Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

The speakers for the winter 2021 commencement ceremony represent leadership in the fields of English, diversity and business.

Simon Lewis was reared in the South of England and near Cape Town, South Africa. He completed high school in England and earned an undergraduate degree at Worcester College in Oxford. A year as a graduate student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia revealed a passion for teaching and, for the next nine years, he taught high school English in England and Tanzania. Returning to graduate school in the United States, Simon completed his Ph.D. at the University of Florida. Inspired by his mother’s experience as a farmer’s wife in South Africa, his dissertation focused on white women writers on farms in Africa.

In 1996, Simon joined the English department at the College of Charleston, where he specializes in African and postcolonial literature. He is fascinated by Charleston’s African heritage and became enthusiastically involved with the Program in the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW). For the last two decades, he has been associated with CLAW as either associate director or director, overseeing numerous public lectures, symposia and conferences on topics as diverse as foodways, material culture, public history and Jewish intellectual migration. He has also served as director of the College of Charleston’s African Studies Program and the African American Studies Program. He served as associate dean in the School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs for five years, as well.

As a scholar, he has published two monographs on African and British literature and is the editor of four volumes of essays stemming from CLAW conferences. The author of some 20 peer-reviewed articles on African literature, notably on South African poetry, Simon is also a frequent reviewer both of academic texts for scholarly journals and of novels and trade books for the The Post and Courier. Simon’s scholarship and service was honored with the 2021 Governor’s Award from the S.C. Humanities Council. 

Stephen “Steve” C. Osborne ’73 began his journey with the College as a student in the 1970s and continued for more than four decades to his retirement as interim president in 2019.  

After graduating from the College in 1973, Steve received a Master of Public Administration from Western Kentucky University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.

Before returning to the College, Steve worked for the South Carolina Budget and Control Board for 27 years, culminating in serving as the chief of staff. This experience served him well when he returned to the College as the executive vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer. In this capacity, he managed the Division of Business Affairs, the Office of Business and Auxiliary Services and the offices of Procurement and Supply, Human Resources, Facilities Planning and Government Relations, as well as the Division of Information Technology, Physical Plant Environmental Health and Safety and Human Relations. He was an ex-officio member of the College of Charleston Foundation from 2006 to 2017. 

As a senior advisor to former President Glenn F. McConnell ’69 in 2017, Steve provided the President's Office guidance and leadership in the areas of contract review, institutional policy review, capital project planning and executive-level recruitment. As a sports fan and former basketball team manager, Steve served as the representative for the president to the Colonial Athletic Association. 

In his role as interim president of the College from July 2018 to May 2019, Steve worked closely with faculty and staff in Athletics and in academic affairs, business affairs, legal afffairs and student affairs. He partnered with the Board of Trustees in developing and setting institutional policies and direction as well as the College’s donor community in fundraising. He prioritized the student experience, the academic experience, philanthropy and planning for the College’s 250th anniversary celebration in 2020.

Steve was happily married to his wife Mary, who passed away in 2019, for 38 years.  

Mary Turner Osborne 

Mary Turner Osborne was born May 9, 1949, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in psychology and earned her master's degree in educational development at Georgia State University. 

Mary had a public sector career in human resources beginning with the Georgia Merit System, the South Carolina Budget and Control Board and the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. 

After moving to Charleston with her husband Steve, Mary was involved in a number of activities at the College. She volunteered for Special Collections in the Addlestone Library and for the School of the Arts Advisory Council. She was first lady of the College of Charleston from July 2018 until May 2019 while her husband was interim president.  

Mary was a loving mother and wife whose dedication to the College will live on through the Stephen C. and Mary Osborne Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded through the Alumni Association to in-state students who exhibit positive characteristics including leadership, kindness and humility, traits modeled by Mary and her husband Steve.  



» Want to nominate a future commencement speaker? Or view the list of previous honorary degree receipients? Visit the Committee on Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients webpage.