Columbia business leader, philanthropist to be awarded honorary doctorate of humane letters
December 9, 2010
The University of South Carolina will present an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Norman J. Arnold during the winter commencement exercises Monday, Dec. 13, in the Colonial Life Arena.
The event, which is open to the public, will begin at 3:30 p.m.
Arnold and his wife Gerry Sue donated $10 million to USC in 2000 to benefit the School of Public Health, which now bears the family's name.
A Columbia businessman, philanthropist and public health advocate,
Arnold waged a successful battle against pancreatic cancer and has generously supported public health causes to improve the lives of South Carolinians.
Arnold himself set the example in 1982 after doctors discovered a malignant tumor on his pancreas and gave him six months to live. After the diagnosis, Arnold began an intensive study of pancreatic cancer, in which he learned of a physician who had successfully treated terminal cancer through a macrobiotic diet. Embracing diet and philosophy, macrobiotic living calls for a diet primarily of grains, land and sea vegetables, fish, seeds and nuts. The philosophy encourages strong family relationships, exercise and an optimistic attitude.
Born in Charleston, Arnold graduated from Oglethorpe College in Georgia in 1952. He then joined the Ben Arnold Company, named for his father who moved the business from Charleston to Columbia during the Depression. The original company was founded in 1906 by Arnolds' grandfather Isaac Ginsberg.
Except for a four-year tour as naval officer during the Korean War, Arnold immersed himself in the family business. Upon the expected death of his father in 1962, he became president and CEO of the Ben Arnold Co.
Two years later, Arnold memorialized his father by founding the Ben Arnold Memorial Foundation. The foundation funds educational and health programs and built the Ben Arnold Memorial Boy's Club in Columbia - the first such facility in South Carolina. In 1997, he established the Norman J. Arnold Foundation.
Arnold was interested in health issues long before his generous gift to USC. Because his father died of a heart attack at age 62, Arnold became interested in cardiovascular health. He was chairman of the Richland County Heart Fund and served on the board of trustees of Providence Hospital, a major force in heart health in the Midlands. He also served on the Board of the Medical University of South Carolina Cardiovascular Institute for Research and Prevention.
Arnold and his wife made an additional gift to the Arnold School to establish an awards program to honor outstanding alumni. During the 35th anniversary celebration of the Arnold School in October, the benefactor pledged another gift for a new public health.
Ray Tanner, coach of the University of South Carolina's national championship baseball team, will speak at the commencement exercises for baccalaureate, master's and professional-degree recipients from all eight campuses.
Former Columbia Mayor Bob Coble, who served an unprecedented two decades as mayor of South Carolina's capital city, will receive an honorary doctorate of laws at the commencement ceremony.
The doctoral hooding ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts. Dr. Tayloe Harding, dean of the School of Music and interim dean of the South Carolina Honors College, will speak.