FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) - Coker College professor George Sawyer said he never knows when he's teaching somebody what his influence is going to be.

"This is one of those tangible moments that you do know you really made a difference," he said.

Sawyer was one of a handful of people who attended an award ceremony recently at the American Red Cross Florence Blood Donation Center on West Palmetto Street.

"I didn't want to miss it," he said.

He was there to support a former student, Martha Herbert, who was being recognized alongside Sandy Middleton. Both were inducted into the national Donation Hall of Fame.

The two have donated blood hundreds of times. Herbert's first donation came in 1966 at the urging of Sawyer, her biology professor. Middleton started in the mid-1970s.

Herbert's and Middleton's similar routine has blossomed into a friendship over the years.

"This is where we see each other," Herbert said.

Today, the two donate blood platelets, which are crucial to the blood clotting process.

"So anytime that's needed, that's what it goes to," Herbert said. "Leukemia, different cancers, accident victims."

The donation process takes longer than a typical blood donation - often about two hours - which leaves ample time for conversation.

"It really does make the time go quicker," Herbert said.

The two have each made more than 360 donations.

Both have had people close to them need blood, which helps instill a sense of purpose.

"One of my grandfathers needed some blood for surgery," Middleton said. "That's how I got into it."

Other members of Middleton's family have had cancer.

Herbert has a similar personal connection to the cause.

"I dated a guy when I was in college who got leukemia and died, quickly," Herbert said. "And then my son was in school with a kid who got leukemia when they were in kindergarten and died when they were in 4th grade. So I've always felt if I can buy somebody one more day, maybe they find a cure. If I can buy them one more day, maybe they can get fixed."

Donors are allowed to give blood platelets 24 times per year, about every two weeks, and Herbert and Middleton have no intentions of slowing down their regular routine.

"I'm going to do it again," Middleton said. "I've already made my appointment."


Information from: Morning News, http://www.scnow.com