FLORENCE – John and Adele Kassab, Florence residents and long-time university supporters, and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal will be honored with honorary Doctor of Humanities degrees at the Dec. 18 Francis Marion University fall commencement. Justice Toal also will be the commencement speaker for the 10 a.m. ceremony in the Smith University Center.
There are 324 candidates for FMU degrees, 245 for undergraduate degrees and 79 graduate diplomas.
The Kassabs have been two of FMU’s most ardent supporters since the institution’s inception in 1957. Through their years of service, they have shown commitment to their country, community, family, and to the University. John, a distinguished veteran, is an emeritus member of the FMU Foundation Board. Adele currently serves on the board. They are charter members of the Friends of Francis Marion, an organization of Pee Dee residents dedicated to helping the university by raising funds for student scholarships.
John served as chairman of the Building Committee for the J. Howard Stokes Administration Building, the first structure added to the FMU campus. His leadership, and the interest he was able to generate in others, played a significant role in the 1969 creation by the South Carolina legislature of a four-year college to serve the higher education needs of Eastern South Carolina. Since the official founding of FMU in 1970, he and his wife Adele have continued to support the institution by helping establish the Friends of Francis Marion University. He has served as co-chairman of the Patriots’ Brigade, whose main goal is to raise money for athletic scholarships.
He is a past president of what is now the local chapter of the United Way, a former president of the Florence Kiwanis Club, and has served on the board of directors of the Florence Chamber of Commerce. The John Kassab tennis courts were named for him on July 13, 1974. In 1985, the Kassabs endowed the N. N. Baroody Chair in Marketing. Adele attended Converse and Coker colleges, where she pursued her love of music. She has spent her life involved in the studying, teaching and performing of music.
She has served as piano teacher and choir member, choir director and pianist, and has served in various
community arts organizations and on various community-minded and special interest boards and church organizations. On April 24, 1982, in honor of her love of music and for the university, the Adele Kassab Recital Hall in the Hyman Fine Arts Center was named for her.
Adele has been a major supporter of the university’s music program. The Adele Kassab Music Scholarship has been awarded annually since 1971 to FMU students studying music. John and Adele donated to the university the concert grand Steinway piano in the recital hall. Adele also serves on the Arts Alive Committee, sings in the Masterworks Choir, and serves on the Florence Symphony Board. She is a member of the Wildwood Garden Club.
Commencement speaker Jean Hoeffer Toal, chief justice elect of the South Carolina Supreme Court, has spent her life serving the people of South Carolina. A graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, 1968, she is a 1965 graduate of Agnes Scott College, from which she holds a B.A. degree in philosophy. She is a graduate of Dreher High School, (Columbia, S.C.).
Justice Toal served as an associate justice of the S.C. Supreme Court since March 17, 1998, and will assume her position as chief justice in March, 2000. She was the first woman in South Carolina to chair a standing committee of the House of Representatives.
She is a member of several professional organizations, including the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association, the Richland County Bar Association, and the South Carolina Bar. Toal served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1975- 1988, and was the first woman to chair a standing committee of the Legislature. In that role, she served as chairman of the House Rules Committee (1982-88), and chairman of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee (1977-88).
She received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from The Citadel in 1999, the Jean Galloway Bissell Award from the S.C. Women Lawyers Association in 1995, was inducted into the Dreher High School Hall of Fame in 1994, and awarded the Agnes Scott College Outstanding Alumnae Award in 1991. She practiced law for 20 years before her election to the South Carolina Supreme Court. She served as an associate with the Haynsworth Law Firm in Greenville, and as an associate and partner with Belser, Baker, Barwick, Ravenel, Toal & Bender in Columbia. Her practice was primarily trial and appellate litigation before all trial and appellate level courts, state and federal, in South Carolina.
When Toal was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1968, women comprised less than one percent of the licensed lawyers in South Carolina. Now, nearly 20 percent of South Carolina lawyers are women. In addition to serving as the committee chair in the House, she has served as a Trustee of the Columbia Art Museum, member of the Board of Visitors of Clemson University, and founder and first chairman of the Shandon Neighborhood Council. She was the first woman to serve as a Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court and the first native Columbian, and first Roman Catholic, to serve as an associate court justice.
The opinions she has written for the state’s Supreme Court have addressed virtually every area of the law. She has prepared opinions for the court that have analyzed and decided issues related to the constitutional law and interpreting federal and state legislation. Her opinions have ranged from those involving criminal appeals, civil appeals, appeals from administrative agencies (such as Worker’s Compensation Commission, Public Service Commission, Health and Human Services Finance Commission, Tax Commission, and Coastal Council), to domestic appeals, and appeals arising from probate court.
In 1984, she participated in the trial and pre-trial motions in the case Catawba Indain Tribe v. South Carolina Fourth Circuit. She presented arguments twice at the Fourth Circuit, representing the third largest eastern Indian land claim. The case involved federal Indian Law, constitutional issues, and state property law. After her participation ended, the case was settled by legislation adopted by the United States and State of South Carolina in 1993. She is a frequent guest lecturer and public speaker and has published numerous articles.