FMU awards 4 alumni at its annual gala

On Thursday, March 4, FMU held its annual Alumni Awards gala at the Performing Arts Center in downtown Florence. Four highly recognized FMU alumni were awarded for their outstanding work ethic and career achievements. The four honorees of Thursday night’s event were Jennifer Darr, the Honorable Linward Edwards, Keith Callicutt and Dr. Deborah Hopla.

First, Darr received the Benjamin Wall Ingram III Young Alumna Award. Darr graduated from FMU in 2014, having earned a bachelor’s in biololgy with a minor in chemistry. Darr is a pharmaceutical drug manufacturer for a startup, non-profit company called Civica Rx, in which she distributes affordable drugs to hospitals throughout the country. She thanked Roche Pharmaceuticals, her family and all the professors she had as a student while attending FMU.

“It really does mean something to me that my peers are acknowledging me for something well done,” Darr said.

The next honoree was the Edwards, who received the Professional Industry Award in Public Service in Law. Edwards graduated from FMU in 2004, earning a bachelor’s in administration in management before pursuing his post-graduate studies. Edwards practices law at the Office of Linward Edwards II in Florence and Dillon. He thanked God, his parents, his wife and children and the university as a whole.

“I thank the university for giving me the educational opportunity to help me achieve everything I have achieved and will ever achieve,” Edwards said.

Keith Callicutt was the third alumni honoree to be awarded at the gala, receiving the Professional Industry Award in Education. Callicutt graduated from FMU in 1979, earning his master’s degree in education. After serving 47 years in education, Callicutt recently retired from the Pee Dee Education Center as executive director. He thanked his wife and children for the sacrifices they have made throughout the years for his career, as well as FMU President Fred Carter. Callicutt acknowledged Carter to be “a mentor, not only [for] his leadership and serving as a colleague, but also a true friend.”

The final honoree was Dr. Deborah Hopla, as she was awarded with the Outstanding Alumni award. Hopla is a Florence native and graduated from FMU in 1989, earning her bachelor’s in nursing. Hopla currently serves as an associate professor of nursing at FMU and a practicing DNP at HopeHealth. She is also the director of the FMU School of Health Science’s MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program as well as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. She thanked her family and friends, Dr. Larry Nelson, the late Dr. Richard Brooke, Dr. Murph Whitman-Price and her nursing colleagues.

“There is a scripture that says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish,’ and I can tell you Carter has a vision, has the leadership, and the future of FMU could not be any brighter,” Hopla said.