Gerald Evans honored by School Foundation
The School Foundation honored Hanesbrands Inc. CEO Gerald W. Evans Jr. as Florence School District One’s Distinguished Graduate at its 16th Annual Celebration Gala. The event was held Oct. 10 at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center.
Entertainment for the evening featured an unusual fashion show highlighting the life of the honoree with fashions from his life growing up in Florence. The South Florence High School Drama Club students modeled fashions from the past, starting with a life-size open “cotton boil” signifying Evans’ business connection to cotton.
Affectionately known by his high school classmates as “Bubba”, Gerald graduated from South Florence High School in 1977. He earned his BS degree in marketing and an MBA degree at the University of South Carolina. He began his career as a marketer for the L’eggs hosiery brand, rejuvenated the Champion athleticwear brand, reinvented the company’s global production operations across two hemispheres, and shepherded the company’s other consumer powerhouse brands such as Hanes, Playtex, Bali, Maidenform, and Wonderbra as the company grew to become a Fortune 500 company.
He now presides over the world’s largest basic apparel company and has 34 years of experience in the apparel industry. He has held positions in marketing, sales and management and is noted for business excellence in a global economy.
Gerald and his wife, Lee, a graduate of Clemson University, have three grown children and live in Winston-Salem, N.C. Gerald’s mother, Betty Evans, a retired teacher, still resides in Florence.
“Gerald Evans is the true definition of a leader,” stated Debbie Hyler, executive director of The School Foundation. “From his roots in Florence, he has ascended to become a well-respected titan of industry, leading one of the largest apparel companies in the world with employees in more than 40 countries on every inhabited continent. A true role model, he exemplifies the importance of drive, vision, passion and humility as values for personal and professional success.”
Speaking to a packed audience, Evans said he felt honored for this recognition by the School Foundation. Reflecting on his life, he talked about how important Florence schools were in preparing him for his career and future. He closed by mentioned a recent conversation with his daughter who asked him why he always listens to ‘70s music on his car radio. After thinking about it, he replied, “Because it takes me back to middle school and high school in Florence and that always brings back happy memories.”
The evening included several videos. One featured family members and friends making comments about the honoree. Another featured Hanesbrands and there was one on the company’s focus on employee’s educational opportunities.
State superintendent Molly Spearman made a few comments and praised the work of The School Foundation, adding she wished every district in the state had a School Foundation.
Near the end of the program, all Florence School District One Teachers of the Year were recognized by name and asked to stand. Then the four FSD1 2017 Honor Roll Teachers and Principal of the Year were brought on stage where they received gifts and flowers. They are Vanessa Harkless of Lester Elementary, Carla Summersett of West Florence High, Pamela Daniels of Sneed Middle, Megerlyn Davis of Wilson High, the District Teacher of the Year, and Principal of the Year Craig Washington of Southside Middle.
“The School Foundation spotlights the life and accomplishments of a successful Florence District One graduate and celebrates their successes each year at their annual gala,” explained Jean Leatherman, chair of the foundation’s fund development committee. “Managing over 70,000 employees is no small task, and Gerald’s climb up the corporate ladder is very impressive. He is certainly a leader in his industry.”
The School Foundation promotes educational excellence in Florence School District One through grants for innovative learning and through high impact initiatives designed to prepare all students for success. They are currently leading a school readiness awareness campaign focusing on preparing all children to enter kindergarten with the skills needed to succeed. Founded in 2000, they have funded $1,355,377.90 in grants to educators in Florence School District One.