over the years Turner has mentored numerous students in undergraduate research projects. His students have won awards from the South Carolina Academy of Sciences and from Sigma Xi for their research projects. Turner was named Teacher of the Year in 1978 and he won the Annual Faculty Award for Scholarly and/or Creative Pursuits for 2001. He was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Poland.

He is the founder of the USC Upstate Watershed Ecology Center and serves as its director.  His establishment of a water quality testing lab has provided opportunities for USC Upstate students to obtain lab skills and experience in environmental testing. In 2001, Turner raised funds to establish the Watershed Education Program to offer hands-on learning activities to local children that correlate to the South Carolina science standards. During the 2010-2011 school year, this program brought hand-on science education to more than 22,000 kids in Spartanburg County.

Turner has received numerous awards for conservation and environmental efforts. In 2002, he received the South Carolina Environmental Awareness Award, which acknowledges outstanding contributions made toward the protection, conservation, and improvement of South Carolina’s natural resources. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control presented him with the Champions of the Environment Award in 2003 and 2004. Turner earned a bachelor’s degree in soil science at Colorado State University, a master’s degree in bacteriology at South Dakota State University, and a Ph.D. in microbial ecology at University of Oklahoma.

The Founders Day Awards provides recognition to those persons in the larger community who have been of exceptional assistance to the University. Receiving the Founders Day Awards are William R. Cobb ʼ74 and Dr. Marsha Dowell.

As the transformation of USC Upstate campus unfolded with the implementation of the master plan, careful thought was given to beautification initiatives. Cobb’s personal interest in these initiatives have made a substantial impact on the development of the Susan Jacobs Arboretum and other landscaping endeavors that aid in student recruitment and campus beautification.

Cobb’s unwavering personal and professional commitment to the advancement of the University has been noteworthy in his service to the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education and the USC Upstate Foundation. His generosity to fundraising campaigns has contributed to USC Upstate being able to construct new facilities and outfit them with the latest in technology to the benefit of current and future students.

In his professional life, Bill is a veteran of the J M Smith Corporation. He has served since 1998 as Chairman of the Board and CEO of the corporation, a $2+ billion a year healthcare and technology company. The J M Smith Corporation is the third largest privately held company in South Carolina and operates six business units — QS/1, Smith Drug Co., Integral Solutions Group, Smith Premier Services, Norgenix and RxMedic. He previously served as president of QS/1, a post he held for 21 years.

A native of Spartanburg, Bill earned an associate’s degree from Dutchess County Community College, a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina Upstate, and an MBA from the Darla Moore School of Business at USC. Cobb has been honored as a University of South Carolina Upstate Distinguished Alumnus. He serves as chairman of the College Hub of Spartanburg.

As the senior vice chancellor of academic affairs for USC Upstate, Dowell serves as the University’s chief academic officer. In the four years that Dowell has served in this role, she has demonstrated great capacity to lead and manage in the areas of greatest importance to the USC Upstate mission: academic excellence, enrollment growth planning, strategic academic planning, student success initiatives, curriculum development, personnel evaluation, organizational realignment, budget management, revenue enhancement, and partnerships with other colleges and schools and the public sector.

Prior to being named senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, Dowell served as the dean of the Mary Black School of Nursing from July 2005 to December 2008. USC Upstate benefitted tremendously from her more than 30-year academic career (in the classroom, clinical areas and academic offices) at multiple institutions and in various roles. Additionally, Dowell brought with her extensive experience in the area of health policy and nursing practice at national and international levels.

She earned a Ph.D. in Nursing Administration with a concentration in health policy from George Mason University, a Master’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Virginia, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Mount Mercy College.

“We are pleased to recognize these outstanding individuals at Founders Day,” said Chancellor Tom Moore. “The service of the Founders Day and Distinguished Service Honorees is what has made this University one of the finest, strongest and fastest growing in the State of South Carolina.”