FLORENCE – Ruth Taylor, chemistry and environmental science teacher at Mayo High School for Math, Science & Technology, and Jerry D. Vinson Jr., Florence County Family Court Judge, have been honored by the Francis Marion University Department of Biology with outstanding alumni awards.
Vinson received the John S. Boyce Award, while Taylor was presented the Lawrence Swails Award. These distinguished alumni awards, named after the Biology Department’s first two chairpersons, were presented during a reception Oct. 19 on the FMU campus. This is the fifth year the Biology Department has held this recognition of outstanding graduates of the biology program.
A Camden native, Vinson grew up in Florence where he attended public schools. He graduated from Francis Marion College (cum laude), with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. He received his juris doctor degree in 1985 from the University of South Carolina’s School of Law and was admitted to practice law the same year.
Following law school, he served as a law clerk to the Circuit Court Judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit John H. Waller Jr. After completing his clerkship, he joined the firm of Turner, Padget, Graham and Laney, P.A. and later practiced law with his wife, Flo Lester Vinson, in The Vinson Law Firm, P.A. Vinson merged his practice with the law firm of McDougall & Self, L.L.P, where he practiced until his election to the bench in 2004. He practices before the U.S. District Court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.?
Vinson has been active with FMU serving as president of the Alumni Association as well as a member of the board of directors of the Education Foundation. He has also served on the board of directors for the Florence Symphony Orchestra, the Master Works Choir and the Florence Kiwanis Club. Vinson was also active in the S.C. Bar Association serving as a member of the House of Delegates and as a member, and former chair, of the Family Law Section Council. He has been a frequent speaker at Family Law Continuing Legal Education programs.
Taylor was reared in Florence, graduating from Wilson High School. She received bachelor degrees in biology and chemistry and the M.Ed. in science from FMU. She is a National Board Certified instructor of chemistry. In her 20 years in the profession she has taught chemistry I and II and ecology.
She was Darlington County School District’s Teacher of the Year for 2004 and South Carolina’s Honor Roll Teacher for 2004. For her hard work and dedication to her profession, Taylor was named the Project Learning Tree Teacher of the Year and the South Carolina Academy of Science Teacher of the Year. She serves on the board of directors for the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention & Advancement.
Her teaching style begins with parental involvement, and her greatest accomplishments have come through collaborating with other faculty and community members. Because she learns best using her hands to manipulate items, that’s how she teaches. Through her “out-of-the-box” classroom approach, even students who identified themselves as “not good at science” have been surprised to enjoy and even understand difficult topics.