FLORENCE---Two state legislators and a South Carolina college president will be awarded honorary degrees from Francis Marion University during spring commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 4, in the Smith University Center gymnasium.
Selected to receive honorary doctoral degrees are: Robert W. Harrell Jr. of Charleston, representing House District 114; Douglas Jennings Jr. of Bennettsville, representing House District 54; and Leroy Davis of Orangeburg, president of South Carolina State University.
Rep. Harrell also will be the commencement speaker for the 250 candidates for FMU degrees. Candidates include 233 students for undergraduate degrees and 17 for graduate diplomas.
Rep. Harrell was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1991. In 1997, he was elected as the majority leader. He was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee in 1994 and became committee chairman in 1999, after only seven years in politics. He has served as chairman of the Economic Development and the Public Education Subcommittees of the Ways and Means Committee.
During his service in the House, Harrell has been recognized for his work on property tax relief for homeowners, for working to improve education and for sponsoring major legislation for economic development. In 2000, he was given the “Friend of the Taxpayer Award” by the S.C. Association of Taxpayers. Also in 2000, he was named “Legislator of the Year” by the S.C. Adult Education Directors. In 1999, the Palmetto State Teachers Association gave him their prestigious “Service Award for Contributions in Public Education.” In 1997, he was given the “National Legislator of the Year” award by the National Republican Legislators Association. That same year, he was named “S.C. Public Servant of the Year” by the S.C. State Chamber of Commerce.
A native of Orangeburg, Harrell attended Charleston County public schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina. In 1980, he and his wife Cathy opened an insurance agency, which they still operate. In 1999, they opened Oak Haven of Charleston, an assisted living community that is home to 115 senior citizens.
Active in many community activities, Harrell has served as president of the Exchange Club of Charleston, vice president of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, and on the boards of the Boy Scouts of America, Child Abuse Prevention Center, Crime Stoppers, the Junior League Advisory Committee and many others. He and his wife have two children.
Rep. Jennings was first elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1991. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee and currently serves as House Minority Leader and chairs the House Democratic Caucus. While on the Judiciary Committee, Jennings has served as chairman of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee, the Special Laws Subcommittee and the Criminal Laws Subcommittee. He also serves as chairman of the S.C. Democratic Leadership Council. He is a close ally of Gov. Jim Hodges and a strong supporter of education.
Jennings served as deputy solicitor for the 4th Judicial Circuit from 1982 to 1988, prosecuting cases in Darlington, Dillon, Chesterfield and Marlboro counties. He currently practices law in Bennettsville with the firm of Jennings and Harris.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Clemson University in 1978 and a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina in 1982. Active in his community, he previously served on the Francis Marion University Board of Visitors from 1984 to 1986, chaired the United Way of Marlboro County from 1987 to 1988, chaired Boy Scout Troop 625 Committee from 1983 to 1985, and was president of the Bennettsville Rotary Club in 1988-1989. He is also active in the First Presbyterian Church of Bennettsville where he has served as elder and Sunday school teacher. He and his wife Debbie have two children.
Davis has been president of South Carolina State University since 1996. He has been a longtime member of the university’s faculty and has served in several administrative positions. A professor of biology, he also has served as director of the university’s academic counseling and tutorial program in the Department of Athletics, 1983 to 1986; minority biomedical research support principal investigator, 1983 to 1990; director of the Office of Institutional Self-Studies, 1987 to 1990; vice provost for academic administration, 1990 to 1993; vice president for student services, 1993 to 1995; and interim president, 1995 to 1996.
A native of Orangeburg, Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from S.C. State in 1971 and a master’s degree in microbiology (1972) and doctorate in molecular biology (1979) from Purdue University. A member of many professional organizations, he has authored numerous scientific publications.
Among his many honors, he was elected to New York Academy of Sciences in 1980, was chosen S.C. State University’s “Teacher of the Year” in 1985, was presented the Commander’s Award for Public Service by the Department of Army in 1997 and was recipient of Purdue University’s Old Masters Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2000.
Davis serves on boards for the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, the S.C. Research Authority, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the S.C. Aquarium and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. He is past chair of the S.C. Council of Presidents, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and the S.C. Universities Research and Education Foundation. He also served on the National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Directors from 1999 to 2002.
He and his wife Christine have two children.
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