From staff reports
South Carolina Senate President Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee/Pickens) and community health leader Roland Gardner were honored Tuesday, Jan. 10, as recipients of the 2023 Riley-Wilkins OneSouthCarolina Leadership Awards. The awards recognize principled legislative and civic leadership in the state and are presented by the Riley Institute at Furman University.
About 450 people, including 40 legislators, attended the dinner and ceremony held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on the first day of the legislative session.
Dick Riley, former United States secretary of education and former two-term Governor of South Carolina; David Wilkins, former United States Ambassador to Canada and former Speaker of the South Carolina House; and Elizabeth Davis, Furman University President, hosted the program. The awards’ names reflect Riley and Wilkins’ statesmanship and longtime bipartisan efforts.
“To our House and Senate members, I know firsthand that it takes monumental effort to find common ground when each of you represents vastly different views from across our state,” Wilkins said in his remarks to the audience. “And yet, our common denominator is this: We are all proud South Carolinians, and there is not another place we would rather call home.”
Philanthropist Nella Barkley, winner of the 2019 civic leadership award, presented the 2023 civic leadership award to Roland Gardner, who retired last year as CEO of Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services (BJHCHS) after 41 years of service. As a result of Gardner’s leadership, BJHCHS has increased access to quality healthcare in the Lowcountry, serving more than 17,000 patients across three counties.
Wilkins presented the legislative leadership award to Alexander. Alexander has led efforts and worked across the aisle on workforce development, equitable distribution of pandemic relief funds, and the vital expansion of broadband internet into rural and underserved areas in South Carolina.