Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo
By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick
I couldn’t get that old Simon and Garfunkel tune out of my head last weekend. On Friday evening, we celebrated the achievements of four arts and sciences graduates at our annual Recognition of Excellence event held at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. One hundred and sixty formally dressed celebrants made their way to the party through the houses and cages of the animals of the African plains. Guests stepped carefully around the snakes, the vultures, and the slender tailed meerkats to arrive at the Ndoki Lodge and the cocktail bar placed in front of the elephant habitat.
At this event, the college presents awards to the most prestigious graduates of USC for their professional achievements, contributions to society, and support of the university. This year, we honored four graduates.
Dr. Jason C. Hu - Distinguished Service Award
Dr. Jason C. Hu attended the University of South Carolina to pursue post graduate work in computer science and international studies. In 2001, 2005, and 2010, respectively, he was elected as mayor of Taichung City, Taiwan, a position he currently holds. Under his tenure, Taichung City has received numerous awards, and Dr. Hu himself was named an outstanding mayor of the world by Monocle Magazine in 2010. He and his wife, Shirley, have a daughter and a son.
Mr. Robert T. Samuels - Distinguished Young Alumnus Award
Mr. Robert T. Samuels graduated with his B.A. in sociology from the University of South Carolina in 1996. In 2010, Mr. Samuels was appointed COO of Maker’s Mark and, in this role, is responsible for business, financial and marketing goals. He is also the General Manager of the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. He and his wife have two children.
The Honorable Kathryn S. Smith - Distinguished Alumnus Award
The Honorable Kathryn S. Smith received her B.A. in history from the University of South Carolina in 1967. Her career has included stints as an educator, public administrator, and public officer of Richland County. Mrs. Smith has been active in public and community service throughout her life and has been a driving force behind the establishment of many important programs, such as the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. She and her husband, Joel, have three children and six grandchildren.
Mr. Michael Tongour - Dean’s Award
Mr. Michael Tongour received his B.A. in political science in 1978 from the University of South Carolina, and his J.D. from USC in 1981. He is the son of Russian immigrants and the first person in his family born in the United States. Since graduating, he has held a number of influential positions on Capitol Hill before establishing his own government relations consulting firm known as the TCH Group. He and his wife, Lalie, have 3 children.
On receiving their award, each of these distinguished individuals made a few remarks to the audience. The audience included members of their families, close colleagues, alumni and friends, in addition to a number of faculty and staff. Each speaker lauded professors who made a difference in their lives and how valuable their undergraduate degrees had been in helping them to achieve their goals. Each said that following their passions for history, political science or sociology led them to their career success. Many expressed how proud they are of the great strides the college has made since they graduated. And all had a continued interest in seeing the College move forward.
It is clear that these arts and science graduates know how to write well, how to make clear and compelling arguments, and how to be gracious. As the dean of this college, I was very moved by the affection and loyalty that these extraordinary individuals had for their alma mater. The gratitude they expressed for their experiences at Carolina and their pleasure in receiving this award will stay with me forever.
Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo. I do believe it, I do believe it's true.