About the First Lady - Coastal Carolina University
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Terri DeCenzo
First Lady, Coastal Carolina University

Terri DeCenzo serves as the executive director of Women in Philanthropy and Leadership for Coastal Carolina University (WIPL). She is married to Coastal Carolina University President David A. DeCenzo. When he joined the university in 2002, she became passionately involved with the life of the University.

Terri DeCenzo photograph‌She has taken an active role in issues relating to student government, leadership, NCAA athletics, and Greek life, among others. She has been instrumental in bringing highly successful women leaders in business, politics and education to campus to speak and inspire women in the University community.

Since she began her service as executive director of WIPL in 2007, the organization has awarded more than $250,000 in scholarships to Coastal Carolina students. She has led the fund-raising efforts toward attaining an endowed scholarship fund in excess of $100,000 and has secured scholarships for Coastal Carolina University students to attend the prestigious Washington Internship Institute and study Global Women's Leadership Development, among others. The annual Women's Leadership Conference and Celebration of Inspiring Women has become WIPL's signature event, and has featured more than 300 world-class speakers and honored 47 exceptional women whose lives have made a significant impact in South Carolina, the nation and beyond.

DeCenzo was recognized by WIPL for her dedicated service as the founder and executive director of the organization. During a surprise announcement at WIPL’s 10th annual Celebration of Inspiring Women on Feb. 10, 2020, it was announced that the Inspiring Woman Award that is regularly presented at the event has been renamed the Theresa M. DeCenzo Inspiring Woman Award.

She actively participates on the board of directors for South Carolina Catholic Charities. She served on the American Red Cross board for six years and on the Foundation Board for Georgetown Hospital System for eight years, as well as on the Health Advisory Committee for AASCU, Horry County March of Dimes March for Babies (2010 and 2011 co-chair), and was an adviser to the Safe Families Initiative that has established a Family Justice Center in Georgetown County. She has served as chair for the Promise Committee for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Horry County and is an ambassador for Vision 2020 (a national convention for women in leadership). Additionally, she has worked with a youth ministry, Habitat for Humanity, the Cancer Coalition, as well as Freedom Readers, the PAW program, and Teach My People, an after-school reading program involving CCU students.

In February 2016 DeCenzo was presented with the Order of the Silver Crescent by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. The award, one of the state’s highest honors, is given to individuals for significant contributions, leadership. volunteerism and lifelong influence within a region or community of the state. In a message accompanying the award, Haley commended DeCenzo for her leadership in establishing the conference and for her significant legacy of community service. “[You] have been a wonderful inspiration to others, and your contributions will have a lasting impact for our state for years to come.”

In April 2015 the Zonta Club of Myrtle Beach recognized her with its Gold Star Award for leadership and dedication to initiatives that "improve the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women and girls." The Zonta Club is an international organization that serves to empower women through service and advocacy; there are more than 1,100 local chapters in 64 nations. DeCenzo was among nine area "influential and inspirational women" recognized by The Sun News in March 2016 in celebration of International Women’s Day.

A graduate of St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing and Towson University, she spent most of her career practicing in critical care.

The DeCenzos have four children: Mark (wife Jen), Meredith (husband Ryan), Gabriella and Natalie (husband Scott); and four grandchildren: Emerson, Henry, Lucas and Mason.