Townes Award

Since 1993, the Governor's School for Science & Mathematics has presented the Townes Award to honor individuals, businesses, or institutions that have transformed South Carolina and the world. Past winners have hailed from academic, business and political sectors.

GSSM is proud to announce the Honorable Jay Lucas as the 2023 recipient of the school's prestigious Townes Award. Representative Lucas, who has over 40 years of public service, ranging from county attorney to Speaker of the SC House of Representatives, was honored during the 29th annual Townes Award Celebration on March 15, 2023.

Dr. Charles H. Townes (1915-2015) was a native South Carolinian, Furman graduate and Nobel Laureate in physics. In 1964, Dr. Townes received the Nobel Prize for his pioneering research in quantum electronics leading to the invention of the laser. This breakthrough transformed not only science, but also our everyday lives. The laser now is a ubiquitous part of the modern landscape, including in surgery, fiber optic communication, and laser printers.

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Past recipients of the Townes Award include:


2022: People of Sonoco Products Company

Since GSSM’s founding, the people of Sonoco have played pivotal roles to ensure the growth and success of the Governor’s School. They have served on the GSSM Board of Trustees and GSSM Foundation Board of Directors, led capital campaigns, and provided significant corporate and personal support to launch new initiatives and fund scholarships.



2021: Bill and Lou Kennedy

Bill and Lou Kennedy, co-owners of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, were honored for their transformational leadership and commitment to empowering future generations of scientists, engineers, and innovators. The Kennedys are both South Carolina natives and graduates of the University of South Carolina. They moved Nephron’s corporate headquarters from Florida to West Columbia, South Carolina, in 2014. Nephron develops and produces safe, affordable generic inhalation solutions and suspension products. A $215 million investment announced in July 2020 will bring 380 new full-time jobs to Columbia by 2024.


2019: The Students & Graduates of GSSM

Presented as part of GSSM's 30th anniversary celebration, the 2019 Townes Award honored the students and graduates of GSSM. The alumni and students are a testament to GSSM's power to transform lives, and they are transforming South Carolina and the world in so many ways. The award was accepted on behalf of all students and graduates by an alum representative of each of the three decades of GSSM's history, along with a current student.

2017: The Honorable Nikki R. Haley, the SC Department of Commerce, and Team South Carolina

The Honorable Nikki R. Haley served as the 116th Governor of South Carolina from January 2011 to January 2017. As Governor, Haley was committed to enhancing our state’s pro-business environment through a combination of incentives, infrastructure and workforce development and training. As South Carolina’s leading economic development agency, the SC Department of Commerce works to recruit new businesses and help existing businesses grow. In an effort to bring South Carolina together and encourage an economic boom, Haley and the Department of Commerce created a unified front known as Team South Carolina. Together they ushered in a new era of economic revival in South Carolina.

2016: Milliken & Company

The 2016 Townes Award honored Milliken & Company for its innovative leadership and success. Milliken has long led the way for "knowledge-based" investment, accumulating over 2,200 U.S. patents—and more than 5,000 patents worldwide—since its founding in 1865. With 39 manufacturing facilities in the U.S., U.K., Belgium, France and China, and with other sales and service operations throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, Milliken's nearly 7,000 associates work to create entirely new customer experiences, build for the future, and create products that do good for the world.

2015: The Honorable Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham has served in the United States Senate since 2003 and was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. Born and raised in Central, South Carolina, Graham holds a law degree from the University of South Carolina and served in both the United States Air Force and the South Carolina Air National Guard. The 2015 Townes Award honored Senator Graham for his tireless service to our state and nation.

2014: Jim Barker

Jim Barker served as president of Clemson University for 14 years before retiring in 2013. He guided the university to its highest national ranking to date (#21 among national public universities). Barker's tenure was also marked by substantial improvement in the quality of the student body, higher retention and graduation rates, record fundraising levels, and development of major economic development and research campuses in Greenville, Anderson, and Charleston.

2013: University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville

Through unique synergism and vision, the University of South Carolina and the Greenville Hospital System came together to create a new four-year program that is quickly gaining national attention. With innovation at its core, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville is driven by a case-based, integrated curriculum, small class sizes, self-directed learning, and hands-on clinical experience from day one. Together with GHS, the medical school is committed to improving healthcare in South Carolina.

2012: M. Edward Sellers

Before retiring in 2010, Ed served as chairman and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of SC for 18 years. Through his leadership, the company grew from 2,500 to 13,500 employees and from $220 million in revenue to $4 billion. He remains as chairman today. A lifelong servant of the public good, Ed is currently chair of the SC Council on Competitiveness and vice-chair of the Palmetto Institute. He serves on the boards of the SC Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics Foundation, the Palmetto Business Forum, the Spoleto Festival USA, and the National Bank of South Carolina, among others.

2011: The Honorable Hugh K. Leatherman

Senator Hugh Leatherman of Florence, SC, has served the Pee Dee in local and state office since 1967. He is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and has been instrumental in securing economic development projects throughout the Pee Dee and the entire Palmetto State. He was honored with the 2011 Townes Award for his many years of leadership, service, and dedication to the people of South Carolina.

2010: Darla Moore

Darla Moore is the vice president of Rainwater, Inc., one of the nation's largest private investment firms, and is founder and chair of Palmetto Institute, a nonprofit think tank aimed at bolstering per-capita income in South Carolina. This powerful and pioneering businesswoman and philanthropist from Lake City, SC, is the first woman to be profiled on the cover of Fortune magazine and is named in the "Top 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business" list. She is also a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor for any South Carolinian.

