Winthrop to Honor Five Distinguished Alumni at Nov. 10 Awards Dinner

November 04, 2022


  • The five winners are: Jane LaRoche '70; Gary Simrill '91; Ashlye Rumph-Geddis Wilkerson '05; Cecily Truett Lancit '71; and Punam Patel '12. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Five accomplished Winthrop University alumni will be honored for their service and professional achievements at the Alumni Awards Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 10.

Learn more about the winners by visiting the Alumni Awards page.


This award, established in 1940, recognizes a Winthrop alumna for selfless dedication of time, energy and talent in service to others. 

Jane LaRoche ‘70

LaRoche embodies the definition of service in many ways. The Camden, South Carolina, native earned degrees in Spanish and physical education from then-Winthrop College and went on to graduate from the Medical University of South Carolina. She completed an internship in internal medicine at Tulane University’s Charity Hospital and is board-certified in multiple areas: internal medicine (1978); geriatrics (1990); and emergency medicine (2000). She has privately practiced in internal medicine, served as an emergency room physician and currently works in urgent care medicine. 

As an alumna, LaRoche has remained an active volunteer and generous donor to her alma mater. She served for 16 years as an alumni representative to the Winthrop University Board of Trustees, on the Executive Board of the Kershaw County Alumni Chapter since 1993, served as a class agent for 36 years, as a class reunion volunteer for over 20 years, is a past member of the Annual Giving Advisory Council and most recently served on the Class of 1970’s 50-year reunion. She also was a charter member of the Eagle Club and the D.B. Johnson Society. 

Read more about Jane LaRoche.


This award recognizes a Winthrop alumnus for selfless dedication of time, energy and talent in service to others. 

Gary Simrill ‘91

Simrill is a dedicated public servant and native of Rock Hill, having served in the General Assembly for 30 years representing S.C. House 46 before retiring in 2022 as the longest-serving Republican in the S.C. House. He served an unprecedented three terms as Majority Leader, as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and chair of the Ways and Means budget subcommittee on higher education. 

Some of his 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.

He earned a business administration degree from Winthrop in 1991 and joined the university staff as special assistant to the president for community engagement in July 2022.

Read more about Gary Simrill.


This award recognizes a Winthrop alumna/us who significantly contributes to the quality of life in his or her community, the development of values and morals within others, and serves as an outstanding citizen. 

Ashlye Rumph-Geddis Wilkerson ‘05

Excellence doesn’t wait: At the age of just 29, Wilkerson was appointed by the South Carolina General Assembly to the Winthrop University Board of Trustees to represent Congressional District 6. She is the youngest member of the Board of Trustees and is the only woman of color. Hired as the inaugural professor for the Women in Leadership in South Carolina course at Columbia College, Wilkerson developed a course that celebrated the local women from across the state by developing and implementing a 10-week speaker series, "Women Lead SC."

She’s been lauded for her impact on education and literacy, and was honored with resolutions from the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives for her work with children's literature with four published titles. She’s also taught kindergarten and first-grade students. 

Wilkerson holds a philosophy degree from Winthrop, a master’s degree in teaching from Hampton University and a doctoral degree in teaching and learning from the University of South Carolina, as well as two professional certificates in servant leadership and executive leadership from Cornell University.

Read more about Ashlye Rumph-Geddis Wilkerson.


This award is presented to an alumna/us who has made significant contributions to his or her professional field while exemplifying high moral and business ethics. 

Cecily Truett Lancit ‘71

Lancit co-created and produced the PBS series “Reading Rainbow,” an American educational children's television series that encouraged school-age children to read. It originally aired on PBS and afterwards on PBS Kids and PBS Kids Go! from July 11, 1983 to Nov. 10, 2006. During this time, it was the number one used program in American elementary schools! She also created and/or produced “The Puzzle Place,” “Backyard Safari” and “Ramona.” 

Lancit’s additional work includes hundreds of documentaries produced for major charity fundraising initiatives, corporate and hospitality clients. Of note are her projects with the Naples Children and Education Foundation (NCEF), which executes the Naples Winter Wine Festival, widely recognized as one of the nation’s most significant charity events. One of her and her husband’s most recent projects are “Blues on Beale,” highlighting the 36th Annual International Blues Competition in Memphis, and “Butterfly in the Sky,” a chronicle of the history and impact of “Reading Rainbow.” 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Spanish minor from then-Winthrop College and a master’s degree in journalism and media arts from the University of South Carolina.

Read more about Cecily Truett Lancit.


This award recognizes a Winthrop alumna/us age 35 or younger whose service to the university, service to the community and professional achievements have reflected positively on all alumni and the university. 

Punam Patel ‘12

Patel graduated from Winthrop in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in healthcare management. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in health administration from the University of South Carolina.

She is currently the external affairs director for the Medical University of South Carolina’s Regional Health Network, which includes the Midlands, Florence and Lancaster Division. She also serves as the external affairs lead for the Midlands Division. In this role, she maintains connectivity to enterprise-wide partnerships and locally manages relationships with key external stakeholders across Richland, Kershaw, Fairfield, Lexington and neighboring counties to establish unique collaborations and partnerships.

Prior to joining MUSC, Patel worked in a number of roles, including in management consulting at PwC, as director of operations at Agape Hospice, in Health System Operations at Prisma Health, as well as serving as the ombudsman for AccelerateSC, Governor Henry McMaster’s COVID-19 Response Team. Patel has served in several volunteer roles at Winthrop, such as on the College of Business Administration Advisory Board, Healthcare Management Advisory Board and 5-year class reunion committee.

Read more about Punam Patel.

For questions about the Alumni Awards Dinner, contact the Alumni Association office at 803/323-2145 or e-mail

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