Blame it on the Parkinson’s: Mitch Faile ’89

Profile-Mitch-FaileFive years ago, at the age of 44, Mitch Faile was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. For this corporate executive, entrepreneur and father, it was a devastating diagnosis. And it’s been a diagnosis that has changed his life in many ways. But it’s one he has met with humor and determination … and a bit of country music.

Faile says that his symptoms are most difficult in the morning, sometimes making him feel as if he is back in college and suffering from a hangover. In an interview with the Johns Creek Herald, he said that he “made a game each morning out of listing all the vices I did not engage in the night before that might cause a hangover. Before I knew it, I was singing the list and giggling to myself, and the chorus seemed to write itself in the shower.

“As I recorded the song, it became my coping mechanism; a personal anthem which invoked a laugh or smile with family and friends as we dealt with symptoms at home,” he said. “When I would bounce off a wall, break a glass, drop food on the floor, forget to do something or just slip off and take a nap, everyone would jokingly shake their head and say, ‘Blame it on the Parkinson’s!’”

With the help of Wilkin’s Parkinson Foundation and Atlanta’s Octagon Studios, Faile recorded and released the song and music video of “Blame it on the Parkinson’s” to raise awareness of the disease and funds for researching a cure. The ending scene of the video was recorded after the 2015 spring football game with students, fans and members of Clemson’s Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

“I realize I can’t change having Parkinson’s. I can’t hide having it, and I can’t control what people are thinking when they look at me …. What I can do is be thankful for the many blessings I have been given and wake up each day determined to live life to the fullest of my abilities and enjoy the people I care about, because I know time is fleeting,” he said. “In that way, Parkinson’s has been a blessing to me.”

Click here for more information about the Wilkins Parkinson’s Foundation.


My Clemson: Cambridge Gamble ’17


cambridge gamble2

Since forever, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. But my mom always told me I was going to be a lawyer. Coming to Clemson has meant figuring out that we were both right. Meanwhile, I’ve been able to make the most of my time in a place that truly had everything I was looking for in a college: small campus, great variety of courses, amazing athletics, beautiful campus and a big-family atmosphere.

I came here through the Call Me MISTER® program, majoring in elementary education, but I’ve also been able to pursue a history minor. That’s meant taking some of the political science courses that will serve me well when I go to law school in four or five years — after I’ve had an opportunity to teach and serve in an elementary school setting.

My freshman year, I took part in the Clemson Cup public speaking competition. My topic addressed the transition we were facing between a retiring president and a new one. I won, and that was an amazing opportunity that I will never, ever forget.

For one thing, I was the first freshman to ever win. Also, earning the Cup gave me the chance to speak at Clemson’s commencement, which was incredible, in no small part because it showed me how far I’ve come with my public speaking: When I was in high school, I took part in a Future Business Leaders of America speaking competition. The first year I competed, I came in last place. The second year I was determined to improve, and I won, which allowed me to represent the entire state of South Carolina and place 27th nationally.

I’m sure my public speaking skills will come in handy as an attorney. In the meantime, I’m enjoying every second of college life, whether it’s giving campus tours, cheering on my Tigers as a member of Central Spirit, serving as an Orientation ambassador or just hanging out on Campus Beach on a Friday night.

Randolph R. “Randy” Smith ’66, HD ’97

R. Smith

“Getting is in the giving.”

When Randy Smith graduated from Clemson in 1966, he had some unusual options to consider. A lineman for Coach Frank Howard, he was drafted by the New York Jets (AFL) and the Atlanta Falcons (NFL).

But driven by a desire to serve others, he chose medical school over professional football, graduating from the Medical College of Georgia in 1970. That desire has resulted not only in a successful private practice in plastic and reconstructive surgery in Augusta, Georgia, but a lifetime of service as a volunteer surgeon in developing countries. In trips across Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Africa, he has made dramatic differences in the lives of thousands of children and families, while working “with limited water, no laboratory and rudimentary instruments.”

