The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SPA) honors the memory of long-time executive director W. Don Welch, who passed away earlier at his home in Florida.
“Don Welch’s many contributions to the State Ports Authority and economic development in this state are apparent now and will be felt for many years to come,” said John F. Hassell III, interim president and CEO and board secretary of the SPA. “We in the port industry mourn the loss of a dedicated leader, consummate professional and friend. The entire Charleston maritime community extends our thoughts and prayers to his family during this time.”
Mr. Welch, 78, served as executive director of the SPA from 1971 until 1996. During that time, the port went from a labor-intensive environment to a largely automated operation, thanks to the containerization movement. Mr. Welch predicted in 1971, “Anything that can be containerized will be,” and he steered the Port of Charleston to successfully prepare for it.
As executive director, Mr. Welch guided the development of the Wando Terminal from the land purchase in 1972, to the terminal’s opening in 1981, and its near completion in 1997. In 2005, the Wando Terminal was renamed the Wando Welch Terminal. He also led the major overhaul of the SPA’s other facilities to provide open storage for containers.
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Mr. Welch obtained his B.A. degree in economics from the University of Florida in 1951 and his M.S. in transportation from the University of Tennessee in l956. During the Korean War, he served as an artillery officer in the U.S. Army.
Mr. Welch received a number of honors including World Trade “Man of the Year” by the Propeller Club of Charleston; the “Distinguished Service Award” granted by the Southern Growth Policies Board; and, was named the University of Tennessee’s “Distinguished Alumnus” for 1981. In April of 1991 Mr. Welch was presented transportation industry’s most prestigious award, the Harry E. Salzberg Memorial Medallion by the School of Management at Syracuse University. Welch served as the 1981 chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities.
In 1990, the College of Charleston established the W. Don Welch Medallion to be awarded in Welch’s honor for “meritorious contributions in the transportation industry.”