Lander University recognized six alumni during its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony. The event was held Friday, Oct. 4, at Lander Legion Hall.
Speaking directly to the recipients, Lander President Richard Cosentino said, “You demonstrate what is possible by earning a Lander degree. The value of a Lander degree is high, and we want it to remain high.”
Recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award
Retired Colonel Warren Bacote, Class of 1989
After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Lander in 1989, Warren Bacote joined the U.S. Army’s Military Police Corps as a second lieutenant. For the Darlington native, his commission signaled the beginning of a 30-year military career and the eventual earning of the rank of colonel.
In addition to his Lander education, Colonel Bacote graduated from the Air War College, Command and General Staff College, Army Management Staff College and the Inspector General School. He also earned a Master’s of Art in Security Management from the American Military University.
Rising steadily through the ranks, Bacote held a host of positions, including executive officer, chief of staff, inspector general, operations chief and commander.
His commendations and military decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal, the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, the Parachutist Badge and the Army Staff Identification Badge.
Earlier this year, Bacote, serving as operations chief for the 200th Military Police Command, was awarded a trophy for Best Large Unity Anti-terrorism Program. The award recognizes anti-terrorism excellence while deterring terrorism through strategic plans and defensive measures.
In addition to his deployments abroad, Bacote served in 10 different communities throughout the country. During his service in each community, he either led or was actively involved in raising funds for scholarships, community service projects, and tutoring and mentoring underserved youth.
For Lander, Bacote has been an unrelenting supporter. A member of the Alumni Association Board, he regularly travels from the Washington, DC area to attend board meetings and continues to support the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Terry Evans, Class of 1976
Terry came to Lander with a basketball scholarship, and played for Coach Finis Horne and the then-Lander Senators.
He began his career as a research chemist in Greenwood before joining the U.S. Navy
nuclear propulsion program in 1978 as a commissioned officer, and served five years in submarine service.
Following his military career, Terry worked in the commercial nuclear power industry in Iowa, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and Louisiana. He then joined the Arkansas Nuclear One industry team, held a Senior Reactor Operator License on Boiling Water Reactors and Senior Reactor Operations Certification on Pressurized Water Reactors.
His volunteerism includes board leadership roles with the United Way in several states, and as vice president for the Lander Alumni Association Board. He recently joined the Lander Foundation Board.
Terry also established an endowed scholarship in Lander’s College of Science and Mathematics for chemistry students, and has served as a guest lecturer for various Lander science classes.
Joyce Johnson Nickles, Class of 1960
Greenwood native Joyce Johnson Nickles’s Lander experience began at an early age. At the age of 6, Nickles participated in a pre-college music program offered at Lander called The Kinscella Method.
Nickles remained in the class for six years, performing numerous recitals in the Lander auditorium.
After studying church music and organ at Mississippi College, Nickles returned to Lander and graduated with a degree in music. Afterwards, she completed additional study in piano pedagogy at Lander and organ at Presbyterian College.
On the advice of her Lander instructor, Nickles opened her own studio in Greenwood, and provided piano instruction. Many of her students have since become church musicians, Broadway and opera performers, school administrators and teachers.
For 25 years, Nickles was a Kindermusik instructor, and served as organist and Director of Children’s Music at Main Street United Methodist Church. A nationally certified music teacher, Nichols currently chairs the Independent Music Teachers Board of the South Carolina Music Teachers Association.
In 2016, a scholarship was established in Nickles’s name at Lander. Awarded to a freshman music major or minor studying piano or voice, the scholarship covers the cost of tuition and fees for four years.
Charles (Chuck) Watson, Class of 1983
After earning his political science degree from Lander, Watson earned his juris doctorate in 1986 from the University of South Carolina. He then opened his own private law service, The Watson Law Firm, in Greenwood.
Watson also served as Greenwood County Attorney for many years, providing legal and professional services in governmental affairs, while maintaining his private practice.
His community involvement includes serving as a councilman for Greenwood County Council from 1989-1992, and as a board member for the Greenwood County Voter Registration Board. Professionally, he was secretary for the Greenwood Bar Association and secretary of the South Carolina Association of County Attorneys.
Watson’s service to Lander has included teaching for the Political Science Department in Lander’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and providing scholarship funds for many years. He has also sponsored networking opportunities for graduating seniors through etiquette and professional dinners.
Steve Wohlwend, Class of 1981
As a student Wohlwend was recruited to play golf at Lander, and served as captain of the golf team. He was later elected president of the Student Government Association and president of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
After graduating from Lander with a degree in Business Accounting, Wohlwend continued his studies at Clemson University and Mercer University. He earned his Certified Public Accounting license and Certified Employee Benefit Specialist from the Wharton School of Business.
Wohlwend’s professional career includes working with Prudential, Ernst and Young, and Aetna insurance companies. With Aetna, he held leadership positions as president of the Southeast Region, vice president of Tennessee and Kentucky markets, and National Head of Sales and Distribution until his retirement.
His volunteerism includes leadership roles with the United Way in Jacksonville, and as president of the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program. He also currently serves as treasurer for the Lander Alumni Association Board and has recently joined The Lander Foundation Board.
Wohlwend established a physical education scholarship – building it from annually funded to endowed – and recently mad a sizeable gift to endow multiple scholarships for future Lander students pursuing various majors.
Recipients of the Young Alumni Award
Rebecca Caroline Pruitt, Class of 2011
Pruitt earned her Communications and Theatre degree from Lander, while interning and working with WYFF in Greenville. She then turned her career interests to educational behavior intervention, and completed a master’s degree in teaching from Converse College. She is currently pursuing an educational administrative degree and doctorate degree from Converse and Furman University.
Pruitt has been recognized as Spartanburg Induction Teacher of the Year in her district, and serves as a Teacher Leader in multiple volunteer capacities with non-profit community organizations.
She serves with United Way and Chamber leadership programs, and volunteers as chapter advisor for Lander’s Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Utilizing her ballet and theatre background, Pruitt has also been instrumental in establishing an annual Broadway musical for children.
Sym Singh, Class of 2007
After earning his degree in business and political science from Lander, Singh established a successful career in the insurance industry with New York Life. He then focused his career interests on governmental relations, and earned a master’s degree in public administration.
Singh then began his career as an investigator in the Office of Investigation and Enforcement for the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Within the same department, he was promoted to communications and governmental affairs coordinator and administrator. Singh currently serves as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Office of Governor of South Carolina.
His volunteerism includes guiding several local political campaigns – all of which have been successful in the election of the candidates. He has served Lander through leadership in the local Tower Club and volunteering as President of the Young Alumni Council.