Guy Hudson “Chip” Smith III ’88 received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award during Erskine’s Alumni Weekend celebration March 24-25. Festivities began Friday with athletic contests and a barbecue and hymn sing. Saturday’s activities included a student art display and pottery sale; an interactive Bowie Arts Center exhibit honoring the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien; “Back to Class” sessions with Dr. R.J. Gore and Dr. Jan Haldeman; and athletic events, games on the mall, and reunions.
This year’s Alumni Association meeting in Bowie Chapel was led by E. Phillip Cook ’92, outgoing president, who took the podium following a welcome by Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations Paul Bell ’84. “We hope you will enjoy one another’s company and end this day with gratitude that Erskine has been a part of your life,” Bell said.
Cook spoke of Erskine’s significance “for those who have gone before us,” and told the assembled alumni, “By being here today, you are acknowledging that Erskine has been an important part of your own life … as it will continue to be, with our involvement and the Lord’s help, for today’s students and those who will be here in the future.”
Introducing Erskine President Dr. Steve Adamson, Cook said he has observed the president’s “passion for excellence and his respect for Erskine’s past and present,” but noted that Adamson “is not one to stand still.”
Adamson, who began his second year at Erskine in January, said the experience is one “I could never have scripted for myself.” He spoke glowingly of the welcome he and his wife Von have enjoyed. “This is a family, and we were immediately embraced,” he said, recalling that when asked recently about adjusting to life in Due West, his reply was, “I’m having a blast!”
The president said that in his work at Erskine, the institution’s formal vision statement “points to the future, points to the larger goal we aspire to.” He focused on the latter portion of the vision statement, “influencing society for God’s glory,” as he offered an update on some initiatives at Erskine.
The Erskine Honors Institute, set to launch this fall, “is an opportunity for students who like to be challenged,” Adamson said, and will feature a “conversational classroom” rather than a lecture format. The institute plans to use a former office in Bowie Divinity Hall as a setting for classes.
The president also noted that six new degree programs will be offered in the fall—Accounting, Digital Marketing, Interdisciplinary Studies, Information Technology, International Studies, and Supply Chain Management.
As Cook began the presentation of alumni awards, he said, “The more involved I am with Erskine, the more amazed I am at the talents, accomplishments, and commitment to service of our alumni.”
The Alumni Distinguished Service Award honors service to church, community, profession, and alma mater over a lifetime. Cook paid tribute to this year’s recipient, a business administration graduate who is a longtime elder at Greenville ARP Church and has been a Certified Public Accountant for 35 years.
“For over 20 years, Chip Smith served in key leadership roles at Liberty Corporation and its successor companies, RBC Insurance and Athene Life, including chief financial officer and president. As a member of the Athene management team, he helped grow the company’s assets from $5 billion to $80 billion,” Cook said, adding, “I’ve had the honor of working with and for Chip.”
Church treasurer at Greenville Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church for more than 25 years, Smith volunteered as treasurer of the ARP denomination for more than 25 years, has served on the Erskine Board of Trustees, including a term as chairman, and has led Erskine’s investment committee. “He and his wife Wendy have been strong financial contributors to Erskine’s annual giving program and strategic and capital projects,” Cook said.
Smith was unable to attend the meeting. His father, Dr. Guy Hudson Smith, Jr. ’61, who is also a 1964 graduate of the seminary, accepted the award on his behalf.
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award, recognizing alumni of the last 15 years who have begun to be a positive and encouraging influence in their church, community, profession, and alma mater, was presented to Daniel Prohaska ’14 of Summerville, S.C., by Alumni Association President-Elect Dr. Sanita Cousar ’77.
Recently promoted to president and CEO of Lions Vision Services—its fifth president and the youngest to date—Prohaska formerly served as its director of development. He was previously director of development at the Avian Conservation Center. He has volunteered with the Lions Club, which he joined while an Erskine student, as well as the Due West Robotics Club, historical societies, and community foundations; has taken mission trips to West Africa; and has served in several roles at Great Commission Baptist Church. During his student years at Erskine, he was president of the Student Government Association, and shortly after graduating, he worked in the Advancement Office at Erskine.
