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Echols named to Furman class of diversity leaders

Echols named to Furman class of diversity leaders

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FLORENCE, S.C. – Les Echols of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce has been chosen to participate in the Riley Institute at Furman’s 12th class of Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI), joining others from across the Midlands and surrounding area.

Echols is the director of community and minority enterprise for the chamber.

“Discovering ways in which differences can strengthen our organizations is of utmost importance as we seek to grow and support a thriving economy and rich culture,” said Dr. Donald Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute.

DLI class members are identified through a rigorous process including nominations from existing Riley Fellows, application, and interview. Individuals are selected to join the class based on their capacity to affect their organizations and communities.

Over the course of five months, Echols will take part in a highly interactive curriculum consisting of case studies, scenario analyses and other experiential learning tools that maximize interaction and discussion among classmates and facilitate productive relationships.

Florence Chamber President Michael Miller said, “This is a great honor for Les, the chamber and our region as we work toward common goals in business and community building.”

Echols will also work with other class members in one of five Capstone project groups formed to respond to real issues in the community.

The DLI classes are facilitated by Juan Johnson, an independent consultant and former Coca-Cola vice president.

“DLI is unique among South Carolina’s leadership programs,” Johnson said. “In addition to the opportunity to develop new relationships and take part in positive action in their communities, participants gain deep knowledge of how to effectively manage and lead diverse workers, clients and constituents.”

DLI graduates become Riley Fellows, members of a powerful, cross-sector, statewide leadership network that includes CEOs of corporations, mayors, city and county council members, legislators, school superintendents, pastors and rabbis, non-profit heads, chamber of commerce directors, and community leaders. In addition to the Midlands, DLI classes are selected annually in the Upstate and Lowcountry.

“We now have more than 2,000 Riley Fellows statewide,” Gordon said. “Each new class further extends the reach and impact of leaders willing to work together to make South Carolina a better place to live and work for all its residents.”

To see a full list of participants and for more information about the Diversity Leaders Initiative, visit


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