Four New Members Join Alumni Association Executive Board

July 09, 2020


  • Sandra Daws 85, Jim Thrift 86, Suzanne Harnois 94 and Valida Foster ’04 are all serving their first term on the board. 
  • Three current board members were elected to second terms: Brenda Chase 89, Derrick Gainey 97 and Deb Dunlap 99. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Four alumni will become Winthrop University ambassadors as they serve for the first time on the Winthrop University Alumni Association Executive Board.

Sandra Daws 85, Jim Thrift 86, Suzanne Harnois 94 and Valida Foster 04 are all serving their first term on the board and will partner with the Alumni Association to connect with more than 60,000 alumni.

Three current board members were selected to serve a second term. They are Brenda Chase 89, Derrick Gainey 97 and Deb Dunlap 99.

“We are very excited to have four new members joining our board. Each one brings a unique skill set that will be a welcomed addition. We look forward to using their fresh perspective as well as ideas to encourage alumni engagement,” said Byron Putman ’94, president of the Winthrop Alumni Association.

Learn more about the new board members:

Sandra Daws

Daws studied dietetics at Winthrop and graduated in 1985. She is currently a registered dietitian nutritionist at Fresenius Medical Care. Daws is an active member of several dietetic organizations, having held several national board positions, most recently as treasurer for the Renal Nutrition Practice Group. She has frequently visited Capitol Hill to advocate for nutrition-related legislation pertaining to hunger, malnutrition, maternal and child health, school nutrition, older Americans, and Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) issues such as diabetes, heart and renal diseases, and metabolic disorders. She has met with each member of the S.C. legislative delegation on nutrition issues. She currently serves as vice chair of the Vantage Point Area Agency on Aging Advisory Board and holds various community positions, including in her church.

At Winthrop, she was a member of the Student Alumni Council, Student Dietetic Association, Phi Kappa Phi, Reformed University Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ.

Daws lives in Dillon, South Carolina, and has three daughters who are Winthrop alumnae.

Jim Thrift

Thrift graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. A member of the Winthrop men’s baseball team, Thrift was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1981 MLB June Amateur Draft and by the Oakland Athletics in the 1984 MLB June Amateur Draft. He then became the youngest manager in baseball while working for the New York Mets’ minor league team in Kingsport, Tennessee. He spent 15 years as a manager, instructor and coordinator in the minor leagues until becoming a major league coach for the Cincinnati Reds in 2001. Thrift launched his 15-year career as both a major league and international scout in 2002.

In 1996, Thrift established the Northern Virginia Baseball Academy. Currently, he is CEO and founder of ThriftScouting and is a consultant for many indoor/outdoor training facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Thrift is also a licensed real estate agent and lives in Sarasota, Florida. He has five children.

Suzanne Harnois

Harnois obtained her accounting degree from Clemson University in 1986 and obtained her M.B.A. from Winthrop in 1994. She is currently assistant vice president/senior tax manager of the Springs Company. She was formerly with Bernard N. Ackerman, CPA in Rock Hill for almost 20 years.

Harnois has served on a number of community and professional boards, including the Early Learning Partnership and on the board of the Children's Attention Home and the South Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants. She has also served as treasurer of the Rock Hill Area Council of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Junior Welfare League and as chairman of an advisory board of the Upper Palmetto YMCA. She currently serves as the treasurer for the Women's Art Initiative and on the finance committee at her church. 

She and her husband, Robert, live in Rock Hill.

Valida Foster

Foster is a diversity and inclusion professional with Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former senior institutional advancement and public relations director for Sherman College of Chiropractic in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She also has a background in leadership giving with the United Way. She studied integrated marketing communication at Winthrop and graduated in 2004 and will obtain a Master of Public Administration degree from Capella University in 2020.

At Winthrop, she was a member of the Student Government Association, the Association of Ebonites and the DiGiorgio Student Union. She was also a staff member of The Johnsonian and the Roddey-McMillan Record student publications. As an alumna, Foster is a former member of the Black Alumni Council, served on the alumni reunion committee in 2019 and currently volunteers as an alumni ambassador.

Foster is also active in her community and participates in a number of leadership opportunities. She is a 2017 graduate of the Clemson Leadership Lab and a 2018 graduate of the Spartanburg County Foundation’s Grassroots Leadership Development Institute and a 2019 graduate of the Furman Women's Leadership Institute. She is a member of the UNCF Upstate Leadership Council, the United Way's Women's Leadership and Young Leaders Societies and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated-Epsilon Beta Omega Chapter.

Foster lives in Duncan, South Carolina, with her daughter.

For more information on the board, please visit

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