S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has appointed five new members to serve on the Board of Trustees for the historic John de la Howe School, founded in 1797.
They are Hugh Bland and Edgar Lamb, both of Edgefield; Ronald Davis of Greenwood; Craig Kesler of Newberry, and Owen Smith of Chesnee.
They join Melissa Tilden of Laurens, who was reappointed to the board for a term ending in 2023; Dr. J. Michael Griffin of Rock Hill, whose term continues until 2021, and Thomas R. Love of McCormick, who will serve until 2019.
New Members of the Board
Hugh Bland: Bland, who was named the Board chair, has an extensive background in agricultural education. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural education from Clemson University and has taught at the Strom Thurmond Career Center, Midland Valley High School and Piedmont Technical College.
His Future Farmers of America students won numerous district and state awards in floriculture, forestry, agronomy, nursery landscaping, and in wildlife and environmental competitions. His students have received awards such as the Governor’s Career Student of the Year and Piedmont Tech Consortium Career Student of the Year, and many were awarded state and national scholarships.
On the national level, his FFA students comprised two gold-award teams and six silver-award teams, along with nine individual gold winners and 25 individual silver winners. Other national awards include four silver-award winners for the National FFA Proficiency and a bronze-award winner for the National FFA Tractor Restoration Competition.
Bland has been named the 2005 Clemson University Collegiate FFA State Teacher of the Year and the 2006 Outstanding Conservation Educator in South Carolina. He received the S.C. State Conservation Education Merit Award in 2007; was awarded the Honorary American FFA Degree and Honorary State Farmer Degree, both in 2004, and was named to the Pendleton Farmers Society in 2008. He was the S.C. Association for Agricultural Educators Teacher of the Year in 1998 (District 4) and 2002 SCAAE Teacher of the Year (District 1).
In 2008, he received the SCAAE State Agricultural Program of the Year Award, and he was named the Strom Thurmond Career Center Teacher of the Year in 2001.
Ronald Davis: Davis is an alumnus of de la Howe. He lived at JDLH from 1967 to 1973 and graduated from McCormick High School in 1973. He earned a degree in marketing from Piedmont Technical College in 1975 and later studied management at the University of Georgia.
Davis has been a loan officer at Lakelands Federal Credit Union, which is becoming Peach State Federal Credit Union. He will be a member services adviser with the credit union.
A longtime member of the Board of Directors of the JDLH Alumni Association and an active participant in alumni activities to benefit de la Howe students, Davis recently was vice president of the organization.
Craig Kesler: A fourth-generation farmer, Kesler is owner and partner of Trinity Farms LLP, which has been a diversified beef, dairy and row-crop operation for more than 50 years. He has been at the helm of Trinity Farms since 2002.
Since its founding in 1941, Trinity Farms has increased its herd size from 15 head to more than 1,000 head supported on a 3,000-acre compound. Cows carrying the Trinity prefix are sought after for private treaty and organized sales. Foundation-quality animals bred at Trinity Farms are currently enhancing herds throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, South American and India.
Kesler, an alumnus of Newberry College and Piedmont Technical College, is a member of the S.C. Farm Bureau Marketing Board and the Newberry County Farm Bureau where he has been county director since 1998 and president from 2005 to 2007. He is a member of the Newberry Electric Coop Board.
A former member of the National Cattleman’s Beef Board, Kesler is a member of the S.C. Waterfowl Association, the Saluda County Cattlemen’s Association, the S.C. Cattlemen’s Association, the S.C. Jersey Association and the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
He has been the fire chief of Silverstreet Volunteer Fire Department since 2008 and a member of the department since 1979.
Kesler attends Trinity United Methodist Church where he is a trustee and member of the choir.
Edgar Lamb: Lamb is the co-owner of L&M Farms. His interest in agribusiness began in his youth when he helped his parents with row crops and livestock on the family farm.
During high school, he was active in the FFA and agriculture classes at Strom Thurmond Vocational Center. In 1978, Lamb and his partner, Dennis Miller, invested in 250 acres for a row crop operation that they managed and harvested for several years. Today, the business has 770 acres of pine trees (converted cropland).
Since the mid-1980s, they have been forestry contractors for private industry, including Canal, Bowater, Champion, Union Camp and International Paper. They serve as a contractor for private landowners seeking to implement best management practices on their land, including pond, wildlife and forestry management; road and right-of-way construction, and maintenance, mulching, land construction and more.
A tractor enthusiast and restoration specialist, Lamb is an officer in the Palmetto Tractor Club. He has several that he displays in parades and tractor shows throughout South Carolina.
Lamb is an active member and officer for several organizations, including the Edgefield County Young Farmer and Agribusiness Chapter. A member of Berea Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon, Lamb has been active on county and community committees and has been a member of the Beaverdam Creek Watershed for many years and the Farm Service Agency for 39 years.
A volunteer for the Strom Thurmond FFA and National Wild Turkey Federation, Lamb was named the 2017 Mid-State S.C. Agribusinessman of the Year by the S.C. Young Farmer and Agribusiness Association.
Owen Smith: Smith recently retired from AgSouth Farm Credit, ACA, after having worked with system associations for almost 40 years.
Smith grew up on a row-crop farm in Sumter, graduated from Clemson in 1978 with a degree in business and went to work as loan officer trainee for the Farm Credit Bank of Columbia.
During his career, he worked in a number of capacities in South Carolina and Georgia as a loan officer, branch manager, corporate loan officer, chief lending officer, chief credit officer and training officer.
He is currently a consultant in the training of new loan officers and credit analysts for several Farm Credit Associations.
Smith and his family live on a small farm in Chesnee.
Returning Members of the Board
Dr. Michael Griffin: Griffin was named to the JDLH board in 2016. A lifelong educator, he was an associate professor of education at Winthrop University in Rock Hill and was named a professor emeritus of the university in 2002.
Thomas Love: Love, who is the Board’s vice chair, began his membership on the board in 2014. He earned his bachelor’s degree in outdoor resource management at Columbus State University.
Love worked for 20 years at JDLH and was among the first staff to start the school’s Wilderness Program. He led groups through the Ropes Course training program located at JDLH and worked on development of other Ropes Courses in South Carolina.
After leading the Wilderness Program for about 10 years, Love became the training director for staff and later retired from the school.
He is the fire chief for the Little River Volunteer Fire Department in Mt. Carmel and is chair of the board for the McCormick Children’s Home. He also serves on the board for Willington’s on the Way.
Melissa Tilden: Tilden, a native of Raleigh, N.C., is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in French. She recently was a teacher in a self-contained, learning disabled class at Laurens Middle School.
Tilden taught French at the high school level, worked in the banking industry and owned and operated a bookstore for 15 years in Laurens, where she has lived for more than 30 years.
She attends First United Methodist in Laurens where she has served as chair of the Education Committee. Tilden also served on the Board of Directors of Main Street Laurens.
Tilden is the secretary of the Board of Trustees.