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Graduate School Advisory Board for Winthrop University


The Graduate School Advisory Board for Winthrop University is comprised of alumni of graduate programs and community leaders from York and Mecklenburg counties and the surrounding area.  The Board advises the Dean of the Graduate School and provides essential leadership in community relations, fundraising and professional advocacy that benefits students in all graduate programs at Winthrop University.

The Graduate School Advisory Board is currently focusing on the following funding priorities: The Graduate Studies Scholarship Fund, Graduate School Travel & Research Fund, and The Graduate School Excellence Fund.


Advisory board members include: Sylvia Echols, Larry Durham, Sr., Dr. Jim Johnston, Dr. Dick McCoy, Elaine Whitton Davis, Susan DeVennyDr. Shirley Fishburne, Debra Heintz, Ben Johnson, Wanda Manning, Kimberly Odom, Melinda Plue, Laurie Leader, Roger Sarow, Isaiah Venning, and Patrick Walsh.


 Sylvia Echols

Mrs. Sylvia Echols - Executive Committee
Sylvia is originally from Western North Carolina and has lived in Rock Hill for 42 years. Her professional life has centered on child development, which includes working as a child development specialist in medical practices and serving as an early childhood specialist for the Rock Hill School District. She has been active in several grassroots efforts to improve the lives of young children in the local community. Sylvia is also a Winthrop alum having completed her Masters in Teaching in 1972. She and her husband have two children and 3 young grandchildren.

Larry Durham

Larry D. Durham, Sr. - Executive Committee
Larry is a self-employed State Farm Agent working out of Lancaster, SC. He is a former member of the Winthrop University Board of Trustees and holds two degrees from Winthrop, including an MBA. Larry enjoys reading, bowling, and flying model planes and helicopters in his spare time. He is married and has two children.

Dr. Jim Johnston 

Dr. Jim Johnston - Executive Committee                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Dr. Johnston retired from Winthrop in the summer of 2011 after 28 years of service as Professor and  Chair of the Biology Department.  During that time he served for nine years as Director of Graduate Studies for the College of Arts and Sciences, one year as Acting Associate Vice-President for Graduate and Continuing Studies, and two years as Chair of Faculty Conference and Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees.  He returned to the Biology Department where he served nine years as department chair. Upon his retirement he was the first recipient of the Mary Spann Richardson Award for exceptional service to Winthrop University.  He and his wife Karen live in Rock Hill with their dog Lily.

Dr. Dick McCoy

Dr. Richard L. McCoy - Executive Committee
Dr. McCoy retired from pediatric practice in 2001 and entered the EMBA program at Winthrop finishing in 2004. Since that time he has taught in the healthcare management programs at both Winthrop University and Pfeiffer University. He is married and enjoys walking, reading, theater, and travel.

Elaine Whitton Davis

Elaine Whitton Davis
Elaine was born and raised in Rock Hill and has spent over 25 years in Information Technology and Management at Celanese, Hoechst Celanese, and Celanese Acetate. Her positions included IT Audit Manager, Project Manager for global projects (SAP/ERP and Enterprise Solutions, Logistics, Manufacturing Integration, Data Management, Business Support solutions), and Director of Global Business Systems and Systems Support. Elaine attended both the Winthrop Training School (WTS) as a child and earned her BS in Math and Computer Science from Winthrop. Her son Whit, now deceased, also graduated Winthrop, and the Whitton Endowment in his honor sponsors a best-practice business series for the area business community. Elaine currently enjoys working for Allen Tate Realty in Real Estate listings and sales.

DeVenney, Susan

Susan DeVenny
Susan is the Director of South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness. She earned degrees in education from Furman University and the University of Georgia. Her professional background includes more than 25 years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. Susan currently serves as Secretary for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), elected in 2009. She has many friends on the faculty at Winthrop University and her children have enjoyed participating in the STARTs program. Susan enjoys just about any hiking and outdoor activity, community and school involvement, and spending time with family.

Fishburne, Shirley

Dr. Shirley Fishburne 
Dr. Fishburne counts herself as one of those people that came to Rock Hill to attend Winthrop and never left. Two degrees and 17 years on the faculty later, she is still very connected to the University. Shirley was the co-chair of the committee to restore the D. B. Johnson organ in Byrnes Auditorium and to that end presented numerous recitals in North and South Carolina and Georgia. For these efforts she was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Arts, an honor she cherishes. She enjoys reading, sewing, cooking, and history in her retirement.

