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Columbia Business Monthly

Senate President Alexander, Lowcountry Community Health Leader Gardner Receive Riley Institute’s SC Leadership Awards

Jan 11, 2023 11:00AM ● By David Dykes

(Photos: Roland Gardner, left and Thomas Alexander, right)

South Carolina Senate President Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee/Pickens) received the 2023 Riley-Wilkins OneSouthCarolina Legislative Leadership Award, and community health leader Roland Gardner of Beaufort received the 2023 Riley-Wilkins OneSouthCarolina Civic Leadership Award.

The awards recognize outstanding, principled leadership in South Carolina and were given at the Riley-Wilkins OneSouthCarolina Legislative and Civic Leadership Awards dinner Jan. 10 in Columbia.

Dick Riley, former United States secretary of education and former two-term governor of South Carolina, and David Wilkins, former United States ambassador to Canada and former speaker of the South Carolina House, presented the awards. Organizers said the awards’ names reflect their statesmanship and longtime bipartisan efforts.

“In a time when bipartisanship feels elusive, it’s more important than ever for the good of our state and its residents that we put aside differences to get things done and to honor those leading the way,” said Dr. Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute. “The awards celebration embodies the cooperative spirit that has defined the leadership styles of Dick Riley, a Democrat, and David Wilkins, a Republican.”

Alexander has served at the Statehouse since 1987, first as a representative and then as a senator, and in 2021 was elected Senate president with bipartisan support. Alexander has led efforts and worked across the aisle on workforce development, equitable distribution of pandemic relief funds, and the vital expansion of broadband internet into rural and underserved areas in South Carolina.

Gardner, recipient of the civic leadership award, improved the lives of residents of the Lowcountry and South Carolina by increasing access to quality healthcare during his 41 years as CEO of Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services (BJHCHS) until his retirement in May 2022.

Under Gardner’s leadership, BJHCHS grew from a start-up nonprofit into a multi-million-dollar corporation that spans three counties and serves over 17,000 patients.

The Jan. 10 event at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center began with a cocktail reception for all registered attendees at 6 p.m. The dinner and awards presentation took place at 7 p.m. A dessert reception followed.

Furman University’s Riley Institute said BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina was the presenting sponsor.

The institute advances social and economic progress in South Carolina and beyond by building leadership for a diverse society, hosting expert speakers to broaden perspectives on critical issues, supporting public education, and creating knowledge through community solutions-focused research.

It says it is committed to nonpartisanship and to a rhetoric-free, facts-based approach to change. Learn more at