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Alumnus reaches milestone with Order of Palmetto, second Verner Award

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Leo Twiggs (EdD '70), an alumnus of the College of Education and a celebrated batik artist, recently earned two of South Carolina's highest honors.

Last May, during a ceremony held at the Statehouse, Twiggs received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian honor. During the ceremony, he also received the highest honor the state presents in the arts as a Lifetime Achievement Award winner in the 2017 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts.

"What really shook me is I had no idea about the Order of the Palmetto… It is very rare that you get the highest honor award (for art) in the state for lifetime achievement and at the same time get the highest civilian award. For me, it was kind of the highlight of my career," he said.

In 1980, Twiggs was the first visual artist to ever receive the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award. His most recent batik series, "Requiem for Mother Emanuel," was created in response to a shooting that occurred in 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. After the tragedy, Twiggs spent several weeks dyeing and dipping fabric to form nine texturally rich and deep-toned pieces.

"When it comes to these awards that I've gotten, I was just star struck by that. But I don't think it would have happened if I had not done the Mother Emmanuel series. At this time in my career, I think the notoriety and national attention that the series created is probably what precipitated these awards," Twiggs said.

His unique batik paintings, which require hours of time and dedication to complete, have received international acclaim in Rome, Senegal and Sierra Leone and have also appeared in numerous textbooks and other publications.

"When I look back at my career, it's still about grinding that stone to make our state agencies more diversified. I just believe that we are a better nation and a better state when we utilize the talents of all our citizens," said Twiggs.

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