Winthrop University: Order of the Palmetto Presented to Gary Simrill for Exceptional Work in the S.C. House
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Order of the Palmetto Presented to Gary Simrill for Exceptional Work in the S.C. House

October 10, 2022

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The award is the highest civilian award given to a South Carolina resident.
  • Colleagues, family and friends gathered outside at the Governor’s Mansion to help honor Simrill for his 30 years of exceptional service to the Palmetto State.

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – S.C. Governor Henry McMaster praised Gary Simrill ’91 for his S.C. General Assembly work during an Oct. 4 presentation of the Order of the Palmetto to the Rock Hill native.

The award is the highest civilian award given to a South Carolina resident. Colleagues, family and friends gathered outside at the Governor’s Mansion to help honor Simrill for his 30 years of exceptional service to the Palmetto State.

McMaster said the Order of the Palmetto is for people who have gone beyond the call of duty. “It takes a lot of time and effort to achieve this award,” the governor said.

Simrill, who retired this year from his S.C. House 46 seat, said he enjoyed his three decades in the S.C. General Assembly. “As the longest serving Republican in the House, I learned what approaches worked to accomplish needed improvements for our state,” Simrill said. “Serving the citizens of York County and South Carolina has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Simrill has embarked on a new career on July 1 with Winthrop University’s Office of the President. Tasked with helping his alma mater as the special assistant to the president for community engagement, Simrill started work the same day as new Winthrop President Edward Serna

One of the dignitaries in the audience on Oct. 4 was Serna, who had only praise for Simrill.

“Gary is well deserving of this special award as he has dedicated his career to helping South Carolina and its citizens. We are thrilled to have him at Winthrop because he understands how building partnerships across the community helps Winthrop contribute to a better quality of life in our region,” Serna said. “He values all perspectives and appreciates the connections that Winthrop can make around the state to help provide a better experience for our students. I have enjoyed working with him for the past three months and look forward to the great things all of us at Winthrop can accomplish together.”

Simrill said he never sought leadership positions in the S.C. General Assembly, but they came to him eventually. He served an unprecedented three terms as Majority Leader of the S.C. House, as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and chair of the Ways and Means budget subcommittee on higher education. Normally a Majority Leader can only serve two two-year terms for a limit of four years; however, those rules were suspended to allow Simrill to serve a third term.  

Colleagues speak of Simrill’s institutional knowledge of the General Assembly, of his persistence and his consensus-building.

Just a few of Simrill’s high-profile achievements include: serving as the primary sponsor of the Infrastructure and Economic Development Act of 2017 that increased the gas tax to pay for much-needed road widening and repaving projects; working on a bi-partisan initiative to give colleges and universities more money for technology, deferred maintenance and capital needs if the institutions keep tuition low; and, most recently, fighting for and winning $26 million for Winthrop in that endeavor.

This November at the Alumni Awards dinner, Simrill will receive the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award, Winthrop’s highest award given to an alumnus for selfless dedication of time, energy and talent in service to others. 

For more information, contact Judy Longshaw, news and media services manager, at longshawj@winthrop.edu or at 803/323-2404.

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Last Updated: 10/10/22