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Greenville Business Magazine

Kentwool Celebrates Former CEO Mark Kent at 175th Ceremony

May 26, 2018 05:57PM ● By Chris Haire

Photos by Todd Johnston, RingoFire | Video by Chris Haire

When Mark Kent unexpectedly passed last year, the celebrated textile leader left behind a huge footprint as the enterprising CEO of Kentwool and a philanthropist. He also earned the adoration of the millions who have worn a pair of Kentwool performance socks, "the world's best golf socks." 

Not surprisingly, his legacy was center stage at the 175th anniversary celebration of the Upstate manufacturer Thursday, May 24 at the Kentwool Runnymeade facility in Pickens, S.C. 
During the brief ceremony, Kent's wife and current Kentwool CEO Kimberly V. Kent welcomed guests and employees, while delivering a heartfelt ode to her husband. 

 "On what should be a purely festive occasion today, there is clearly an inescapable void, our former CEO -- my husband -- Mark Kent, who led this company for more than 20 years before we lost him last fall. " Kimberly Kent said. "There would be no 175th anniversary without him.

"Were he here today, his smile would be the largest among us. And it is deeply missed."
Kimberly V. Kent
When Mark, initially asked Kimberly to get involved in the company, she balked. Eventually, she changed her mind. "I’m thankful for all that Mark taught me about this business," she said. When he passed, Kimberly took the helm of the company.

Kentwool Manufacturing President Keith Horn delivered similar sentiments about his former boss, the man who took the reins of an aging textile empire and discovered new and unexpected markets to conquer. 

Horn noted Mark Kent's business acumen, a skill that led to the creation of two new companies and, yes, that world famous sock. But it was Kent's ability to see the potential in people that may have trumped it all. 

"Mark didn’t only take chances on ideas, he took chances on people," Horn said. "I had a lot of trust placed on me in the early years," a trust he said was more than he deserved.

Kentwool also celebrated the scores of men and women who work for the textile company, highlighting those at the Runnymeade plant who have been with the manufacturer for more than 20 years.

The employees include: Janice S. Hendricks, Deborah D. Hare, Sandra L. Green, Peggy Ann Holbrook, Tina L. Alexander, Morris D. Alexander, William Alan Pressley, Donna Jean Page, Keith Horn, Pauline P. Burgess, Dorothy Jan Alexander, Kenneth Wayne Nix, Steven S. Haire, Vicki Lynn Rogers, Tammy M. Davis, and Daniel A Queen. 

Members of the Pickens County legislative delegation were also in attendance: Representatives Neal Collins, Gary Clary, and David Hiott.

For Hiott, Mark Kent's leadership underscored the importance Kentwool's place in the fabric of Pickens. "One of the key things after I got over the shock of Mark's death, I thought, what’s going to happen to Pickens," Hiott said.

Any misgivings he may have had were quickly quieted when he spoke to Kimberly Kent, who assured him Kentwool was in Pickens to stay. 

Kentwool is a fifth-generation family-owned American textile innovator, which includes Kentwool Manufacturing, Kentwool Development, and Kentwool Performance. The company continues to make its products entirely in the United States; Kentwool boasts 81 employees between its Pickens manufacturing facility and Greenville offices. 

Kentwool CEO Kimberly V. Kent

Kentwool Manufacturing President Keith Horn