University of South Carolina

USC starts first council of former student presidents

By Liz White, lwhite@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-2848

Former student body presidents go on to do great things and USC can easily boast about its former student body presidents who have gone on to become lawyers, judges, mayors and, well, you get the point.

Now this distinguished group of graduates will be returning to USC to form a council of former student body presidents.

“When you think about the alumni all around the country, the student body presidents are unique individuals,” said Tommy Preston, ’07, '11 law school. “We represented the university and represented our peers during our times as students. We want to give back to the university that’s given so much to us.” 

The first meeting of the Former Student Body Presidents Council Sept. 14-15 brought more than 20 alumni from across the state and country to USC to learn more about USC today. The former presidents represented students from 1948 to more recent years and bring a variety of insight to current issues.

“We knew it would be beneficial to USC to reconnect with these former student body presidents to see how the leadership skills learned at the university changed and shaped their lives. Through their life experiences, these noted alumni are now in a unique position to provide solid advice and much needed involvement in our ongoing leadership initiatives,” said university President Harris Pastides. “It’s great to see them again.”

Tommy Preston, Steve BenjaminRita McKinney, ’74, was the first female student body president in 1973. Todd Wilson, ’64, was president during USC’s integration and during President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. McKinney and Wilson, along with the other 58 living former student body presidents, will work on projects with Pastides and promote leadership among current students.

“Alumni, particularly people who were leaders as students, they always have the best interest of the university at hand and want to do what we can to make the educational experience better for the students,” said McKinney, who also was the president of the My Carolina Alumni Association and now works as a lawyer in Greenville.

The new council is the first of its kind in the country and came together with help from the alumni association and the president, Preston said. The new council will work on projects throughout the year, meeting with students, helping with recruitment and connecting the university with leaders across the country.

“Our university is so different from other institutions and once you step on campus and walk on the Horseshoe as a student, you’re connected to the Gamecock nation for the rest of your life. Putting this group together is just a testament to that,” said Preston, who is a lawyer with Nexsen Pruet in Columbia. 

Meredith Ross, ’10 and current law school student, was excited to come back to Carolina and share her ideas for USC.

“It kind of allows the job to not necessarily end at the next guy’s inauguration, you get to keep going and keep having a little bit of input in what’s going on at the university, spreading around ideas,” she said.  

Justin Williams, ’06, ‘10 law school, said the council was an opportunity for alumni to return to campus and learn more about the leadership initiatives at the university. Now he sees himself as an advocate and supporter for these initiatives such as USC Connect

“USC is trying to engage every student to have a leadership experience and who better to help in that effort than some of the greatest leaders at the university?” said Williams, who is a lawyer with the Richland County Solicitor’s Office. Williams said he plans to be more involved and get his office to engage with USC students.

 “The university was influential on my life so I obviously want to give something back to it,” he said.

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Posted: 09/17/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 09/17/12 @ 2:06 PM | Permalink