2022 Governor’s Awards & Fresh Voices in the Humanities Recipients Announced

South Carolina Humanities is pleased to announce the 2022 recipients of the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities and the Fresh Voices in the Humanities Awards.

Established in 1991, the Governor’s Awards recognize outstanding achievement in humanities research, teaching, and scholarship; institutional and individual participation in helping communities in South Carolina better understand our cultural heritage or ideas and issues related to the humanities; excellence in defining South Carolina’s cultural life to the nation or world; and exemplary support for public humanities programs.  The 2022 recipients of the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities are Jack Alterman, an acclaimed photographer specializing in the people and places of Charleston, including its architecture and cultural preservation; Beryl Dakers, a broadcast trailblazer for 40+ years and an award-winning documentary filmmaker; and Dr. Gail Wagner, Professor Emerita at the University of South Carolina and a prominent Southeastern paleoethnobotanist and archaeologist.

SC Humanities recently introduced the Fresh Voices in the Humanities Awards as a way to recognize innovative individuals who use culture and history to bring people together, but whose efforts may have gone relatively unnoticed beyond their own community. The 2022 recipients of the Fresh Voices in the Humanities Awards are Dr. Len Lawson, Assistant Professor at Newberry College, published poet, and advocate for South Carolina’s African-American poets; and Dr. Rhondda R. Thomas, Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University who contributed significant research on the history of African Americans at Clemson.

Learn more about this year’s winners and see a list of past recipients on the Governor’s Awards page of SC Humanities’ website.

The Governor’s Awards in the Humanities Award Ceremony and Luncheon will be held at the Pastides Alumni Center in Columbia, South Carolina on Thursday, October 20, 2022. Table sponsorships are available, as well as individual tickets. To reserve your table and learn more about this event, visit the Governor’s Awards Sponsor page or call 803-771-2477.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Now entering its 50th year as the state humanities council for South Carolina, this 501(c)3 organization is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos, and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.

2022 Governor’s Award in the Humanities

Jack Alterman opened his studio in his hometown of Charleston over forty years ago and has remained focused on capturing transcendent images of the architecture and the people of his city. Alterman’s most notable projects include: “Who Among Us” highlighted the diversity of those experiencing homelessness and benefiting the Crisis Ministries of Charleston; “The Bridge Builders” portraits captured the men and women who participated in the construction of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge; public portrait exhibit “Eastsiders Matter” was the topic of his 2016 Tedx Talk; “King Street – the 500 Block” included portraits of local merchants displayed in the windows of vacant storefronts. Jack has published three books of his images: Cornices of Charleston; My Lazy Eye, and My City Charleston.

2022 Governor’s Award in the Humanities

Beryl Dakers, a broadcast trailblazer for over forty years, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and dedicated community servant. After a brief stint at WIS, she joined SCETV in 1977 as Director of News and Public Affairs. During the course of her career, she developed numerous programs for ETV, including the very popular “NatureScene” and “What in the World Is It?” series. An adept on-camera personality, she has amassed a tremendous body of works as a documentary producer, writer, and director of a wide and over-arching list of humanities topics. She is most proud of those works which serve to document SC’s social, political, cultural, and natural history. Beryl is a lifelong student of history, a staunch advocate for the Arts, and a firm believer in giving back to the community.

2022 Governor’s Award in the Humanities

Dr. Gail Wagner, University of South Carolina Professor Emerita of Anthropology, is one of the few paleoethnobotanists in the Southeast. She co-directs an archaeological project in central South Carolina. During her 32 years of teaching, she mentored 455 undergraduate students through gathering original research on five ethnobotanical projects focused on interrelationships between people and plants in SC. Since 1992, she’s traveled around the state to speak to groups about archaeology, ethnobotany, paleoethnobotany, or ecoliteracy for the SC Humanities Speakers Bureau. Her shared Biocultural Diversity Project examined place-based linguistic, cultural, and biological knowledge with five other universities across the United States and Canada. In 2019, she was awarded the Distinguished Ethnobiologist Award by the Society of Ethnobiology.

2022 Fresh Voices in the Humanities Award

Dr. Len Lawson is the author of Chime and the chapbook Before the Night Wakes You. He is also editor of Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism and Black Comics Poetry. Among his accolades, he won the 2016 Jasper Project Artist of the Year Award in Literary Arts, the inaugural 2018 NC Poetry Society Susan Laughter Meyers Fellowship in Poetry, and the 2020 SC Academy of Authors Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship in Poetry. He has received other fellowships from Tin House, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Callaloo, Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts among others. He serves on the Board of Directors for The Jasper Project. Currently, Len is Assistant Professor of English at Newberry College.

2022 Fresh Voices in the Humanities Award

Dr. Rhondda Robinson Thomas is the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University where she teaches, researches, and writes about early African American literature in the Department of English. She has published Call My Name, Clemson: Documenting the Black Experience in an American University Community, which received honorable mention in the National Council on Public History’s 2021 book awards, co-edited The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought, and edited volume 1 of Cambridge University Press’s African American Literature in Transition series. Dr. Thomas is the faculty director of the award-winning Call My Name Project, which has received a Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship, grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, South Carolina Humanities, and Clemson’s Office of the Provost and College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities, and gifts through the Clemson University Foundation. She was Clemson University’s 2021 Researcher of the Year. Currently, Dr. Thomas serves as the Coordinator of Research and Community Engagement for Clemson University’s Woodland Cemetery and African American Burial Ground Historic Preservation Project and was recently appointed to the SC African American Heritage Commission and SC State Board of Review for the National Register of Historic Places.