Overview: The foundation for many successes for Winthrop University from 1989-2013 – and even beyond – can be found in the partnerships developed by Dr. DiGiorgio during his 24 years as president.
Central to his approach in advancing Winthrop was the belief that "a university must partner with entities in both the public and private sector if real and substantial progress is to be realized, both at the university and in society at large." Likewise, he encouraged community service among Winthrop students as part of their leadership development, and made sure that both he and Winthrop were role models in that regard.
It was through this latter commitment to community service that Winthrop University became the home to South Carolina's Campus Compact organization. Campus Compact is a national coalition of almost 1,200 college and university presidents—representing some 6 million students—who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education, emphasizing volunteer service and service-learning projects on campuses across the country. Dr. DiGiorgio chaired the state board of Campus Compact, made up of presidents of the 17 S.C. institutions that are members, as well as serving on the national Campus Compact board of directors. S.C. Campus Compact today continues its work to develop college and university graduates who are prepared not only for a career, but for life as informed and involved citizens at the local, national and international levels.
Recognizing that leading a university gives on the opportunity to serve the public in myriad ways beyond the campus, Dr. DiGiorgio over the years served on the boards of numerous education, business, civic and economic development organizations. In addition to leadership roles in relation to higher education, National Collegiate Athletics Association, and Big South Conference, Dr. DiGiorgio also served at varying times on the board of Bank of America, on the Charlotte Board of the Federal Reserve Board's Richmond District, the board of the Charlotte USA Regional Partnership for Economic Development, the Charlotte World Affairs Council and the board of South Carolina's Governor's School for Science and Math.
Closer to home, he served as an active board member with the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Rock Hill Economic Development Board.
Knowledge Park: As the Rock Hill region's economy was buffeted by shifts of textile manufacturing overseas in the late 20th century, and by the Great Recession in the early 21st century, area leaders began to realize the need to move toward a more knowledge-based economy.
With Winthrop University in the heart of the city's original "Old Town" area, and a million square feet of defunct textile mills separating its campus from the central business district of Rock Hill, President DiGiorgio proposed to City leaders that private sector leaders be enlisted in an initiative to re-develop the former textile property once it was in City hands, along with other main downtown employment nodes, as well as campus environs that had potential for a greater "college town" ambience.
From that initiative was born the Knowledge Park Leadership Group. Following months of collaboration, the group of public and private sector leaders in 2012 won City Council approval for an integrated jobs development plan incorporating a district stretching from Winthrop University, through the former textile corridor, to the eastern edge of downtown Rock Hill, with key employment nodes to be connected by a distinctive street car transit system. In mid-2013, the group chose a master developer to oversee implementation of the plan. More about the plan can be seen at the Knowledge Park Web site.
As both President Emeritus and a resident of Rock Hill, Dr. DiGiorgio remains strongly supportive of the Knowledge Park initiative, and considers work on this on-going progressive economic development initiative an important part of his presidential legacy.