Ray Tanner Named Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce 2011 Ambassador of the Year

Gamecock Baseball Head Coach to Receive Chamber’s Highest Individual Honor

 COLUMBIA, S.C. – Ray Tanner, head coach of the University of South Carolina’s back-to-back NCAA National Champion baseball team, has been selected as the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce 2011 Ambassador of the Year. With the ambassador selection, Tanner will be recognized for his work with the university, USA Baseball and his personal foundation, which has brought national and prestigious recognition to the entire Greater Columbia region.

Tanner will be honored at the Columbia Chamber Annual Gala on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

“I am honored and humbled to be named Ambassador of the Year by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce,” said Tanner.  “Columbia and the entire Midlands community is a big part of why Carolina baseball has succeeded, our championships belong to the entire Columbia and University family.”

The Columbia Chamber Ambassador of the Year is one of the Chamber’s highest honors presented to a local individual. The Ambassador of the Year is someone who exemplifies outstanding business ethics and has taken responsibility for influencing the positive promotion and preservation of the Greater Columbia area. The title is conferred annually on a leader who serves as a role model for business involvement in the community and who has contributed to the image of the local community. Previous Ambassadors of the Year have included Ed Sellers, Dr. Andrew Sorensen, Cathy Novinger and Jim Apple as well as former head coach of the University of South Carolina’s basketball team Frank McGuire.

“With his enthusiasm for promoting the Greater Columbia region and dedication to making the area a better place to live, work and play, Ray Tanner truly is a shining example of what an ambassador should be,” said Mike Brenan, chair of the board for the Great Columbia Chamber of Commerce and president of BB&T South Carolina.  “Ray’s passion for being involved throughout the region is undeniable, and the legacy he has left within the community is inspiring.”

Within the Greater Columbia community, Tanner is highly respected for his leadership, corporate responsibility and public service. A three-time National Coach of the Year and Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, Tanner has just completed his 15th year as head coach at the University of South Carolina. Tanner has established one of the premier programs in all of college baseball with milestones and accomplishments piling up each season. Tanner’s 15th season with the Garnet & Black culminated in Omaha, Neb., this summer where the Gamecocks won the 2011 National Championship becoming only the ninth repeat champion in College World Series history.

Through his leadership, Carolina was the first team to go 10-0 in the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks, who entered the tournament as the No. 4 national seed, established NCAA records with 16 consecutive postseason wins and 11 consecutive wins in the College World Series.

Tanner has also helped put Columbia on the international stage. He has served five stints with the USA National Baseball Team, including in 2003 as head coach. He was named the U.S. National Coach of the Year that season. Tanner served as an auxiliary coach under Tommy Lasorda for the 2000 Olympic Team that won a gold medal at the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney, Australia. He was also an assistant under former LSU coach Skip Bertman with the 1995 and 1996 USA teams that culminated in a bronze medal win at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. Tanner’s first stint with USA Baseball came as an assistant coach to the national team in the summer of 1993.

But Tanner’s accomplishments and accolades extend far beyond the baseball diamond. He is well known for his community philanthropy. In 2005, Tanner, along with his wife Karen, started the Ray Tanner Foundation which is dedicated to the betterment of economically and medically disadvantaged children and their families. The foundation supports organizations which care for seriously ill children, the homeless and other charitable causes.

Grant recipients have included the Family Shelter, the Oliver Gospel Mission, the Cooperative Ministry, the Nurturing Center, the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, Parenting Partners, Palmetto Place Children’s Emergency Shelter, and others.

Among its projects are The Ray Tanner Home Run, a premier annual running and walking event that brings together people of all levels to help improve the lives of disadvantaged children and their families, while promoting the benefits of healthy and active lifestyles.

Tanner also is donating 100 percent of his proceeds from Carolina Baseball: Pressure Makes Diamonds, a limited edition, leather-bound book detailing the history of Carolina baseball, to help build a “Miracle League Field” in Columbia where any child can play baseball regardless of any physical handicap. Tanner wrote the foreword to the book.

The Miracle League now serves more than 200,000 children and young adults with disabilities. The success of the Miracle League has been chronicled on NBC, ABC, and FOX. There are 240 Miracle League Organizations across the country, as well as Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia.

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Annual Gala will be held on Sept. 22, 2011, at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The event is open to the public and members of the media. For ticket and sponsorship information, please visit www.columbiachamber.com.

About the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce
The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of 1,500 business enterprises, civic organizations, educational institutions and individuals in Calhoun, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry and Richland counties. The Columbia Chamber serves as the voice of its members and the business community at large on matters of economic, educational, social, cultural and political concern, as well as supports and promotes the success of its members through networking, professional development, advocacy and leadership. The organization has represented the interests of the local business community since 1902.

To become a member or to learn more about the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, as well as its events, programs and initiatives, visit http://www.ColumbiaChamber.com.

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