Randy Blackston of Anderson received Tri-County Technical College's 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award at the College's spring commencement May 10 at the Anderson Civic Center. 

The award, which highlights his dedication to his alma mater, was presented to him by President Ronnie L. Booth.

The recipient of this award must have been awarded a degree, diploma or certificate from Tri-County; must have graduated at least one year ago; and must have made significant contributions to the College, the Alumni Association or the community.

ANDERSON --- In 1988 Randy Blackston was on the University Transfer track with the goal of studying Business Management at Clemson University when he met Tri-County Technical College's Industrial Technology instructors, toured the department, and realized that he was challenged by and excited about mechanical equipment, gear ratios, motion time and study, production control, and quality analysis.

"I enjoyed the connection I had with faculty and the interest they had in me.  When you engage like that with students, you expedite the learning process at a level much greater than can occur in the classroom lectures," he said. 

Blackston never scored less than an A after transitioning to the Engineering and Industrial Technology Division and graduated as an honor student with a 4.0 GPA.

He also did the nearly impossible.  After receiving his degree in Industrial Technology in 1990, he enrolled at Clemson where he continued his education in textile manufacturing with an area of concentration in Industrial Engineering by day and by night earned a second degree in Quality Assurance at Tri-County.  He was enrolled in 28 credit hours one semester all while maintaining a 30-hour work week.  He worked full-time, second-shift jobs through 80 percent of the five years he went to college.

"Tri-County's Industrial Technology Department was excellent.  It provided the basic math and engineering background to go straight to work or to continue my education, which is the avenue I chose," he said.  "When I entered Clemson, I felt I was a semester ahead.  The Industrial Technology classes gave me a good head start.  It was an easy transition."

After receiving his bachelor's degree, he began working at Glen Raven as a Management Trainee and Project Engineer.   

"I had a goal," said Blackston, who, today is Vice President of Operations at Glen Raven (Sunbrella®) in Anderson and responsible for global manufacturing of the Sunbrella® Branded Products.  Around the globe, Glen Raven's Sunbrella® brand is recognized as the industry leader in performance fabrics for awning, marine and decorative furniture.

It's that strong work ethic that has put him on the fast track for the Anderson company -- in 24 years rising from his first assignment to being directly responsible for the operations of four manufacturing plants with 1,200 associates.  He also is responsible for global best practices and manages global capital projects.

He says his biggest achievement has been serving as Project Manager in 1992 for the one-million-square-foot facility on Liberty Highway.  From May 1992 - June 1994, he was immersed in the new project, calculating every item needed for the facility based on growth calculations.  "Tri-County's hands-on approach gave me the foundation I needed to tackle complicated problems. Through the math and work measurement, I had the building blocks to do calculations and be a part of group discussions," he said. 

"I was at the right place at the right time," he said.  "I just seized the opportunity.  I was there and willing to accept the challenge as Project Manager for the new facility."  He did the research and made the contacts.  The 4 a.m. site supervisions and late evenings paid off.  He was promoted to Process Engineering Manager during construction.  In 1997 he was promoted to Manufacturing Manager for the warp preparation and weaving plants. 

In 2003 he was transferred to the Glen Raven facility in Burnsville, NC, to become Director of Operations for the company's Technical Fabrics Plant.   

In 2007 he returned to Glen Raven's Custom Fabrics business to focus on Sunbrella® manufacturing as Vice President of Operations. He is charged with directing the sustainability program for Glen Raven globally.  Another proud moment is leading the corporate-wide sustainability initiative which resulted in achieving Landfill-Free Status in all operations in North America, France, and China.   In 2012 Glen Raven received Duke Energy's Power Partners Award for its efforts in energy efficiency, sustainability, and business growth.

"Glen Raven has given me wonderful opportunities," said Blackston. "Years ago, I joined an amazing company, and I'm thankful I could use my education to work for the greatest company in the world," he said.

He reports to work knowing that his priorities list will change almost hourly.  He thrives on the pace, the challenge and the diversity.  He says one of his most important and preferred duties is being directly involved with the associates at the facility.  He often shares his story when asked how he got his start at the plant. 

"I manage by walking around and interacting with associates.  If I don't do that, I'm not as effective.  It's about building relationships.  Associates are comfortable in bringing opportunities to me and finding wins for the company through those opportunities - that's where I find success." 

He also found success as an instructor for Tri-County, serving as an adjunct for the division from 1995 - 2003. He also developed the first web-based quality classes for the College's Quality Assurance program.

"Teaching was a great source of relaxation.  I taught real-world exercises by taking actual data and presenting it to the class.  Students really appreciated this.  Teaching made me a better manager. I would do it tomorrow if time allowed," he said.

Blackston also is active in his community, serving on the Board of Directors for Imagine Anderson, the American Heart Association, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Board, Ambassadors Board for AnMed Health, the Board of Visitors at Anderson University and the Industrial Engineering Advisory Board at Clemson University.

            He and his family live in Anderson.