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CCU announces 2020 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year recipients

December 15, 2021
Tom Gwyer, 2020 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, with (from left) Diane Sanders, interim VP for advancement/alumni engagement, Holley Tankersley, Spadoni College dean, and President Michael T. Benson.Kenneth Lewis Jr., 2020 Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year, is shown with President Michael T. Benson, and Diane Sanders, interim vice president for advancement and alumni engagement.

The Coastal Carolina University Office of Alumni Engagement recently announced the 2020 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year recipients. Thomas Gwyer is the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, and Kenneth Lewis Jr. is the Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year.

Candidates nominated for the alumni awards are chosen by a steering committee consisting of the college deans. Criteria for the annual awards include loyalty to CCU, record of service and accomplishments, and demonstration of positive attributes.

Gwyer earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from CCU in 1998. He serves his alma mater as a member of the CCU Alumni Association board of directors. Since July 2018, Gwyer has been the fire chief for the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, where he began working 28 years ago. In June, he was recognized as Fire Chief of the Year in the Southeastern Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. During his career, he has been deployed to Texas and Florida to assist with recovery efforts after hurricanes Harvey and Michael. He recently helped lead Myrtle Beach’s response to COVID-19 and worked with SCDHEC to get the fire department certified as a vaccine distribution site.

Gwyer also was instrumental in securing funding for traffic preemption throughout various intersections in Myrtle Beach. As a result, when a fire truck approaches with red lights on, the traffic light turns green. Trucks now no longer have to cross against a red light, which decreases travel times to incidents and the overall risk to responders and citizens.

Gwyer earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Grand Canyon University in 2016.

Lewis has earned two degrees from CCU, a bachelor’s in English and a Master of Arts in Teaching in 2014 and 2015, respectively. A former academic advisor at the University and an English teacher at Myrtle Beach High School, Lewis now works full time as a self-employed writer. The Bishopville, S.C., native has three children’s books under contract, including a two-book deal with Candlewick Press and a second deal with HarperCollins. His stories are typically set in small-town, African American communities.

While an undergraduate at CCU, Lewis was named the English’s department’s Most Distinguished Major in 2014; and he was named the MAT program’s Distinguished Student in 2015. In 2012, he earned honorable mention recognition during the 13th Paul Rice Poetry Broadside Series Contest.