Trident United Way’s Women United recognizes Tri-County Leaders in philanthropy

July 3, 2024

Nearly 200 members of Trident United Way Women United and their guests gathered at Trident Technical College to honor four local leaders in philanthropy at the 2024 Women United Awards Luncheon. This annual event celebrates the Nonprofit Leader of the Year, the Hands-On Hero of the Year and the Role Model of the Year, who were all nominated by members of the community. In addition, this year marked the first time Trident United Way awarded a Women United Lifetime Achievement Award for lifelong service to our Tri-County community.

At the awards luncheon, a moving keynote speech was delivered by Anita Zucker, Chair & CEO of The InterTech Group, Inc, who amplified the message of empowered women supporting and uplifting one another. She shared stories of both hard times and triumph in her life, and in the lives of the generations of women who came before her.

Zucker also presented the Women United Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Mary Thornley, President Emeritus of Trident Technical College. In an engaging twist on the typical acceptance speech, Zucker sat on stage with Thornley and conducted a brief interview wherein Thornley shared takeaways from her life’s work as she approached her retirement in June 2024.

2024 Trident United Way Women United Award Winners:

2024 Nonprofit Leader of the Year:

  • Robin Haggard
    • Senior Vice President of Programs and Operations, Communities in Schools of SC

Since joining Communities in Schools of South Carolina in 2003, Robin has dedicated more than two decades to serving students and families through diverse roles at CISSC, ranging from direct service in schools to leadership positions.

In her current role at CISSC, Robin plays a crucial role in developing and overseeing programs that remove educational barriers and foster success among students.

As a collaborative leader, Robin values partnerships with community stakeholders, volunteers, and parents, leveraging these relationships to create impactful educational opportunities.

Outside of her professional commitments, Robin is a devoted parent to two inspiring children, whose experiences continue to influence and enrich her approach to educational advocacy and community engagement.

2024 Hands-On Hero of the Year:

  • Ruhamah Dunmeyer Grooms
    • Release Change Manager, Booz Allen Hamilton

Ruhamah Dunmeyer Grooms’ commitment to others was sparked as a child of a single-parent household. Her supportive and giving community provided a solid foundation for her to begin her career giving to others.
Ruhamah’s work with Booz Allen Hamilton as a Release Change Manager provides her with the platform to give back to the community that gave so much to her.

Outside of work, Ruhamah’s time, talent and treasure are committed to organizations that allow her to pour into others, especially underserved communities and people of color.

Currently she serves as the Vice Chair of Trident United Way’s African American Leadership Council, Secretary and Board Member for the Junior League of Charleston and Audit Chair and Mom in the Charming Charleston Chapter of Jack & Jill.

2024 Role Model of the Year:

  • Sonia Hanson
    • Vice President Branch Manager, SouthState Bank

In 2008 Sonia Hanson joined the SouthState Bank family as a Head Teller and worked her way up to Branch Manager in 2011. In 2017 Sonia earned the title of Vice President.

Sonia is a Community Advocate for the Charleston Region and a part of the Culture Council with SouthState Bank. She has proudly served on the board of Trident United Way and led as Chair for the African American Leadership Council. Currently, she serves on the Campaign Cabinet Committee and has previously served on the Day of Caring committee. Sonia also serves on the newly formed Endowment Committee with TUW.

Sonia serves with Make a Wish and the American Heart Association and serves on the board of the Hope Center. She proudly leads the Adopt-A-Community Program food disparities pillar with the City of North Charleston.
Sonia proudly founded Sunflowers of HOPE Inc. 501 (c) 3 nonprofit in 2022 with a mission focused on supporting the unhoused, youth services/furthering education and senior citizens.

2024 Women United Lifetime Achievement Award:

  • Dr. Mary Thornley
    • President Emeritus, Trident Technical College

Dr. Mary Thornley is Trident Technical College’s fifth and longest-serving president. She began her 50-year career at the college as an adjunct instructor in 1973. She became a full-time instructor the next year and over time moved up the ranks to hold positions including department head, dean and vice president. She became president in 1991.

Dr. Thornley’s accomplishments throughout her tenure at TTC are vast and include doubling the school’s total enrollment as well as doubling the school’s minority populations and expanding from three to five campuses across the Tri-County.

Dr. Thornley also made significant contributions to the landscapes of both Trident Technical College and community colleges nationwide. Utilizing research that showed students are more successful in shorter courses, the college transformed its 16-week semester schedule into two seven-week terms within the full semester. This structure has served as a national model for many other colleges looking to improve student success rates through shorter-term courses.

Outside of her work with Trident Technical College, Dr. Thornley is deeply involved with the Tri-County community. She has been a longtime supporter of Trident United Way, and a member of Women United since its inception.


About Trident United Way

For nearly 80 years Trident United Way has been a catalyst for measurable community transformation in education, financial stability and health in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties.

Trident United Way has a proud history of developing community-wide initiatives, including partnering with dozens of local nonprofit organizations, leading the creation of our community’s 211 Information and Referral Helpline and establishing the Berkeley and Dorchester County Resource Connection Centers.

About Trident United Way Women United

Trident United Way Women United is an engaged network of philanthropic leaders committed to improving education, financial stability and health in our region through their giving, advocacy and volunteerism in our community. To learn more, visit