USC Upstate Alumni Association Announces Alumni Award Winners

May 9, 2022 at 10:28 am

The University of South Carolina Upstate Alumni Association presented its 2022 Alumni Awards on Saturday, April 2. Four honorees were recognized at an awards brunch during USC Upstate’s Homecoming celebration. Cyndi Waters, ’83, earned the Distinguished Alumni Award. The Outstanding Alumni Award went to Dione Williams, ’03. Brooke Robertson, ’13, and London Robinson, ’16, each received a Young Alumni Award.

Charlianne Wyatt Nestlen, director of alumni relations, noted that each member of this all-female field of awardees embraces the spirit of USC Upstate and contributes to the university in various ways, including serving as guest lecturers, volunteering for boards and events, and giving back financially.

“In the 55 years since the university’s founding, USC Upstate has graduated more than 30,000 students. This year, we recognize four outstanding alumnae,” said USC Upstate Chancellor Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D., during the ceremony. “Their stories are the stories of today’s students.”

“Forty percent of our students come from households with incomes of $40,000 or less and 31% percent of our freshmen are the first generation in their families to attend college,” Harris added. “Each of this year’s Alumni Award recipients was a first-generation student, a non-traditional student, or a transfer student. Each worked their way through college, overcame challenges, and embraced the rich resources our campus provides. Our Alumni provide the foundation for the success of USC Upstate. They illustrate the value of degrees earned here. Their success is the university’s success, and we are proud of our Alumni Award Recipients for 2022.”

Distinguished Alumni Award: Cyndi Waters ‘83 

Waters

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to alumni who have reached the pinnacle of their career and who have made exceptional contributions in one or more of the following ways: Achieved distinction in their chosen field, exceptional service in local, state, or national affairs, and exceptional service in support of the advancement and continued excellence of USC Upstate. 

Cyndi is a Vice President and Commercial Lender at Park National Bank in Spartanburg, SC. She earned her degree in Education in 1983 as a non-traditional student. Cyndi has supported USC Upstate by working on a phone-a-thon not long after graduation, serving on the Alumni and Foundation Boards, even helping students move into dorms one Fall semester. Attending Upstate allowed me to learn about the community she would call home for more than 40 years. She has been active in Kiwanis of Spartanburg being awarded the George Hixson Award by the local club and served as president. She has also been the local president and the state president for Business and Professional Women. As the state president, she led the vote to sell the organization’s headquarters building in Columbia to invest that money with the Spartanburg County Foundation to be used for various purposes by its clubs throughout the state. She has also served on the Healthy Smiles Board and on various United Way committees.  

Cyndi states, “It’s been exciting to see Upstate grow into a metropolitan campus to serve the higher education needs of the Upstate citizens.  It has always been a place for non-traditional students to call home, and because of that, I was able to complete my college education in a welcoming environment. For that, I will always be grateful.”  

Outstanding Alumni Award: Dione Williams ‘03 

Williams

The Outstanding Alumni Award recognizes alumni whose achievements in career, public service, and volunteerism have brought honor to themselves and the university. This award takes into account worthy accolades in all of the following areas: achievements in business or professional career, community affairs at local or state levels, and support of the advancement and continued excellence of USC Upstate.  

Dione is an Odyssey teacher in Spartanburg School District 7 where she serves gifted and talented students from across the district. She is the first African American to teach in this capacity. She earned her B.A. in Elementary Education in 2003 when she was a first-generation college student. Since then, she has gone on to earn two master’s degrees.  

She has served on the USC Upstate Alumni Association Board of Directors. While on the board, she served two terms as secretary. In addition, she volunteered at numerous Winter and Spring Commencements, served on the Homecoming Committee, assisted in organizing the USC Upstate Alumni Golf Tournaments, and volunteered with fellow Upstate employees and alumni at the yearly Criterion Bike Race Tailgate during Spartanburg’s annual Spring Fling. After her time on the board, she also volunteered for USC Upstate’s MoveUp Day.   

 Taking an active role in USC Upstate’s Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, prepared her to further her role in leadership. From 2017-2021, she was president of the Spartanburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. In addition, she is on the board for BRUH Mentor, received the “Excellence in Leadership Award,” and served as grade level chair at her former school several times over the course of the 17 years that she taught there. She also participated in the USC Upstate Chinese Culture and Education (Student English Camp) Exchange program which allowed her to travel to Baoding, China for 5 weeks!  

Dione states, “USC Upstate provided me with opportunities to become immersed in a campus filled with a plethora of learning opportunities, promise, diversity, and lifelong relationships. I gained so much knowledge and insight about life and the world we live in while enrolled as a student at Upstate. However, the impact of Upstate’s role in my life post-graduation surpassed my expectations in more ways than I could ever imagine.” 

Young Alumni Awards: Brooke Robertson ’13 and London Robinson ‘16 

The Young Alumni Award is designed to recognize USC Upstate graduates 40 years of age or younger who represent the future leaders of tomorrow. Standards for recognition include one or more of the following: demonstrated leadership capability, the commitment of service to others, and substantial commitment to USC Upstate and its mission. 

Robertson

Brooke is the lead designer for Neue South in Spartanburg, SC. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design in 2013. Her work has been influential in several capacities throughout Spartanburg and the state of South Carolina. Her projects include: designing the original OneSpartanburg campaign, which is now in its 6th year, the 2020 Census where her team’s collective PR, outreach, and marketing efforts around the census were awarded the John Cotton Dana Award, which is the highest PR honor from the American Association of Libraries, Spartanburg Gives where she has initiated the work of the Upstate Studio graphic design students to serve our nonprofit members, the City of Spartanburg and the Southside Mural project,  various political campaigns including The Penny Referendum, Seeing Through Their Eyes campaign, and Together SC, South Carolina’s chamber of commerce for nonprofits that focuses on supporting and strengthening the state’s nonprofit community through education, advocacy, communications, collaboration, and leadership.  

Brooke states, “I am proud of the journey that my experience with USC Upstate has provided, and I look forward to elevating the experience of other students, and hopefully I can inspire them to stay in their community and find a passion for serving Spartanburg county as I do. 

Robinson

London is an Integrated Digital Specialist at WSPA 7 News and Nexstar Media Group where she manages the Nexstar Digital Advertising Revenue within the account executive sales team. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communications from USC Upstate in 2016 after transferring from another college. She is frequently a guest speaker for classes at USC Upstate and credits her mentor Dr. Carolina Webber for much of her success.  

London states, “I often credit my education at USC Upstate for the successes I’ve had in my career. USC Upstate taught me the required skills I needed to transition into the professional I am today. My career requires me to be an excellent communicator, presenter, and critical thinker. I identify client needs for a digital advertising strategy and excel at building meaningful business relationships. My communication degree from USC Upstate and my mentorship from Dr. Carolina Webber afforded me the skills needed for my role.” 

Please visit www.uscupstate.edu/alumni/alumni-awards to watch their videos and learn more.

From left: Cyndi Waters, London Robinson, Brooke Robertson, Dione Williams, and USC Upstate Chancellor Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D.