This spring, he traveled back to Palestine, his ninth trip to the region, where he performed surgery at the Ramallah Medical Complex on children with burns and congenital deformities. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund honored him in 2013 for his dedication and work in that area, one of a number of local and international recognitions he has received for his humanitarian efforts.

This past year, his high school, Richmond Academy, inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Smith is a founder and board chair of Georgia Bank and Trust and chair emeritus of University Health Inc., the governing board of University Hospital in Augusta.

It’s not all just work and service, though. In 2014, Smith completed his fifth Iron Man Augusta competition, which involved swimming 1.2 miles in the Savannah River, biking 56 miles in South Carolina and running 13.1 miles in downtown Augusta.

Living by the motto, “getting is in the giving,” Smith has been recognized for his humanitarian work and civic involvement by Clemson as well, as a recipient of an honorary doctorate (1997) and the Distinguished Service Award (2008).


Catie Sacks Rabun ’08

Catie Rabun

Paving the way for fellow entrepreneurs

Returning to her hometown of Aiken, Catie Rabun was inspired to invest in the city’s quaint but slightly sleepy downtown. Rabun majored in marketing, which afforded her a semester in Washington, DC, studying international business and trade, and enabled her to participate in a joint program in venture entrepreneurship with students at Otto-Friedrich University in Bamberg, Germany. Her education continued in 2010 at the University of Miami, where she earned a master’s degree in real estate development and urbanism.

Armed with a strong marketing skill set, a gutsy approach to investing in real estate, and a deep commitment to the concept of livable cities, Rabun, now settled back in Aiken, began to scour the area’s downtown in search of an affordable commercial property where she could hatch an idea that had been incubating in her head throughout college and graduate school. She formed a real estate development company with her father, David Sacks, which they named Caradasa, LLC, and eventually they bought a long neglected 20,000-square-foot office building that had once served as the operations hub for Regions Bank.

The complete re-purposing of the building began in December, 2013, and by April, 2014, Rabun saw the realization of her idea with the opening of The Mill on Park — the city’s very first mixed-use office space for start-up companies, small businesses and entrepreneurship. Caradasa has partnered with USC Aiken and the Small Business Development Center for programmatic support. The Mill on Park has become the largest office space in the city’s downtown district. With all of the 18 offices currently rented, Rabun knows now that her instinct to move forward with this project was on target.

“While I was warned about the risk of investing in real estate, I had a strong sense that this was not just a successful purchase but an investment in Aiken’s downtown life, business activity and future,” says Rabun.

Kimberly P. Johnson M ’10

Johnson pictured with members of the Friendship 9. From left, civil rights activist David Boone, who took part
in 1960s sit-ins, and Friendship 9 members Clarence Graham, James Well, Willie McCleod and W.T. “Dub” Massey. CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

Righting History

In 1961, nine young African-American college students were arrested for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter at McCrory’s Five & Dime in Rock Hill. Instead of posting bail, they became the first sit-in participants to insist on doing jail time — 30 days hard labor — that served as a model for future sit-ins and protests.

For 54 years, historians have credited the men — known as the Friendship 9 — for actions that revived the civil rights movement. But their story was little known outside Rock Hill residents or civil rights scholars.

Until they met Kimberly Johnson.

Johnson, a graduate of Clemson’s youth development leadership program, is an award-winning children’s author living in nearby York who met the Friendship 9 by chance at the same McCrory’s Five & Dime in 2011. After her conversation with them, she knew it was a story to be shared.

She released her 17th title, No Fear for Freedom: The Story of the Friendship 9 — a children’s book — in 2014. The book received a wonderful reception locally, but Johnson was restless to do more, inspired by her research on the Friendship 9 and the civil rights movement as a whole.

Moved in particular by Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, which emphasized the creation of unjust laws, she approached the Rock Hill-area solicitor to see if the Friendship 9’s convictions could be overturned.

On January 28, 2015, in a packed courthouse and the eyes of the nation on them, the solicitor presented their case — and a judge threw out their convictions.

“There is always something that we can do to make things better,” said Johnson. “This case, in a small way, has opened the door for bigger conversations about race and diversity — it also sends a message to children and adults alike that justice is possible.”

