Furman celebrates award recipients at 2023 Bell Tower Ball

February 13, 2023

Furman University presented a number of major awards at its annual Bell Tower Ball Saturday, Feb. 11.

The event, which took place at the Greenville Convention Center, celebrated the accomplishments of members of the Furman community. Several alumni, a community partner and friends of the university were honored for their professional achievements and for their generosity, service and leadership to the university and community.

Carl F. Kohrt Distinguished Alumni Award
Karen Parks ’83

Presented in recognition of significant professional or personal accomplishments and in gratitude for continued loyalty to Furman University.

Karen Parks is a Fulbright Scholar, Olivier Award nominee, and Billboard chart-topper. She served as master teacher, classical panelist, and vocal consultant for YoungArts (Presidential Scholars) and co-directed the Salute to the Presidential Scholars in the Arts performance at the Kennedy Center. Parks has performed in twelve languages and fourteen countries at major concert halls, cathedrals, basilicas, and opera houses, worldwide. Her career highlights include performances at Carnegie Recital Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, London’s Old Vic Theatre, the REDCAT Theatre in Los Angeles, the renowned APOLLO Theatre in New York City, and with the San Francisco Opera, Savonlinna Opera, London, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Budapest, and Göteborg Symphonies, UNICEF’s World Symphony, and the Boston Pops.

As a Fulbright scholar, Parks received a double award for exclusive study with the maestro at La Scala Opera in Milan, Italy, and was nominated for an Olivier Award for her performances of Cindy Lou in Carmen Jones at London’s Old Vic Theatre. Her numerous solo and collaborative recordings include: Nobody Knows: Songs by Harry T. Burleigh, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Charts (classical); Nocturne, the first English language album of Finnish classical poetry; the world premiere of Perfect Harmony (recorded, televised, and aired internationally); Song of America, a compilation album of songs by renowned artists related to the history of America; and Rosa Parks: Pure Love, an oratorio concerned with the ideas of freedom, liberty, and justice, by progressive composer Wadada Leo Smith. She performed a concert commissioned by Dame Janet Baker at Barbican Hall, toured as Micaela in Carmen with the San Francisco Opera’s touring company, and sang the role of Nedda in Pagliacci for three seasons at the Savonlinna Opera Festival.

Karen’s voice clients and students have performed at major opera houses and concert halls, nationally and internationally, including Carnegie Hall, Ford’s Theatre, and the Kennedy Center. They also perform leading roles on Broadway and National tours in Beauty and the Beast, Hadestown, WICKED, The Book of Mormon, FROZEN, Phantom of the Opera, Newsies, The Lion King, West Side Story, as well as on numerous film and TV shows. For their university productions, many of Karen’s voice/acting students are featured in leading roles where approximately 98% of her voice clients have been accepted to major universities on full scholarship, including Julliard, Manhattan School of Music, NYU, Carnegie Mellon, AMDA, Oberlin Conservatory, Berklee School of Music, Mannes, University of Michigan, Indiana University, and The New School.

Parks received her undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees at Furman University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at Santa Barbara in Vocal Performance and Vocal Pedagogy. She also specializes in Musical Theatre and the African American Spiritual and Art Song.

Karen is a member of numerous organizations, including the National Opera Association, NATS, and Actor’s Equity. She joined the faculty of NYU/Tisch School of Dramatic Arts, New Studio on Broadway, where she helped to establish the now thriving program. Karen is currently Associate Professor in Vocal Arts and Opera at the University of Southern California. Parks is also founder, CEO and Director of Stagebound, Inc.

Tom A. Triplitt Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Billy Napier ’03

Recognizes an alumnus who graduated in the past 20 years and who has brought honor or recognition to Furman through individual accomplishments or as a volunteer.

In November 2021, Billy Napier was announced as the 29th head coach of the Florida Gators football team. His highly successful tenure as the head coach of University of Louisiana-Lafayette from 2018-2021 positioned him perfectly for this prestigious role.

While at Louisiana-Lafayette, the program was vaulted into new heights as the team broke into the national rankings in 2020 for the first time in the modern era. Billy was a two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year in 2019 and 2020 and solidified a spot for the Ragin’ Cajuns within the top 25 on all of the major college football ranking polls. In 2021 he led the program to their first conference championship title since 2005 and only the second time in program history. Billy’s time at the school culminated with Louisiana’s fourth straight Sun Belt Conference Championship over Appalachian State to finish with a career record of 28-7 against conference opponents. He was named the 2020 Louisiana Sports Writer Association Coach of the Year and was voted the program’s first Sun Belt Coach of the Year.

