USC sets winter commencement

Posted on: 12/2/2013; Updated on: 2/7/2014
By Megan Sexton, 803-777-1421

Marva Smalls, a University of South Carolina alumna who is a veteran of both the political world and the entertainment industry, will speak at USC’s winter commencement exercises Dec. 16.

The 3:30 p.m. ceremony for baccalaureate, master’s and professional-degree recipients from all eight campuses will be in the Colonial Life Arena.

Smalls will receive the honorary degree of doctorate of humane letters at the commencement ceremony. Carlisle Floyd, a renowned opera composer and librettist and native of Latta, S.C., will receive the honorary degree of doctor of fine arts.

The doctoral hooding ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts. Robert E. Ployhart, Bank of America Professor of Business Administration in the Darla Moore School of Business, will be the speaker.

The university expects to award 1,650 degrees from the Columbia campus. Also receiving degrees at the December ceremony will be approximately 850 graduates of USC Aiken, USC Beaufort, USC Lancaster, USC Salkehatchie, USC Sumter, USC Union and USC Upstate.

Smalls, a native of Florence, S.C., who earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s in public administration from USC, has spent three decades as a champion of social and corporate responsibility, multiculturalism, inclusiveness and diversity. She spent 10 years as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Robin Tallon of South Carolina. In 1993, she joined the media company Viacom, where she is the company’s executive vice president of global inclusion strategy. She serves concurrently as executive vice president of public affairs and chief of staff at Nickelodeon Networks Group, where she helps direct financial resources, personnel and facilities for the company’s New York, Los Angeles and international offices.

At Nickelodeon, she has helped launch Let’s Just Play, a campaign to get children more physically active while promoting healthy lifestyles, and the Big Help, which has encouraged 40 million children to complete community service.

She lives in both New York City and Florence, S.C., and has remained dedicated to the future of her state and alma mater. She has served on the board of USC’s Education Foundation. This year, she made a significant gift to USC’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research, creating scholarships for  minority students from the Pee Dee who want to study aerospace technology.

The second honorary degree recipient, Carlisle Floyd, earned a bachelor of music degree at Syracuse University and taught at Florida State University and the University of Houston. He served as the co-director of the Houston Opera Studio and chairman of the Opera Musical Theater of the National Endowment for the Arts. Floyd retired from teaching in 1996, 50 years after accepting his first faculty appointment.

As an opera composer, many of Floyd’s works were set in Southern venues and featured Southern themes. Floyd received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1956. In 1983, he received the National Opera Institute’s Award for Service to American Opera, the institute’s highest honor.

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