On April 5th, at the Governor Thomas Bennett House, Spoleto Festival USA will present its 2019 Mary Ramsay Civic Award to three longtime champions of the Festival and Charleston: Sallie M. Duell, Susan W. Ravenel, and Kathleen Rivers.
The Festival has been greatly shaped by their multifaceted talents, wisdom, and service, as well as their philanthropic commitment. During the luncheon, Joel A. Smith, III, will present the award, following an introduction from Spoleto Festival USA Board Chair William Medich. Reverend Cress Darwin will lead the afternoon’s invocation.
Recognizing extraordinary contributions of civic and charitable leadership within the Charleston community, the Mary Ramsay Civic Award was established in 2012. It is named after Mary Croghan Ramsay (1921 – 2009), who worked tirelessly to elevate causes including the performing arts, urban development and improvement, higher education, and the welfare of those with special needs. The award celebrates her determination and commitment to improving the Lowcountry and seeks to honor others who follow in her path. Past recipients are John and Norma Palms (2012), Charles S. Way, Jr. (2013), Dr. Raymond S. Greenberg (2014), Martha Rivers Ingram (2015), Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (2016), Joseph H. and Evelyn McGee (2017), and Wayland H. and Marion Rivers Cato (2018).
The annual seated luncheon, sponsored by South State Bank and benefiting Spoleto Festival USA, will take place at the Governor Thomas Bennett House beginning at 12:00pm. Chef John Zucker of Cru Café, Cru Catering, and Purlieu will provide the afternoon’s fare. A limited number of tickets (starting at $250) are available and may be purchased online at spoletousa.org or by calling 843.720.1114.
Sallie M. Duell
Sallie McPherson Duell was born in Greenville, South Carolina, graduated from St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia, attended Converse College, and graduated from the College of Charleston with a BA in urban studies. She moved to Charleston in 1964 and began her volunteer experience with the Junior League of Charleston. In 1968, she joined the board of directors of the Junior League of Charleston and was elected president for a 1974 ‒ 76 term.
Duell has served on the board of directors of Horizon House (now Carolina Youth Development Center), the board of directors and executive committee for the Preservation Society, and, in 1987, she co-chaired the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration for the YWCA. From 1989 ‒ 2000, she was a member of the board of directors of Spoleto Festival USA, also serving on the executive committee. In 1990, she produced the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of Porgy and Bess, reopening the Gaillard Auditorium following the devastation of Hurricane Hugo. She has served on the board of directors of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the South Carolina Nature Conservancy as well as the board of directors and executive committee of the Coastal Community Foundation from 1994 ‒ 2000. She was chairman of the Charleston Garden Festival in 1998 and 2004, and in 2000 was a founding board member of the Charleston Horticultural Society, serving as president from 2002 ‒ 04. Duell was a member of the Historic Charleston Foundation Board of Directors from 1999 ‒ 2008 and served as a member of its executive committee. She was appointed by Mayor Riley to the City of Charleston Board of Architectural Review from 2000 ‒ 09 and was chairman for two years. She was a member of the board of the Charleston Parks Conservancy. Currently, Duell serves as chairman of the Middleton Place Foundation and is on the founding board of Arm-in-Arm. She and her husband Charles have a combined family of seven children and thirteen grandchildren.
Susan W. Ravenel
Susan Heyward Gibbes Woodward Ravenel was born in Columbia, South Carolina. She was educated at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia, and the University of South Carolina. She lived in New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Aspen, Colorado; Denver, Colorado; and Bulape, Zaire before moving to Charleston in 1973. When Spoleto Festival USA was created, she started volunteering, eventually joining the board of directors from 1984 – 2002; she is now a member of the Directors Emeriti. She served on the executive committee as a vice president for over 10 years and held positions including long-range planning chairman, co-chairman of the hospitality committee, and was a member of the visual arts committee, fundraising committee, and the gala committee, often serving as chair or co-chair. She joined the South Carolina Arts Commission in 1986, serving as its chairman for two terms. She was the founder and director of the Courtney Gallery at MUSC. She was head of the arts committee of the Junior League of Charleston. She served on the board of directors for the Southern Arts Federation, The Carolina Art Association (Gibbes Museum of Art), The South Carolina Museum Foundation, The Long Room Club, Charleston Area Arts Council, the partnership board of the South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia, and is currently on the partnership board for Neurosciences at MUSC.
Ravenel was married to Dr. T. Bright Williamson, and they had two children: Bright Williamson, Jr., married to Allison Bridges; and Susan Gibbes Williamson Mills, married to Douglas Mills. She married Charles D. Ravenel and gained three step children: Curtis D. Ravenel and his wife Mallory May; Tiphaine Ravenel Bonetti and her husband Paolo; and Ramsay M. Ravenel and his wife Rebecca. There are 11 grandchildren.
Kathleen Hudson Rivers grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, the middle of three children. She attended the Westminster Schools before moving on to Boston and attending Wellesley College. She lived in Columbus, Georgia; Panama City, Florida; and Kiawah Island, South Carolina, before moving to Charleston in 1977.
She became involved with the Gibbes Museum of Art Women’s Council through Blanche Brumley and Mary Ramsay. Beginning as a docent, she advanced to become president of the women’s council, and then president of the board of the Gibbes Museum of Art. She was a member of the Junior League of Charleston and co-founder of the enormously successful Whale of a Sale. Rivers was also on the board of the Historic Charleston Foundation, where she served on the Nathaniel Russell House Committee and chaired the Edmonston-Alston House Committee. At David Rawle’s request, she helped launch the Inaugural Ball for The Charleston Place Hotel in 1986.
She has been involved with Spoleto Festival USA for three decades, volunteering with numerous gala and fundraising events. She served as vice president on the board of directors and as chair of the visual arts committee during the execution of 1991’s Places with a Past. Rivers is also a member of the Festival’s Directors Emeriti Circle.
In Cashiers, North Carolina, Rivers co-founded the Chattooga Club, which successfully operates one of the most highly regarded croquet clubs in the nation. In 2015, she chaired the Cashiers Historical Society’s Designer Showhouse. Rivers has written two books which capture the spirit of her mother and father. She operates her business, Kathleen Rivers Interior Design, with projects ranging from large residential homes in New York and Vail to small-scale inns in North Carolina. She has two children, LeGrand Elebash and Palmer Weiss, and she has four grandchildren.