Debra Heintz 

Debra M. Heintz 
Debra is the Executive Director of the Arts Council of York County. After joining the Arts Council staff 21 years ago, she completed her BA in Mass Communication at Winthrop and was later appointed executive director of ACYC. The Arts Council has the distinction of having hired more Winthrop interns than any other York County organization. Debra and her husband moved to Rock Hill from Lancaster two years ago and love to live, work, and play in the city.

Johnson, Ben

Benjamin A. Johnson
Ben is an attorney and shareholder with Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, based in Charlotte with offices in Rock Hill and Chapel Hill. Ben practices in the areas of business litigation and labor law and has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America since 2008. Ben has served in numerous civic roles at state and local levels, including as Chairman of the Atlantic Compact Commission, Governor's Nuclear Waste Task Force, SC Wildlife Federation, and as Board President of the Upper Palmetto YMCA, Pilgrims' Inn, and York District BSA. Ben earned his BA from Winthrop in 1977 and his JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law. His wife, Cindy, his mother, and two of his four sons are Winthrop graduates as well. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf.

Manning, Wanda

Ms. Wanda Manning
Wanda is a native of Dillon, SC and currently resides in Rock Hill. Wanda earned both a BA and MBA in Business Administration and Accounting from Winthrop University. She is now the Regional Reporting Team Leader for North and South America at the Atlas Copco Compressors, LLC in Rock Hill. Wanda is also the co-founder of the Roundtree Manning International Scholarship Fund in the College of Business and is a Winthrop University Volunteer Alumni. She enjoys traveling (domestically and internationally), shopping, reading, hiking, and exploring nature.

Kimberly Odom

Mrs. Kimberly Calhoun Odom
Kimberly is a 2000 and 2002 graduate of Winthrop University with a MA and MEd. A native of Spartanburg, SC, she currently lives and works in Charlotte, NC where she is as an elementary school principal. She is the wife of Aaron D. Odom and they have two sons. Her hobbies include spending time with family and friends and watching old movies.


Melinda Plue
Melinda Plue has been working in the field of intellectual/developmental disabilities since 1996. Currently she is the Director of Advocacy for The Arc of North Carolina, and has experience as a special education teacher in three different school systems as well as ten years of non-profit management as Executive Director for The Arc of Union/Cabarrus.

Laurie Leader
Laurie is Vice-President at South State Bank. She is a graduate of Winthrop University with both a BS in Business Administration as well as a MBA. She formerly ran a family owned retail business in downtown Rock Hill for 15 years followed by working as Compliance Coordinator for the South Atlantic Conference for 8 years. She is married to Rock Hill attorney, Jack Leader, and they have two grown children.

Roger Sarow

Roger Sarow
Roger is President and General Manager of WFAE Public Radio, Charlotte, and its affiliated media operations. He has served as president since 1988 and is a native of Wisconsin. He received his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from the University of Wisconsin, unfortunately not Winthrop.  He was a Rotary International Graduate Fellow in Germany and was elected to National Public Radio's Board of Directors in 2008. Roger's wife, Marilyn, is a Professor of Mass Communications at Winthrop. His hobbies include photography, cooking, travel, and carpentry.

Isaiah Venning
Isaiah is a 1995 and 2000 graduate of Winthrop University with a BS and MBA. He currently resides in Rock Hill, SC and works for Bank of America as a Tech Project Solutions Consultant. Isaiah currently serves as Treasurer and District Chair of the Boys and Girls Committee of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.  He is also a member of the following boards; City of Rock Hill Community Relations and Carolina Community Actions. Isaiah's wife, Krystal, is also a graduate of Winthrop University and they have two sons.

Patrick Walsh
Patrick serves as Research Analyst at Defender Capital - a wealth management firm in Charlotte, NC where he analyzes portfolio companies through qualitative and quantitative research. Before joining Defender Capital Patrick attended Winthrop University where he received his BS in Business Administration (2012) and MBA with a concentration in Finance (2013). During this time, he competed as an NCAA Division I scholarship student-athlete on the Winthrop men’s soccer team and held leadership positions as President of the Investment Club, MBA Association and Student Athlete Advisory Committee. He enjoys reading, traveling, and golfing.

Graduate School
211 Tillman Hall
Rock Hill, SC 29733, USA
800/411-7041 (toll free)
803/323-2292 (Fax)

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