Johnson says that message was reinforced during her time in Clemson’s youth development leadership program. “The program helped me understand that we are all change agents and that we can make a difference, starting with our own communities,” she said. “In that process, we can even begin to change the world!”

More information about the Friendship 9:

New York Times: South Carolina Court clears Friendship Nine in 1961 Sit-in (includes video of court appearance)

 New York Times: Decades After Sit-in, South Carolina Seeks to Make Things Right

For more information about Johnson’s work with the Friendship 9 go to

Raymond E. Jones ’86

raymond jones

Problem solver on an international scale

What Raymond Jones learned in mechanical engineering at Clemson was how to learn and how to solve problems. And he’s doing that at ExxonMobil Development in a big way.

A vice president with ExxonMobil Development Company, his region of the world is Asia Pacific (Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam). The company executes multi-billion dollar projects around the world, and Jones manages a portfolio of projects aimed at bringing oil and gas to market. “Our role,” he says, “is to take resources identified by our exploration company, develop an economic concept, design the facilities and execute the project for turnover to our production company for operations.”

His biggest challenge, he says, is trying to get all of the constituents — including foreign governments and foreign contractors — to line up on a common objective and execute the project flawlessly. He has worked in Qatar, Australia, Nigeria and Europe; now he’s based in Houston, but travels regularly to the countries in his portfolio, checking in at different stages of the projects, making sure everybody is “pointed in the right direction, trying to tackle the same hill.”

Jones came to Clemson in 1982, wanting to be an engineer, but he says he “didn’t really know what an ‘engineer’ was. The professors and staff at Clemson opened my eyes to opportunity and, for that, I will always be grateful.” He joined Exxon (now ExxonMobil) Pipeline Company after graduation as a pipeline engineer, designing pipeline systems to move oil and gasoline from fields to refineries and from refineries to terminals.

The longer he stayed in his career, he says, “the more it was about knowing how to learn, how to solve problems, how to take details and put it in a form others could understand — to communicate the ideas.” And that’s what he passes on to the new engineers who come in: “Just learn how to learn and learn how to communicate.”

R. Adam Kern ’12

Adam Kern

Using technology to improve quality of life for children with special needs

Adam Kern ’12 was working with autistic students as a behavioral therapist when he found himself frustrated with the lack of technological tools to help his clients.

“Every day I went to work, knowing that technology exists that could improve my clients and their family’s quality of life, but that technology hadn’t been applied to help them,” said Kern, who graduated from Clemson’s Eugene T. Moore School of Education with a degree in secondary education.

Out of this experience, Kern co-founded ExcepApps, a startup focused on creating technological tools to benefit children with special needs.

“In 2014, we have technology like the PS3 or the XBOX One, but our advances in technology aren’t being used to help the children who could benefit from it the most,” said Kern, who lives in Mauldin. “ExcepApps seeks to change that.”

ExcepApps released its first product, Color Countdown, in August. Color Countdown is a simple tool that works by representing time through colors, shapes and numbers, Kern said. He and his business partner, Ryan Poplin, designed the product to help individuals with transitions, task behavior and time management.

“Color Countdown is a tool that I wished existed while I was a therapist,” Kern said. “It can be used in a classroom when completing time sensitive assignments, in a therapy session or during every day tasks.”

ExcepApps’ second product — a communication tool designed to allow parents, teachers and therapists to track a child’s language development as they learn to speak — launched in November. ExcepApps created the tool for non-vocal children who already rely on technology to communicate, Kern said.

Riley M. Csernica ’12, M ’13 and Chelsea L. Ex-Lubeskie ’12, M ’13


From senior design class to entrepreneurial success

When Riley Csernica and Chelsea Ex-Lubeskie were bioengineering seniors, they were assigned to a senior design group with the orthotics and prosthetics division at Greenville Health System. They worked with research scientist Chuck Thigpen to design a shoulder brace for shoulder dislocations.

At the end of the class, they knew the product concept was good and that there was a market for the product.

