Distinguished Alumni Award
Sean Celia Potter
Posted on: November 2, 2017
As Columbia filled with Gamecock alumni returning for Homecoming weekend, the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management recognized the winners of its 2017 Distinguished Alumni and Friends Awards.
The 2017 HRSM Alumni Award winners are:
Sean Celia Potter
Sallie Hook Boggs
Sarah Olivia Haile
E.L. “Bert” Pooser, Jr.
The four honorees were recognized and presented with their awards on October 27, 2017 at brunch ceremony attended by their guests and college leadership.
Pooser earned the Distinguished Friend of the College Award with nearly six decades of loyal support of the college and university since his graduation in 1960. IMIC Hotels, the company he founded in 1981, currently operates 14 hotels in four states with Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham and Choice franchises. Pooser has been a generous and loyal supporter to both UofSC and HRSM in particular for more than 30 years. Through his giving, he established the Pooser Bicentennial Scholarship in 2001 to assist students in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management who had a financial need and also have a scholastic commitment to academic excellence and outstanding achievement.
"It's certainly been a pleasure for me and my family to participate and be involved as much as we possibly could,” he said.
More than 40 students and counting have benefited from Pooser's scholarship, and one of those scholarship recipients was also at the ceremony as a fellow award recipient.
Sean Potter was honored as the recipient of this year's HRSM Distinguished Alumni Award, and said the scholarship he received in college was crucial in helping him save money to establish his own business after earning his bachelor’s and master's degrees in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. Potter founded Southern Valet and Transportation in 2005, and has grown the company into various markets throughout South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. The company now has more than 130 employees throughout the state and is optimistic of future growth.
In addition to his success as an entreprenuer, Potter has invested his time and passion as a key member and ambassador for the HRSM Alumni Society. He has served as a board member since its inauguration in 2006 and also served one term as its chair. He said being involved in the organizaiton has helped him maintain close ties to his alma mater.
"Even now, 13 years after graduation, I feel like I'm more engaged than I ever have been,” he said.
Haile has also stayed in touch with her professors and mentors at HRSM, despite a quick career launch that has taken her to Philadelphia. Haile graduated in 2013 with a two bachelor's degrees - one in sport and entertainment management and one in public relations. Now the motorsports marketing manager for Comcast, Haile is responsible for the day-to-day management and strategy of Comcast's NASCAR partnership, including its entitlement of the NASCAR XFINITY Series and its presence in the sport as the Official Entertainment Provider of NASCAR.
Haile said she remembers speaking with Professor Tom Regan in her early days at HRSM and telling him that working in NASCAR was her dream.
"He said 'We have the resources and everything we need to get you there if that's what you want and you're willing to work for it,'" she said.
She did just that and achieved her goals. While an HRSM student, she interned for the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation, Spire Sports and Entertainment and Darlington Raceway, opening doors and proving herself as a rising star in her field.
Of this year’s winners, one very familiar name to many HRSM students and alumni is recently retired retailing faculty member Sallie Boggs. For almost two decades prior to her retirement in 2017, Boggs taught classes in the Retailing Department’s fashion merchandising track, inspiring and guiding student after student to successful careers in the fashion world and elsewhere.
During her time at HRSM, Boggs served the college and its students in many ways and was always held in very high regard by teh students she worked with, as well as her collegagues and friends. She is a three-time winner of the HRSM Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, an award voted on by students, and she also helped establish UofSC's Fashion Board as one of the most active student organizations on campus. With Boggs as its first advisor, Fashion Board grew from less than 20 members to more than 200 in less than three years. The group continues to be a point of pride and highlight for the department and university.
Boggs, true to her humble nature, said she did not feel deserving of the honor.
"HRSM is a wonderful college environment that I was lucky enough to work in,” she said. “Everybody does great things to help our students."
Congratulations again to the 2017 winners! Click here to learn more about the awards and previous winners.