“Daniel and his wife Angel recently welcomed the arrival of their first child, Joseph, and no doubt, they will teach Joseph the value and joy of serving others,” Cousar said. She told Prohaska, “You are a credit to your alma mater. May your life continue to be a blessing to others.”
The Erskine Service Award was presented to rheumatologist Dr. Lee Day ’08, of Columbia, S.C. by Walker Riley ’18. During his term on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, Day led an initiative to establish a network of Erskine alumni working in the field of medicine who were willing to serve as mentors to current Erskine students. “He didn’t just come up with the idea—he took the lead in reaching out to those alumni and collecting their contact information,” Riley said.
Day’s efforts inspired the Alumni Board to launch a similar effort with educators interested in mentoring students. “Now the Alumni Office maintains a permanent online professional network where alumni in any profession can make themselves available to students as mentors and job connectors,” Riley said.
“Your cheerful service as a volunteer and as a goodwill ambassador for Erskine have been an inspiration to your peers, and your efforts to help students succeed in their careers will have ripple effects for years,” Riley told Day.
Noting that the alumni board “enjoys the privilege of inducting select non-alumni into the association,” Cook announced that retired educator Joseph Elder Reynolds of Due West is this year’s recipient of the Honorary Alumni Award.
Reynolds became principal at Carver Middle School in 1972, the first year of school integration in Abbeville County, and led transition teams on “race relations, educational excellence, and community empowerment.” A quiet supporter of Erskine, he mentored male students; referred students to Erskine and assisted them in applying; collaborated with Erskine’s education professors to ensure opportunities for education majors; and encouraged student and community participation in Erskine events. Reynolds, who was unable to attend the meeting, said of his own career, “It’s all been about my love of children and giving back to the community.”
Susan Williams ’77 who nominated Reynolds, called him “an unsung but active supporter of Erskine.” She accepted the award on his behalf.
In his closing remarks, outgoing Alumni Association President E. Phillip Cook ’92 told the assembled alumni, “We are your voice and we take that very seriously.” He praised the efforts of Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations Paul Bell ’84, who was given a standing ovation.
Cook announced that the Alumni Board is “repatriating the Annual Fund” with several alumni leaders chosen to spearhead the 2023-24 campaign—Rev. Dr. J. Barry Dagenhart ’82, ’93 (Sem.), Sarah Dagenhart ’82, Jacob DeLuca ’15, Crystal Noble ’01, Michael Noble ’99, Barbara Robinson ’79, and Kenneth Robinson ’78.
Concerning the 2022-23 Annual Fund campaign, Cook said approximately $1 million has been raised toward this year’s $1.3 million goal. “Please join your board in making Erskine even stronger as we look to the future,” he said.
A new slate of officers and board members was approved as follows:
• President-Elect Dr. Sanita Cousar ’77 will take office as president July 1, extending her service to the Alumni Board for the next two years. She will take the helm from Cook, who received a token of gratitude from the board and a standing ovation from attendees.
• The new president-elect of the Alumni Association is Walker Riley ’18. Elected secretary was Peggy Harrill ’76. Both are serving members of the board.
• Incoming members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors are Ralph T. Bowling III ’82; Wendy Childress ’21 (Sem.); Gehrig DeFronzo ’20; Mary Pratt Horne ’22; Sherry McAdams ’81; and John Williams ’68.
Members completing their service were recognized, including Sarah Dagenhart ’82; Jacob DeLuca ’15; Anna Pettus ’13; Rev. Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh ’76; Dr. Richard Taylor ’69; and Justin van Riper ’18.
Shown in photo at top are, from left, Daniel Prohaska ’14, Dr. Lee Day ’08, Dr. Guy Hudson Smith ’61 (Sem. ’64) and Susan Williams ’77.