Billy has had coaching opportunities at top programs such as Arizona State, Alabama, Colorado State and Clemson. Of note is his direct involvement in Alabama’s 26 game winning streak from 2015-2016 and being named Clemson’s youngest offensive coordinator in school history and in the nation. Billy has seen several of his players drafted into the NFL.

As the Paladins starting quarterback, Billy was a four-year letter winner and two-time All-Southern Conference selection and led his team to two Southern Conference championships. In 2001, Billy’s junior year, the Paladins advanced to the Division I-AA national championship game, losing to Montana. He was inducted into Furman University’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Class of 2022.

He is a native of Chatsworth, Georgia, and married to alumna Ali Gunn Napier ’03. They have three children – a daughter, Annie, 10, and sons, Sammy, 8, and Charlie, 6. He earned his bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science from Furman in 2003.

Gordon L. Blackwell Alumni Service Award
Dr. Lori Housworth ’91

Recognizes an individual who has dedicated extraordinary service to Furman or the greater community, advancing the university’s position as a private institution with a public mission.

Dr. Lori Housworth is a board-certified physician who specializes in internal medicine and pediatrics. She and her husband, physician Dr. Bill Housworth, have dedicated their medical careers to the improvement of pediatric health care of communities in Cambodia.

Lori and her husband had thriving medical careers in Louisville, Kentucky, when they were compelled to move their young family to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they worked at Angkor Hospital for Children. Their work focused on training staff and developing and improving programs. Lori worked with the social work team to found a clinic for child victims of sex trafficking and served as a mentor for female pediatricians at the hospital, among other roles.. By the end of their tenure there, they had added an intensive care unit and expanded the hospital’s surgical capabilities to include open heart surgery.

Currently, the Housworths are in Kratié, Cambodia, at Chenla Children’s Healthcare, continuing to educate and implement life-saving initiatives in eastern Cambodia where the health statistics lag far behind other regions in the country. Lori works tirelessly to care for the people of this region, where focusing on nutrition, infectious disease treatments, and prompt access to medical care can dramatically improve outcomes. She credits her education at Furman for sparking her sense of adventure and her desire to serve the broader community.

Lori graduated cum laude from Furman in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, and was involved with Alpha Delta Pi sorority and Heller Service Corps. She continued her education at the University of Louisville where she earned her medical degree, and at Harvard University where she earned a master’s in public health focusing in international health. Lori and Bill have four children. Their oldest daughter, Rachel, is part of the Furman Class of 2025. Lori is also a volunteer and supporter of Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health.

Honorary Alumni Award
Don Gordon

Commends individuals who are not Furman graduates but who have made significant contributions to its welfare, reputation, prestige and pursuit of excellence.

Donald Gordon has been the executive director of The Riley Institute at Furman since its inception in 1999. Under his direction, The Riley Institute has worked to advance social and economic progress in South Carolina and beyond and to provide unmatched opportunities for Furman students. Prior to his leadership of The Riley Institute, Don served as chair of Furman’s Department of Political Science and director of the study away programs in East and Southern Africa.

His academic training is in African and Middle Eastern politics, state and local government, political economy, and methodology. His main academic focus is on the political economies of distressed areas. With his wife, April, he is the author and editor of “Understanding Contemporary Africa” (now in its sixth edition), the nation’s most frequently chosen text focused on contemporary Africa, and the principal text used by the U.S. State Department in training political officers for Africa.

While on leave from Furman, he served as executive director and chief of staff of a congressional office in Florida and counsel for the House Subcommittee on the City under the House Banking and Urban Affairs Committee.

Don holds masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida. A native of Tampa, Florida, he now lives in Greenville and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

Engaged Parent Award
John and Stephanie Ingram

Presented to the parents of a Furman student or graduate in appreciation for their commitment to education and leadership as volunteers.

John and Stephanie are dedicated fans and supporters of Furman Athletics. They have four children, including their daughter Martha ’20, who majored in politics and international affairs with a concentration in Middle East and Islamic studies. John earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and MBA from Vanderbilt University. Stephanie earned her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University.

