Girl Scouts of South Carolina – Mountains to Midlands will honor four Midlands-area women at its Annual Women of Distinction Awards Dinner on March 1, 2018 at the Columba Metropolitan Convention Center. The Women of Distinction Award recognizes local women of courage, confidence, and character, who exhibit exceptional professional and personal success, and have made a lasting impact in the community. The evening pays tribute to the honorees with a night of success stories, inspiration, and call to action.
This year’s honorees are: Kathleen Lawson Gibson, Director of Clarendon One Community Resource Center; Melanie Huggins, Executive Director of Richland Library; Erin McCaskill, Vice President and private banker for First Citizens Wealth Management; Molly Spearman, South Carolina State Superintendent of Education.
Kathleen Lawson Gibson is the daughter of the late Henry Lawson and Faye Smith Lawson. She received her formal education at Clarendon School District One and was an honor graduate of Scott’s Branch High School Class of 1970. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Early Childhood with a concentration in Psychology. Ms. Gibson is always proud to let the young people know that it is never too late to reach their goal. As she is quick to tell anyone, she was a “non-traditional student” who walked across the stage of the Carolina Coliseum in her early 40’s.
Ms. Gibson is a lifelong member of Historic Liberty Hill AME Church. She is the Past-President of the Adult Choir, 1st Chairperson of the Church’s Hostess Committee. Presently, she serves as assistant class leader to her mother, Faye Lawson, a member of the Steward Board, and she is a member of the Women’s Missionary Society.
Among her many duties and daily activities, Ms. Gibson is actively involved with the following committees/boards: Clarendon County First Steps, Willow Glen Academy Human Rights Board, appointed by Clarendon County Council to the Disabilities and Special Needs Board, SC State Certified Guardian Ad Litem advocating for children of abuse and neglect for 15 years (Cass Elias McCarter Program), and Children’s Trust of South Carolina. Additionally, she is a member of the Clarendon County Education Association, South Carolina Education Association, National Education Association and is an American Red Cross Certified Volunteer. She is also a member of the Clarendon Branch of the NAACP.
Ms. Gibson has been employed by Clarendon School District One for over thirty years. She has worked in various capacities to include Para-professional, then upon graduation, director and teacher of Child Care for 18 years. She now serves as Director of Clarendon One Community Resource Center as well as, Title One Parent Coordinator. She recently was awarded the Doretha Ford Service Award for exemplary services, professional commitment and leadership in Community Affairs by the Manning Branch NAACP Expo April 27, 2014. Also, she was recognized by her district with an Award of Distinction presented by her Superintendent Dr. Rose H. Wilder for her work at the center, which includes but not limited to, many areas of community outreach. Ms. Gibson received following awards during the year of 2017: Young Adults Missionary Trailblazer in the Community Award, Clarendon Branch of the NAACP Roosevelt Mitchell Community Service Award and the Scott’s Branch High Alumni Association Exemplary Community Service Award.
On July 23, 2014 the center launched Summerton’s first job fair hosted by SC Works with 300 job seekers signing-up. This job fair opened many doors to employment in the community, as a result many of the job seekers have received employment. In addition, it ultimately led to the recruitment of a welding class with 58 interested participants. The center also provides an adult computer lab for job applications, resume writing, on-line courses, and the ability to apply for SNAP benefits, Medicaid, Social security Benefits, unemployment benefits as well as Job Corps recruitment and current HOT JOBS, posted from SC Works. Clarendon County Adult Education is also on site providing opportunities to obtain GEDs, Work-keys and other literacy building skills. The Harvin Clarendon County Library’s BOOKMOBILE is on site the 4th Saturday of each month promoting literacy. There is also a “Gift Closet” for those in need of clothing assistances for children and adults.
It was once said, that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. This thought immediately comes to mind when thinking of Kathleen Gibson. She has overcome many obstacles and worked incredibly hard over the years to get where she has gotten today. She uses her experiences and the many lessons she has learned over the course of her life to help others around her. She is never too busy to help out where she can. She epitomizes what it means to be a public servant. It is for all of these reasons and so many more that I believe Kathleen is a role model for today’s girls and should be honored as a Woman of Distinction.
