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Former Governor and Businessman to Receive FMU Honorary Degrees, Dec. 15

FLORENCE--- A former governor and Florence businessman will be awarded honorary degrees from Francis Marion University during spring commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, in the Smith University Center gymnasium.

Selected to receive honorary doctoral degrees are Emerson Gower, Jr. of Florence and Gov. James “Jim” Hodges of Columbia.

Hodges will also be the commencement speaker for the 282 candidates for FMU degrees. Candidates include 199 students for undergraduate degrees and 83 for graduate diplomas. 

The Lancaster native served as the 114th governor of South Carolina. During his tenure, he established an education lottery in 2001 that today provides college scholarships for more than 100,000 students. He also created First Steps, a “public-private” pre-school readiness program impacting thousands of preschoolers and provided one billion dollars in bonded school construction resources – without a tax increase – resulting in new school building improvements across the state.

The former governor was very active with the National Governor’s Association during his tenure serving as chairman of the Economic Development and Commerce, Human Resources and Legal Affairs committees.

He also served on various other regional and national boards including the Southern Growth Policies Board (Chair 2002) and the Southern Technology Council (Chair 2001) and received the Travel Industry Association’s National Special Service Award in 2002. He received honorary degrees for public service to the State of South Carolina from: University of South Carolina, 1998; Winthrop University, 1999; South Carolina State University, 1999; and The Citadel, 2000. He also received the Silver Medallion Compleat Lawyer Award from the University of South Carolina School of Law and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of South Carolina School of Business.

Hodges served 11 years in the S.C. House of Representatives (1986-1997) where he chaired the chamber’s lead law making body, the House Judiciary Committee. He also served as minority leader. During his legislative service, he was instrumental in the creation of full-day kindergarten, landmark government restructuring and significant judicial reform initiatives.

From 1990 to 1997, Hodges served as general counsel and secretary of the Springs Company. While there, Hodges served on the Springs Company board of directors working with a variety of affiliates including Kanawha Insurance Company, Lancaster and Chester Railway Company, Charter Properties, various Springs real estate development companies, and the Springs and Close Foundations.

Hodges joined Charlotte-based Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman L.L.P. in 2003 as a partner. In addition, he serves as CEO of Hodges Consulting Group, a business-to-government solutions firm located in Columbia.

Previously, Hodges served as Lancaster County attorney, and was in private practice for eight years.

Hodges is a 1979 graduate of USC where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business. He graduated from the USC School of Law in 1982.

Hodges and his wife Rachel live in Columbia with their two sons, Luke, age 11, and Sam, age nine.

Gower is vice president of the Southern region of Progress Energy, making him responsible for delivering electric service to 315,000 customers in northeastern South Carolina and south-central North Carolina.

Progress Energy, headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., is a Fortune 250 energy company with more than 21,000 megawatts of generation capacity and $10 billion in annual revenues. The company includes two major utilities that serve more than 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida.

A native of Raleigh, N.C., Gower joined the company in 1970 and has worked in a variety of capacities throughout the Carolinas and Washington, D.C.

Gower is a past chairman of the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics Foundation, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Coker College board of trustees and the Francis Marion University Campaign for Excellence Steering Committee. He is a member of the Florence Rotary Club, the North Carolina Zoological Society board of directors, the S.C. Climate, Energy & Commerce Advisory Committee, the Clemson University Engineering School Advisory Board, the Wachovia Bank Advisory Board and the FMU Foundation board of directors.

He is past director of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership and director of the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance. Gower is also a past deacon of the First Baptist Church in Florence.

Gower is a graduate of Campbell University.

He and his wife Jane have two children: Ashley, a graduate of Clemson University and USC who resides in Columbia, while Emerson III who is a USC graduate, attends dental school at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Gower’s first granddaughter Madison was born on July 1, 2006.

#72 / 12-04-07

Last Published: December 4, 2007 1:45 PM
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