Mike Dawson to speak to Rotary Club of Five Points on River Alliance Developments on Friday June 2, 2017 at the Convention Center at 1:00 PM

In the summer of 1994, local leaders asked Mike Dawson, then a serving Colonel of Infantry in the U.S. Army, to create an organization that could unlock the potential of Columbia South Carolina’s 90 miles of rivers. This resulting structure, based on citizen participation and close relationships with local governments, is an effective catalyst for change.

Mike grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.  Later, he earned a Master of Science in Systems Technology from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and Master of Arts in Strategy and Policy from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. In his free time, Mike runs, paddles, and works on an old Tudor house in Five Points in downtown Columbia. He is a founding member of the Wales Garden Neighborhood Association, a member of the Five Points Rotary Club and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Midlands Council of Governments Environmental Planning Advisory Committee, the Central Midlands Development Corp. and the Waterfront Center in Washington, DC.

Jen Thompson from Lighthouse for Life to speak on Human Trafficking in South Carolina on Friday May 12 at the Convention Center at 1:00 PM

Jen Thompson became Executive Director of Lighthouse for Life on February 1st, 2016. She graduated from USC-S in 2000 with a degree in Physical Education and in 2013 from USC – Columbia with her Masters in Educational Leadership.

Lighthouse for Life was founded by Andrea Wind in 2014. For several years, Andrea had been a teacher but eventually decided to stay at home with her kids. One day, human trafficking was mentioned in a sermon at her church. She was surprised to hear that, not only was it happening overseas, but it was also happening right here in the United States. It was at this time that she felt God place a call on her to do something about this problem. As she began to research and learn more about human trafficking, she realized the vast need for housing and after-care programs for survivors.


Buddy Wier to Speak on the Ventures of the Appalachian Trail this Friday, May 5th at Main Street United Methodist Church

Buddy is a 20 year member of the Rotary Club of Five Points and has twice been recognized as The Charles Foster Rotarian of the Year first in 2006 and again in 2009. He was introduced to Rotary as non-Rotarian member of a Group Study Exchange to Italy with LE Spradlin.

Buddy is a graduate of The United States Naval Academy, served as a Naval Aviator in Vietnam, worked as a stockbroker with the same firm here in Columbia for 31 years and in 2005 decided to retire to spend more time working with NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, where he has performed many official and unofficial duties being recognized by the SC Department of Mental Health as Volunteer of the Year and by NAMI National at the 2011 National Convention as the Richard T. Greer National Advocate of the Year.

Upon retiring in 2005 Buddy visited the “Backpacker” store in Columbia and was mesmerized by the equipment and decided to acquire some gear and give backpacking a try.

His first hike was for a week and approximately 70 miles on the Palmetto Trail from Poinsett State Park to Lakes Marion and Moultrie. With no intention to do so, his travels have taken him to all seven continents since his retirement.

Buddy’s presentation centers on his three summers 2013, 2014, 2015 hiking the 2189.2 miles Georgia to Maine Appalachian Trail. The message he hopes to share is that the equipment and preparation can add zest and open opportunities on your next trip to the Tennessee Mountains, our great Western USA, Alaska, Paris, or anywhere — Who knows what opportunity the future holds.

Major General Pete Johnson, Commander at Fort Jackson, to talk about Changes in the US Army’s Initial Entry Training Strategies during the Last 60 Years this Friday at the Convention Center at 1:00 PM

Major General John P. “Pete” Johnson is the 50th Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson.  Prior to arriving at Fort Jackson, MG Johnson served as the Director of Training, Headquarters Department of the Army, G-3/5/7 in Washington, D.C.

MG Johnson was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1985.  In addition to a bachelor’s degree he holds a master’s degree in Operational Analysis from the Naval Post Graduate School and a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College.  MG Johnson has commanded troops at company, battalion and brigade level and deployed to multiple combat tours including Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM in Afghanistan and Iraq, Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, Iraq and Operation JUST CAUSE, Panama.

Over the past 31 plus years he served in a variety of Army and Joint command and staff positions in the 7th Infantry Division, 75th Ranger Regiment, Southern European Task Force, Joint Special Operations Command, 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division, 25th Infantry Division and the Army Staff.

MG Johnson’s command assignments include Deputy Commanding General for Operations, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Commander of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Combined Joint Task Force CURRAHEE, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Afghanistan; 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Iraq; C Company, 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, Vicenza, Italy.