She is the proud mother of three sons (Daren, Derrell and Richard) 8 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
Melanie Huggins is the executive director of Richland Library in Columbia, SC, which received the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor.
A noted expert in the areas of strategic planning, collaborations, leadership development and library staffing, she is a frequent speaker and facilitator for other libraries and organizations. Huggins came to Richland Library in 2009 from St. Paul Public Library, where she served as the director. In her time at Richland Library, she has introduced a new focus for strategic planning that involves all staff, rebranded the library system based on customer feedback, and received nearly $6 million in grants.
Huggins continues to lead the implementation of a 10-year capital plan that includes expansion and renovation of all locations based on the changing roles of libraries. Most notably, in November 2013, voters approved a $59 million bond referendum that will allow for renovations and enhancements to the remaining 10 locations for the first time in 25 years.
Huggins is an active member of the American Library Association and a 2017 Liberty Fellow, Aspen Institute Global Leadership Network. She was also named the 2012 South Carolina Outstanding Librarian by the South Carolina Library Association. Huggins served as Director-at-Large for the Public Library Association from 2014-2017 as well as the Urban Libraries Council Executive Board from 2010-2016.
In addition to her work in the library community, Huggins was appointed in 2017 to serve a three-year term on the Together SC Board of Directors, and she was named Vice President of the University of South Carolina’s University Associates Board from 2017-2018 and she currently serves on the Columbia City Center Partnership Board.
Erin McCaskill, vice president and private banker for First Citizens Wealth Management, has been involved in the banking industry and the Midlands community for over 13 years. Erin graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in financial economics in 2002 and earned her MBA from the University of South Carolina in 2006.
With years of experience in the financial services industry, Erin brings knowledge, professionalism and an understanding of the financial landscape to her relationships. Having been a member of the First Citizens team since May, 2009, she is well known as a trusted, knowledgeable and innovative advisor, helping her clients do more with their assets and resources as they work to shape their future.
Erin is a member of the Financial Planning Association, holds a Certified Financial Planner designation and is extensively involved in numerous civic and philanthropic organizations. She currently is chair of the Lexington Medical Center Foundation Board, co-chair of the American Heart Association’s Heart Ball and vice chair of Women of Hope. Erin lives in downtown Columbia with her husband, Rich, and daughter, Alex. They enjoy volunteering in the community, supporting the Gamecocks, and frequenting local restaurants.
Molly Mitchell Spearman was elected as the 18th South Carolina State Superintendent of Education on November 4, 2014. Native to Saluda County, Mrs. Spearman’s childhood laid the foundations of family, faith, and hard work that transcended into her professional career as an educator and civil servant. Superintendent Spearman’s career has spanned 18 years as a public school music teacher and an assistant principal. In addition to teaching and administration, she has served four terms as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, six years as Deputy Superintendent of the South Carolina Department of Education, and ten years as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. She holds a B.A. Degree in music education from Lander University, a Master’s Degree in education supervision from George Washington University, and an Education Specialist degree from the University of South Carolina. As the South Carolina Superintendent of Education, Mrs. Spearman has the experience and relationships needed to move South Carolina’s education system forward. Superintendent Spearman strongly believes the foundation for student success lies in effective classroom teachers and principals who facilitate personalized learning for every student, every day. Her vision is for every South Carolina graduate to be prepared for the next step after graduation. Superintendent Spearman is excited to keep a positive and forward thinking approach to South Carolina education to promote better schools and brighter futures.
This is the 25th year that Girl Scouts of South Carolina-Mountains to Midlands will honor women in the midlands who make impactful community contributions. For ticket and/or sponsorship information to this annual fundraising event, please contact LaTanza Duncan, Chief Advancement Officer, LDuncan@gssc-mm.org, 803-461-3731or visit www.GSSC-MM.org.