Alumnus gives back as board chair

Posted on: 10/15/2013; Updated on: 2/7/2014
By Marcie Nelson

Many people on campus may recognize Tommy Preston. As a student, he was student body president and founded Cocky’s Reading Express. And he’s still involved as an alumnus. Now, Preston is the chair of the university's Board of Visitors on top of his day job as a lawyer with Nexsen Pruet, LLC, in Columbia.

What exactly is the Board of Visitors?

The Board of Visitors (BOV) was created by the Board of Trustees, and its main goal is advancement of the university through visibility and engagement. The board members are key ambassadors of the university and are chosen from every corner of South Carolina and beyond. Our job is to articulate the story of USC throughout the state,  and to show citizens the great impact the university truly has on advancing South Carolina. 

You are the youngest and the first person of color to chair the BOV. How does that impact you?

I am tremendously honored to have the opportunity to be on the BOV. In terms of youth and race, it shows how truly great our university is that we appreciate and respect the engagement of young people to serve in major leadership roles. It also shows our commitment to diversity. It is a happy coincidence that the year I became chair of the BOV is the same year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of USC’s desegregation. To be in this important role to help advance the university as a minority is something I do not take for granted, and I am always thinking about those who came before me who are responsible for someone like me having this opportunity. Additionally, I am conscientious about the example I am setting for other young people and minorities to serve our university in the future. 

People here probably recognize your name since you have been consistently involved at Carolina. Why stay involved with your alma mater?

Many of the great things that have happened to me, both personally and professionally, I can attribute back to being an involved student at USC. My time as student body president and creating Cocky’s Reading Express shaped who I am today. I have two degrees from this university and even met my wife in law school. I view the BOV as a way to give back to a place that has given so much to me.

What are your goals for the BOV?

The No. 1 goal is to make sure the people of South Carolina see the great things USC is doing statewide. We are without a doubt making a difference, and I want to make the university more present in communities around the state. We are working on healthy-living initiatives in partnership with Patricia Moore-Pastides’ objectives, partnering with Cocky’s Reading Express to reinforce the importance of literacy, and also participating in a program called Think College to go into smaller communities and talk to prospective students and families about the importance of higher education. Our theme is, “Expanding Carolina’s Reach Throughout South Carolina and Beyond,” and we intend to make it happen. 

Why does it matter to students, faculty and staff?

The BOV wants to be an ally for university students, faculty, staff and groups to spread the message of the great things going on and help USC be present in communities around South Carolina. I encourage people to reach out to the board or me if there is an opportunity to collaborate on things going on that we may not be aware of. (To contact the board reach out to Leah Kososki at 803-777-8298 or Kososki@mailbox.sc.edu.)


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