That product became the Tarian Pro Shoulder Stabilizer, the first product in the growing line for their company. The custom-fitted functional shoulder brace is designed for individuals with shoulder instability who want to return to athletic activity. It works by providing compressive support to the shoulder rather than strictly limiting abduction of the arm. The brace has earned praise from professional hockey players to college athletic trainers to high school coaches and athletes.

Both women prepared themselves for their venture into business by obtaining graduate degrees from Clemson. Csernica earned a master’s degree in business administration with emphasis in entrepreneurship and innovation. Coupled with her experience as a teacher’s assistant in a SolidWorks engineering class and her proficiency in the program, she has been key in the continued product development. While working on her master’s degree in bioengineering, Ex-Lubeskie worked part-time at the Clemson University Research Foundation where she learned about patents, licenses and contracts. Diplomas in hand, they moved home to Charleston to work on the product and grow the company.

While pursuing ongoing product development, such as a new fully customizable ankle brace that utilizes a heat-moldable material as the structure of the brace, Csernica and Ex-Lubeskie travel to trade shows, meeting collegiate and professional athletic trainers to market their products. They also believe in giving back to Clemson by speaking to classes about their experiences and their plans to keep Tarian Orthotics a growing business — showing how a design class can become an entrepreneur’s dream come true.

To learn more about Csernica and Ex-Lubeskie’s company go to

My Clemson: Daniel Licata ’09

When I transferred to Clemson in the fall of 2006, I was looking for a better “college experience.” The university I had left behind was low on school spirit; they didn’t even have a football team.

Clemson did not provide me with an experience; it transformed my life. I found a new family in those “Hills.” The color orange was no longer something to add to my wardrobe, it became my wardrobe. And while the “Hills” were certainly special, “The Hill” was sacred.

In the long history of Clemson, approximately 50 other students have had the same perspective I did when I first stepped to the top of The Hill on Labor Day Monday in 2007. With limited vision, gasping for air and fighting off heat exhaustion, I stood in front of the Death Valley faithful, ready to lead our team on to the field. The “C-L-E-M-S-O-N” chant that overcame the stadium, physically shaking my helmet, will forever be engrained in my mind. As the cannon sounded, I knew my life would never be the same. During the 2007-08 school year, I prowled the sidelines during a 23-21 victory in Columbia and an ACC Tournament in Charlotte that had our team in the championship game.

After graduating summa cum laude in the spring of 2009, I returned to my home state of New Jersey to begin a career in education. I love exploring the subject of social studies with my high school students, but if you were to ask any of my students where my true passion lies, they would all answer, “Clemson!” My students know that the Tiger does push-ups after every score, that Friday is always solid orange, and that my mood on a Monday in the fall is largely dependent on the Saturday that precedes it.

Daniel Licata is a social studies teacher at Palmyra High School in Palmyra, New Jersey. He recently won the teacher of the year award and led the varsity baseball program to their second consecutive division championship, the first time for the school since the 1930s.

William S. Gaillard Jr. ’40

WWII Soldier

Gaillard_William-graveHistory and travel enthusiast, Rhonda Bailey Antonetti ’87 (NURS) of Charleston wanted to take Tiger Paw flags to place on the Clemson alumni WWII soldiers’ graves in the American Cemetery in Normandy, France. Little did she know the amazing, serendipitous venture this gesture would uncover. She was able to place only one flag on her visit, and she snapped a picture of the marker. When asked about her trip by a co-worker, Antonetti showed her pictures. This co-worker, Staci Gaillard, was surprised to see the name on the marker was a name familiar to her — one shared by her father-in-law, husband and son. The soldier was William S. Gaillard Jr. ’40, her husband’s great-uncle. The present generation of the family had not known much about his death and service. Antonetti assisted the family in researching information. On Clemson’s Military Heritage Day, his nephew, William S. Gaillard II; great-nephew, William S. Gaillard III ’03 (MKTG); William III’s wife, Staci Gaillard; and Antonetti visited his stone at the Scroll of Honor Memorial. Staci and William have a son, William S. Gailliard IV.