John joined Ingram Industries in 1986, serving in increasingly responsible roles early in his career. He was named chairman of the Ingram Industries Inc. Board of Directors in 2008, having served as vice chairman of the board since 1999. He is also chairman of Ingram Content Group. Ingram Industries is a manufacturing company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, and consists of diversified businesses in marine transportation aggregate supply, book distribution, print on demand book manufacturing, management and distribution services.

In addition to volunteering for numerous educational and charitable organizations, John is a member of the Board of Trust of Vanderbilt University, serves on the board of Montgomery Bell Academy, and is an honorary trustee for The Harpeth Hall School. He is chair of the Tennessee Advisory Board of Western Governors University, vice chair of the Nashville’s Agenda Steering Committee, and chairman emeritus of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. John spearheaded the effort to bring Major League Soccer to Nashville and is owner of the Nashville Soccer Club.

Stephanie is the founder and chief executive officer of Wellspire, a full-service event space for business professionals. As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, she is passionate about finding solutions to unmet needs in her community. She played a key role in developing the Osher Integrative Center for Medicine at Vanderbilt, as well as Currey Ingram Academy, one of the nation’s leading schools for learning differences.

Wayne and Rubye Reid Award
Kevin Bryant ’85

Recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to the career development of Furman students.

Kevin is a Managing Director with Marsh McLennan (NYSE:MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of people, strategy and risk. With annual revenues over $20B, the company’s more than 85,000 colleagues advises clients in over 130 countries. Kevin leads Marsh’s US Public Sector, a leading global business vertical for Marsh McLennan. Kevin is a member of Marsh McLennan’s Public Sector Steering Committee which guides their $1B global Public Sector business and more than 1500 global Public Sector clients. Kevin’s leadership within Marsh McLennan is vast. He sits on Marsh’s US Inclusion & Diversity Council and is the executive sponsor of Marsh’s Black colleagues Business Resource Group.

Prior to re-joining Marsh in 2021, he served as Executive Vice President and Resident Managing Director for Aon.  Kevin has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance brokerage industry as a prominent risk, talent, health, retirement and investment advisor because of his innovation and thought leadership across client organizations and industry verticals.

Kevin is a Trustee at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He has also served as a board member for the following community organizations: The Greenville International Business Center, the SC Business Coalition on Health, and the United Way of Greenville African American Leadership Council. Kevin is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Kevin earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Furman in 1985, minored in business administration and played on the men’s basketball team. He joined Furman’s Board of Trustees in 2015 and previously served on the Alumni Board. He and his wife, Mitzi, have two children, Kristina and KJ.

University Partnership Award

Presented to an organization or individual who has worked in conjunction with Furman to meaningfully contribute to the local or broader community by engaging citizens, promoting public scholarship and working for the betterment of society.

Greenville and the Upstate owe much of their vibrancy to the investments made by corporations such as BMW Manufacturing.  Since the first BMW rolled off the Plant Spartanburg line in 1994, more than 6 million BMWs have been produced in the Upstate.  In addition to the tremendous economic impact provided by BMW and its 11,000 jobs, employees at the plant have made numerous contributions to the Upstate community.

Furman University’s relationship with BMW Manufacturing goes back more than 20 years.  BMW employees were some of the first participants in The Riley Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative.  Since 2000, DLI has graduated nearly 70 BMW employees, and the company continues to nominate 2-3 employees for each class.  BMW has been a long-time supporter of One South Carolina as well as the Upstate Diversity Awards and is one of The Riley Institute’s largest corporate donors.

BMW employees have also participated in Furman’s Women’s Leadership Institute as well as The Shi Institute’s Sustainability Leadership Initiative.  They have served as members of the President’s Advisory Council, and Furman’s OLLI members have enjoyed tours of the state-of-the-art production plant in Spartanburg.

Furman and The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities marked the second year of a sustainability partnership with the BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament’s “Fore the Love of the Green” program.  Members of The Shi Institute have been a part of the advisory committee that helped produce the event’s Sustainability Report and continue to provide guidance to the tournament’s organizers.

BMW recruiters have participated in Furman’s Career and Internship Fair as well as the inaugural Data Analytics Employer Connection event hosted by The Malone Center for Career Engagement and The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  BMW employees have served as speakers in the Business Block, and the company has a long history of hiring Furman interns and graduates and supporting Furman athletics.