This year’s Spirit of the Coast winner for South MS is ‘wild’ about helping children

This year’s Pat Santucci “Spirit of the Coast” winner uses his job and skills to help his community.

Rodger Wilder, an attorney with Balch and Bingham in Gulfport since 1978, was announced Tuesday as the winner during the annual meeting of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coast Chamber of Commerce. About 600 people attended the meeting at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi.

Wilder is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law.

As part of his professional accomplishments, he helps children through the foster care system and assists with child guardianship cases.

Among his awards for volunteer activities are the Pro Bono Publico Access to Justice Award and the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for community service following Hurricane Katrina.

“Rodger is the type of guy you want as a leader in your organization and in our community,” said Adele Lyons, CEO of the Coast Chamber. “He is committed 100 percent to his leadership role and is very actively involved. He continues to give back in meaningful ways, again and again.”

Wilder is a founding member of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, where he served as chairman of the board and has served as president and CEO since 2014.

He’s also served as president of the Mississippi Bar Association and president of the Harrison County Bar Association.

Since 2011 he’s been co-chair of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission and served on the Memorial Hospital at Gulfport Foundation Board, Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services, Gulf Coast Business Council, Knight Nonprofit Center and many other organizations.

The Spirit of the Coast award recognizes individuals who made significant business contributions during the past year. Criteria are ethical conduct, reputation, recognition, leadership and credibility.

Past Spirit of the Coast winners are:

2023: Dave Dennis

2022: Anthony Wilson

2021: Angie Juzang

2020: Arturo Barajas

2019: Dick Wilson

2018: Wes Fulmer

2017: Jerry Levens

2016: John Hairston

2015: Linda Watts

2014: Dorothy Wilson

2013: Elizabeth Joachim

2012: John McFarland

2011: Jon Lucas

2010: Gerald Blessey

2009: Duncan McKenzie

2008: Ricky Mathews

2007: Anthony Topazi

2006: Chevis Swetman

2005: Janice Young

2004: Mike Garrett

2003: Jim Williams

2002: Tim Hinkley

2001: Dwight Evans

2000: Ron Peresich

1999: Gene Warr

1998: George Thatcher

1997: Lucimarian Roberts

1996: George Schloegel

1995: Alton Bankston

1994: Bill Peden

1993: Bruce Stewart

1992: Jerry O’Keefe

1991: Pat Santucci

1990: Roland Weeks Jr.

1989: Walter Williams