FMU graduate Morgan Martin to speak at May Commencement; honorary degrees awarded to Martin and Chris Yahnis
FLORENCE – Francis Marion University alumnus L. Morgan Martin of Conway will be the speaker for the university’s spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 6. Martin will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, along with Florence businessman Christopher James Yahnis. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. in the Smith University Center.
There are 263 candidates for FMU degrees, 224 for undergraduate degrees and 41 graduate diplomas. The Medical University of South Carolina will award 14 bachelor of science in nursing (B.S.N.) degrees to students completing the MUSC satellite program at FMU.
L. Morgan Martin, a 1975 political science graduate, went on to earn a law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He currently lives in his hometown of Conway with his wife Sonya and their three children, Mary Ashley, Morgan O'Bryan, and Hayley Elizabeth.
Martin has served as a criminal defense attorney in private practice since 1988 and is considered one of the state’s best trial lawyers. He has handled more than 250 felony cases, either as a prosecutor or defense attorney. Before starting his own practice, Martin served as assistant solicitor for the 15th Judicial Circuit for five years and as deputy solicitor for three years. He has been active in politics and was the chairman of the Horry County Democratic Party from 1984 to 1986, served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1990 to 1996, and was chairman of the criminal law subcommittee from 1993 to 1996.
Active in several professional organizations, Martin is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers. Last year, Martin was appointed chairman of the South Carolina Department of Transportation Commission by Gov. Jim Hodges.
Christopher James Yahnis is one of the Pee Dee’s most successful businessmen, having founded several companies, being an active real estate investor, and a mentor to several small business entrepreneurs in the area.
After receiving his B.S. degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1950, Yahnis entered the U.S. Army where he served as special agent counter intelligence, stationed in Columbia, from 1951 to 1953. After his military service, Yahnis was director of security education at the E.I. DuPont Savannah River Plant for three years. He then became regional sales manager of National Brewing Co. and later executive vice president/general sales manager of Schafer Distributing Co.
In 1966 Yahnis and the late Dr. Ira Barth founded Y&B Distributing. Dr. Barth’s interest was subsequently purchased and the company became Chris J. Yahnis Corp. Yahnis also purchased the Stevens Corp. of Myrtle Beach in 1986, which became Chris J. Yahnis Coastal Corp. Both companies employ more than 100 people. In December 1994, Yahnis turned operations of both companies over to his sons, Byron and Jimmy, but continues as an officer.
Yahnis founded Home Health, Inc., in 1992 to serve Florence, Darlington, Marion, Dillon and Lee counties. In 1993, he added a home health operation in York County. The combined agencies grew to more than 300 employees providing more than 160,000 visits per year. The Pee Dee agency was sold to McLeod Regional Medical Center in 1995 and, in 1998, Yahnis sold the remaining interest in Home Health.
In his community, Yahnis has been a member of the Greek Orthodox Church since 1954, where he is past president of the Greek Orthodox Church Parish Council. He is also a past member of the S.C. Mental Health Board, division chairman of Florence County United Way, chairman of United Negro College Fund Telethon, board member of Florence Boys’ Club, member of Elks and American Legion and serves on the board of directors of Hospice. He is also past president of the S.C. Beer Association.