HGTC Celebrates Largest Graduating Class in 2023
Horry-Georgetown Technical College (HGTC) is proud to announce that nearly 1,600 students received degrees, diplomas, or certificates from Horry-Georgetown Technical College this year, and over 700 of them marched at HGTC’s commencement ceremony Wednesday, May 10 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Dr. Marilyn Murphy Fore, HGTC’s President, honorably presided over the largest ceremony in the history of the College and celebrated the many successes of the Class of 2023.
“Our graduates deserve recognition for their hard work and dedication to their goals. They have proven their strength to endure and not given in when faced with difficult challenges. Our graduates possess the qualities needed to succeed and have the Gator spirit of resiliency, determination, and perseverance. The entire HGTC Gator family celebrates the accomplishments of our students, and we look forward to celebrating the many successes in the next chapter of their lives,” said Dr. Marilyn Murphy Fore, HGTC President.
Graduates’ ages ranged from 17 to 71, and students came from states as far away as Colorado and Maine and from countries as far as Uzbekistan, China, and the Philippines.
A number of awards and honors were given during the ceremony:
- Chris Johnson, HGTC Graduate, received the HGTC Service and Leadership Award.
- Charles Granger, HGTC Chair and Professor of Golf and Sports Turf Management, received the HGTC Professor of the Year Award.
- Chris Ariail, HGTC Assistant Registrar, received the HGTC Staff of the Year Award.
- Dr. Michael T. Benson, President and Professor of History at Coastal Carolina University, received the HGTC Distinguished Patron Award.
This was HGTC’s fifty-seventh commencement.
Service & Leadership Award 2023 – Chris Johnson
The Service and Leadership award is presented to an exceptional student who best exemplifies the values of HGTC. Recipients make significant leadership contributions and demonstrate the values of responsible citizenship.
The 2023 recipient of the Service & Leadership Award has served HGTC as a Student Ambassador, a member of the Student Engagement Committee, and leader in the Call Me MiSTER® program. He is considered a non-traditional student as a husband and father with the role of providing for his family. Along with the everyday responsibilities of life, he and his wife have faced and overcome other challenges this past year. In spite of it all, he shows up to class with a smile, a word of encouragement, and a more upbeat, positive attitude than typically seen in those who are not facing his struggles. His life has not always been easy, but he has persevered through tough times and done it all with gratitude. Throughout his time at HGTC, he has been involved in his studies, worked at the Fitness Center on Campus, participated in the filming of HGTC commercials, and even offered his time as the talent for the HGTC mascot, Chomp. He received his teacher education degree and plans to continue his studies at Coastal Carolina University in Education.
Professor of the Year Award 2023 – Charles Granger
More than two decades ago, HGTC began a tradition of recognizing a member of our full-time faculty for instructional excellence, contributions to students’ growth and development, and contributions to the academic reputation of the college. The College continued that tradition this year with the naming of the outstanding “Professor of the Year.” This year’s honoree was presented with the college mace and will serve as grand marshal at the 2024 commencement ceremony.
Our 2023 Professor of the Year graduated from HGTC, earned a master’s degree, and spent over 10 years in industry prior to joining the College. Upon arrival, this professor started preparing students with the knowledge and skills to enter high-demand jobs within this same industry. Under their leadership, the program has earned a 100% job placement rate and is the only program of its kind in the state of South Carolina. Thanks to the partnerships with local employers, his vision of a new state-of-the-art, 27,000 square foot outdoor lab – the Turf Care and Demonstration Center – became reality. His competitive spirit can most definitely be seen at the Annual Carolinas Turf Bowl Championship. For the third year in a row, the “Fighting Mole Crickets” in the Golf and Sports Turf Management program were the reigning champions after competing against many four-year colleges, such as Clemson and North Carolina State. His wife, Michelle, shared when they were on their honeymoon and walking about in Gatlinburg around 3 a.m. in the morning, he told her he wanted to teach at HGTC. His dream was fulfilled when he became a professor and now serves as the Chair of multiple divisions. According to his family, he is well known in the industry as a “want some, get some” kind of guy who can quote any professional wrestler’s tagline. His wife goes on to say… “His sense of humor is only matched by mine, and his good looks are exceeded only by his daughter’s.” His family describes him as extremely passionate in all things, generous to all people, and dedicated to all family.
Staff of the Year Award 2023 – Chris Ariail
Just as HGTC recognizes excellence in teaching, the college also honors a member of the full-time staff for exemplary service. The recipient receives an award from the College and the HGTC Foundation.
Our 2023 Staff of the Year was hired into a newly created position and immediately excelled. In his nearly four years at the College, he has served in a leadership role from implementing a new system for converting electronic forms to planning many innovative facets of the commencement ceremony you’re enjoying today. He is the one responsible for certifying all graduates every semester and even arrived here at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center at midnight last evening to ensure everything was setup properly. When we asked his family about him, his mom said he was quite mischievous as a child. His childhood teachers would be shocked to find out he now works in higher education. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Management and a Master of Science degree in Sport Administration from Winthrop University. As a student athlete, he was a pole vaulter for the track and field team during his undergraduate years. He has no trouble “clearing the bar” once it is set. At HGTC, he is the one setting the bar… with his positive, self-motivating attitude, caring disposition, and passion for helping others through their college journey. His mother states, “I believe it was the educational leaders who helped him navigate his education as a student athlete and truly inspired him to pursue higher education as a profession. Watching him thrive in what seemed to be an unlikely career choice has been a joy!”
Distinguished Patron Award 2023 – Dr. Michael Taft Benson
The Distinguished Patron Award is presented to someone who has made significant contributions to the HGTC community and beyond.
The 2023 recipient of the Distinguished Patron Award is one of HGTC’s partners in higher education for this local community and statewide, Dr. Michael Taft Benson. Dr. Michael Taft Benson, President and Professor of History at Coastal Carolina University (CCU), has more than 32 years of experience in teaching and educational leadership. Born in Utah and raised in Texas and Indiana, Benson worked and studied abroad for nearly seven years in Italy, England, and Israel. He graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science and double minors in English and history from Brigham Young University. He completed his doctorate in modern history from the University of Oxford (St. Anthony’s College). He also earned a master’s degree cum laude in nonprofit administration from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business and graduated with a Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University. Over the years, he has held many positions of leadership. Appointed at age 36, Benson was the youngest college president in the history of the Utah System of Higher Education. An accomplished author, his scholarly work has focused on the development of the research university and its impact on society. He is regularly sought after for public speeches and appearances and is a featured contributor for numerous media outlets such as ESPN’s The Paul Finebaum Show. In his two years as president, the partnership with HGTC has continued to grow and expand as one of the strongest partnerships in the state.