FLORENCE, S.C. – The School Foundation’s 16th annual gala was fashion forward and a fun walk through trends of decades gone.

The South Florence High School Drama club provided entertainment in the form of a full-on fashion show during the event on Tuesday evening at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center on the Florence-Darlington Technical College campus.

The star of the evening, however, was the foundation’s 2017 “Distinguished Graduate” – Gerald Evans, the chief executive officer of HanesBrands Inc.

Evans grew up in Florence, attended District 1 schools for all of his early education and graduated from South Florence High School in 1977.

“This place was such an important start to my life, and to come back 40 years later, look back on it and reflect on what it did for you is incredible,” he said. “I’m honored.”

With more than 34 years’ experience in the apparel industry, Evans now presides over the world’s largest basic apparel company. He has held positions in marketing, sales and management and is noted for business excellence in a global economy.

His advice to Florence area students is simple, yet effective.

“Nothing takes the place of hard work,” he said. “Students have a great school system here and a community that supports it. Take advantage that and work hard.”

Debbie Hyler, the executive director of The School Foundation, said Evans is a testament to how important a solid education is.

“Gerald Evans is the true definition of a leader,” she said “From his roots in Florence, he has ascended to become a well-respected titan of industry, leading one of the largest apparel companies in the world with employees in more than 40 countries on every inhabited continent. A true role model, he exemplifies the importance of drive, vision, passion and humility as values for personal and professional success.”

Last year, the School Foundation’s gala raised $64,000 for its mission. Since its founding in 2000, the foundation has funded more than $1.3 million in grants to educators in Florence School District One.

The School Foundation’s mission is to promote educational excellence in the district through grants for innovative learning and through high impact initiatives designed to prepare students for success. Currently, the foundation is leading a school readiness awareness campaign focusing on preparing all children to enter kindergarten with the skills needed to succeed.

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