The Penn Center Board of Trustees recently announced the hiring of Dr. Rodell Lawrence as the eighth Executive Director for the 153 year old Penn Center.
Dr. Lawrence was born in Apopka, Florida and has Gullah roots in the Lowcountry; his parents are Jasper County, SC natives. He attended South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC, and majored in Electrical Engineering and minored in Mathematics. Lawrence left school in 1966, was drafted in the United States Army in 1967 and served in Vietnam. He returned to South Carolina State University in 1969, graduated in 1970. Lawrence received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from SC State University in 1992.
Lawrence’s first job was at North American Rockwell in Columbus, Ohio as a research engineer where he was credited with a United States patent for his work in the development of a cold gas actuation system for tactical missiles. He then took a job at Xerox Corporation as a test engineer. He spent 22 years at Xerox where he received 16 promotions. In 1990 he was recognized as one of the twenty best minds in the company and became part of its Think Tank for three years. This group was responsible for re-engineering the company and saved $1.2 billion in cost improvements. Lawrence also sat on the Xerox philanthropic board that gave $25-$30 million dollars a year to community agencies as well as to colleges and universities. He was responsible for making sure Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) got their fair share. As a result $5-$6 million dollars was given each year to HBCUs such as SC State University, Florida A & M University, Atlanta University Center, Southern University, North Carolina A&T University, Tuskegee, Howard University and many others. As a development officer, he raised money for Claflin College’s $20 million Capital Campaign, Stillman College, Meharry Medical College, Georgia Southern University and South Carolina State University.
Dr. Lawrence has received numerous awards and recognitions for his service and has a special love for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
He is married to Cedar (Evans) Lawrence and they have five adult children; Christopher, Debora, Ashlyn, Biram and Raegena.
Dr. Lawrence’s vision for Penn Center is clear, steadfast and promising. He plans to shape Penn Center’s future by setting a framework for its sustainability, preserving the unique history, culture and environment of the Sea Islands and by sharing Penn Center’s resources locally, nationally, and internationally.