For more than 20 years Anthony DiGiorgio and Debbie Hayworth have woven themselves into the fabric of Rock Hill with their selfless and tireless dedication.
As its president, DiGiorgio has transformed Winthrop University.
As president of the United Way of York County and with the YMCA before that, Hayworth has helped establish a safety net for all residents.
Both are stepping down. DiGiorgio is retiring after 24 years. Hayworth is leaving the United Way to care for her father.
In one of their last official acts, the duo last week challenged Rock Hill to become ever stronger, urging others to step forward to selflessly and tirelessly give of their strengths, talents and abilities.
The challenge came at the annual state of the Rock Hill community address sponsored by the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce. In recent years the breakfast meeting has become a place for food for thought.
Last year Elaine Copeland, president of Clinton Junior College, stood before the 100 or so community and business leaders and challenged them to see her vision for her college. She saw a school with more facilities, more students, more classes, even a new name. Just recently, the school announced new degree programs, new construction and, yes, a new name. It’s now Clinton College.
DiGiorgio challenged Winthrop and the community to fully implement a vision that connects the university to downtown Rock Hill.
He noted that for so long Winthrop has been a tale of two cities. It has a beautiful front door on Oakland Avenue, a less appealing side door on Cherry Road and a backside of campus that needed a makeover. As president, he oversaw that backside makeover.
While the university has room to expand westward along Cherry Road, DiGiorgio sees Winthrop “infused” into the city’s Knowledge Park, the former Bleachery textile site.
He sees the multi-story dorms along Cherry Road coming down and new student housing built closer to downtown. He see a major role for Winthrop in the proposed downtown performing arts center. And the thread that would tie everything together is a trolley that would easily move students from campus to downtown and back.
While he officially retires June 30, DiGiorgio said, “I suspect I will have a role in that.”
But if his post-president time at Winthrop is used differently, he is still confident the vision will move forward.
The university’s Board of Trustees has been “fully briefed” on the vision and “it’s not just mine, it is theirs,” DiGiorgio said.
“All of this is possible,” he said. “We need to be bold and vigorous over the next term.”
Hayworth also challenged people to bold and vigorous, but in a different way.
She challenged the business community to see non-profits in a new way, something more than just a place to make a donation.
A common thread between business and non-profits, she said “is we all are faced with limited resources of time, money, expertise and manpower.
Hayworth noted that volunteering with a non-profit can be a good staff development tool, allowing employees to uncover hidden talents, to build social and workforce skills and “develop an ‘I can’ attitude.”
That’s a great return on investment she said, greater than the estimated financial benefits of volunteerism, which is valued at $22 per hour.
Of course, she encouraged donations to non-profits, donations of supplies and equipment. But most of all, she stressed investing time.
“I know I made a difference every day at the United Way,” she said. “You can’t afford to sit on the sidelines if you want to be part of the change.
Don Worthington 803-329-4066 firstname.lastname@example.org