MG Johnson’s other principal Army and joint staff assignments include Executive Officer to the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, United States Army, Washington, DC; Division Chief of Staff, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, KY and Combined Joint Task Force 101, Afghanistan; Division G-3, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Special Operations Officer, Joint Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg NC.

His awards, decorations and military qualification badges include: Distinguished Service Medal (with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster); Legion of Merit (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters); Bronze Star Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters); Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters); Joint Service Commendation Medal (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters); Army Commendation Medal (with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster); Army Achievement Medal (with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster); Combat Infantryman Badge (with 1 Star); Expert Infantryman Badge; Pathfinder Badge; Ranger Tab; Army Staff Identification Badge; Master Parachutist Badge (with Combat Jump Bronze Star).

Major General Johnson is married to Sheila and they have three children, Justin (18), Sarah (16) and Daniel (13).

Chester DePratter to speak on the Archaeological Findings from the 16th Century Santa Elena Site – Friday at 1 PM at the McCutchen House at USC

Chester DePratter earned his doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in anthropology from the University of Georgia. He has worked on a variety of Native American sites, primarily in South Carolina and Georgia, and has written numerous articles on prehistoric archaeology, exploration routes of Spanish explorers and the early European presence in the southeastern United States. In addition, he is the author of the book “Late Prehistoric and Early Historic Chiefdoms in the Southeastern United States.” Since 1989 he has focused on the 16th century Spanish site of Santa Elena and the search for the French site of Charlesfort.

Dr. Robert Rolfe to speak on Doing Business in Africa Friday March 31, 2017 at Main Street United Methodist

Dr. Rolfe came to USC in 1983 after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma.  He has also been a visiting professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing and at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration in Vienna, Austria.  From August 2001 to May 2005, he was Executive Director of the International MBA Program at the Moore School of Business.

His research focuses on foreign investment in Africa.  He has been published in several publications including Advances in International Accounting, the Journal of the American Taxation Association, South African Journal of Economics, Journal of International Business Studies, and the  Journal of African Business .  Dr. Rolfe has received several awards for his research and teaching including the Cramer Fellow of International Taxation, the Alfred G. Smith Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the MIBS Outstanding Professor Award.  He is a member of the Academy of International Business and the African Finance and Economics Association.  He also serves as a board member for the South Carolina Export Consortium and the International Council of African Professionals.   His hobbies include biking, and traveling through Africa with his family.


  • Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, 1983
  • B.S., Southern College, 1978

Dirk Brown to Speak on the Importance of Intellectual Property Strategies in Business at 1 PM on March 24th at the Convention Center

Dirk Brown is the director of the Faber Entrepreneurship Center and a faculty member at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina. Dr. Brown is a seasoned executive with a strong track record of developing, marketing and licensing disruptive, proprietary technologies. He is the founding CEO of Pandoodle Corporation, a digital media technology company with offices in California, New York and South Carolina. Previously, he was CEO of Neoconix, a venture capital-funded electronics technology company serving Fortune 100 customers with worldwide sales and manufacturing. Earlier in his career, Dr. Brown was executive vice president of operations and marketing at High Connection Density (HCD), with P&L responsibility for all of the company’s product lines, and before that a member of technical staff at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). He holds over 35 patents, has written over 30 technical papers and journal articles, and is an active member in a number of professional societies. Dr. Brown holds an MBA from San Jose State, a Ph.D. (Materials Science) and M.Eng. (Applied Physics) from Cornell University, and a B.Sc. (Eng.) in Applied Physics/Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University in Canada.

Csilla Farkas to speak on Cyber Warfare from a Technical and Societal Perspective on Friday March 17th at the Convention Center at 1:00 PM

farkas-newCsilla Farkas is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Director of the Center for Information Assurance Engineering at the University of South Carolina.   Her research interests include information security, data inference problems, financial and legal analyses of cyber crime, and cyber-physical systems security.  Dr. Farkas is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Career award.  The topic of her award is “Semantic Web: Interoperation vs. Security – A New Paradigm of Confidentiality Threats.”  Dr. Farkas actively participates in international scientific communities as program committee member and reviewer.

Our society is increasingly dependent on computing technologies.  At the same time, cyber attacks are becoming more-and-more intrusive and devastating.  There is a diminishing separation between cyber and physical systems.  In this talk she will present the changing landscape of today’s cyber threats and the challenges faced by individuals, corporations, and nations. I will provide an overview of promising approaches that bring together technical, human, business, and legal experts to identify and implement the most suitable cybersecurity strategies.