2009: Harris E. DeLoach

Harris DeLoach is the president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of Sonoco Products Company. He joined Sonoco in 1986 and moved into higher leadership positions within the company over the next decade before being named president and CEO in July 2000. Harris is actively involved in the Hartsville community, serving as chairman of the Hartsville Rotary Club, the Hartsville Chamber of Commerce, and the Darlington County Bar Association. He is the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Coker College and has served as chairman of its Board of Trustees.

2008: Steve Swanson

The 2008 Townes Award was presented to Steve Swanson, co-founder of Automated Trading Desk (ATD), a pioneer in high-frequency trading. In 2007, ATD was sold to Citigroup, where Swanson now serves as global co-head of electronic trading for equities.

2007: The Honorable Robert W. Harrell, Jr.

The 2007 Townes Award was presented to The Honorable Robert W. Harrell, Jr., Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, for his support of science and mathematics education and his leadership in the development of South Carolina’s new knowledge-based economy.

2006: Don Herriott

The 2006 Townes Award was presented to Don Herriott, head of Roche Global Chemical Manufacturing, for his leadership in research and innovation. He is responsible for the operations at Roche's pharmaceutical sites in South Carolina, Colorado, Switzerland, Ireland, Mexico, Austria and Germany.

2005: The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings

The 2005 Townes Award was presented to The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings, retired U.S. Senator, for his commitment to the advancement of science and technology. He was the 106th governor of South Carolina and one of the longest-serving Senators in U.S. history.

2004: South Carolina's Three Research Universities: Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina

The 2004 Townes Award was presented to South Carolina's three research universities for their roles in the advancement of science and technology in South Carolina.

2003: Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr.

The 2003 Townes Award was presented to Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr., a U.S. Marine and astronaut, for his thirst for discovery and exploration. Bolden is a native of Columbia, SC, and was the pilot of the Space Shuttle Discovery when it deployed the Hubble Space Telescope into Earth orbit. He completed four shuttle missions and logged more than 680 hours in space before leaving the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1994 and returning to assignments in the Marine Corps.

2002: The Honorable Richard W. Riley

The 2002 Townes Award was presented to The Honorable Richard W. Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education and the 111th governor of South Carolina. As Secretary, he helped launch initiatives to raise academic standards, improve instruction for disadvantaged students, expand grant and loan programs for college students, and prepare young people for the workforce.

2001: Dr. Larry A. Jackson

The 2001 Townes Award was presented to Dr. Larry A. Jackson, President Emeritus of Lander University. Dr. Jackson served as president of Lander from 1973 to 1992, the longest-serving president of any four-year public college or university in South Carolina at that time. His energy and vision helped transform Lander into a burgeoning university with thousands of students and a beautiful, modern campus. When he retired, Governor Campbell awarded him the Order of the Palmetto for his service to the state.

2000: Rudy Mancke and Dr. John Michener

Rudy Mancke has globally uplifted South Carolinians’ love of natural beauty, joy of expanding our knowledge of the natural world, and concern for our environment as the co-host of South Carolina ETV's NatureScene. John Michener, retired from Milliken Research, is the founder of the South Carolina Junior Academy of Science. This organization has nurtured excellence in scientific research, study, and analysis among our state’s students and encouraged them to explore beyond their accustomed parameters.

1999: Roger Milliken and Dr. Ruth Patrick

Roger Milliken is Chairman and CEO of Milliken & Company, which grew to become the world's largest privately owned textile and chemical manufacturer under his leadership. His dedication to education in South Carolina is evidenced by his long-time service as a trustee for Wofford College and his role in the founding of Spartanburg Day School. Dr. Ruth Patrick is a botanist and limnologist who studies South Carolina's waterways. She was the first scientist to diagnose the health of a river or stream by plant life and animal species, and her early studies contributed significantly to the developing field of ecology.

1998: Dr. Peggy W. Cain

Dr. Peggy Cain is a former science consultant for the South Carolina Department of Education, where she poured her heart and soul into bettering the state's science education programs. She authored two textbooks and co-authored two others on science teaching methods. She also served as an adjutant professor of geology at Clemson University, where she developed the SC MAPS middle school curriculum. Prior to her service with the Department of Education, Dr. Cain taught high school science in Sumter County.

1997: Fred Sheheen

Fred Sheheen has been the head of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education since 1987, where he has helped craft policies to provide equality for African-American students at the state's colleges and universities and is known for his ability to bring people together. He is a strong advocate for the arts and very active in local and civic affairs.

1996: Dr. Walter D. Smith

Dr. Walter D. "Doug" Smith, founding President of Francis Marion University, was one of GSSM's early champions and served as Interim President of GSSM when it was newly created. He was a rare breed of leader with an inspiring vision of what our state can be when we empower our young people with confidence, understanding, and compassion.

1995: Elizabeth M. Martin

Elizabeth Martin is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the College of Charleston. She is a graduate of Winthrop College and earned master's degrees from Duke University and Georgia State University. Her research focus is chemical education.

1994: Dr. John R. Carpenter and Dr. Doris R. Helms

Dr. John Carpenter is a professor of geological and environmental sciences at the University of South Carolina and the Founding Director of the Center for Science Education at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Doris Helms is a biologist and Associate Dean of the College of Sciences at Clemson University, and she serves as the Chairman of the College Board Science Advisory Committee. Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Helms were co-PIs for a $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a cooperative plan for the professional development of 7th-12th grade science and math teachers in South Carolina.

1993: The Honorable Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. and Charles W. Coker

The Honorable Carroll Campbell has been Governor of South Carolina since 1987 and was previously a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Charlie Coker is the President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Sonoco Products Company. Governor Campbell and Mr. Coker were presented with the inaugural Townes Award in honor of their instrumental roles in the creation of GSSM.