Best in Show: Christine Tedesco ’82, ’85, M ’90

Christine Tedesco_022For Christine Tedesco art and life all bleed into one. Art is life. Life is art.

Nothing is an imitation. Each building she’s designed as an architect with a team is just as much a piece of her as a quilt she’s created alone for the couch at home.

Her creative pursuits led to a “Best in Show” at the Anderson Arts Center 41st Juried Arts Show this past spring for a quilt named “Beige #1.” It was one of more than 500 entries in the show. She’s also shown pieces at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., the Ogden Museum in New Orleans and Art Fields in Lake City.

“I think the first thing I made was an apron,” said Tedesco. She began sewing when she was age nine, and as she grew, the instructions from her mother grew from stitches to life lessons on careers.

“My mother was very adamant that I had to major in something I could do so I didn’t have to depend on a man,” said Tedesco. Her love of making things led to a career as an architect, where she now leads at RSCT architecture + design.

But she didn’t leave behind her personal creative time just because she was being artistic at her day job. Instead she wanted to challenge herself to be innovative. At age 29 she took sewing to the next level and began quilting. “I wanted to try something more difficult,” she said. She also took a tailoring class and tackled making a man’s suit.

Even graduate school was taken as a confrontation to defy daily life. “I just came to the conclusion, there’s got to be more to life than this. My mind was cut open and things were poured in. I had such a great time. It was probably one of the biggest challenges of my life, but my desire to learn was different.”

Like many artists or creative types, Tedesco is driven by desire. “I get an idea in my head and it doesn’t leave until I figure out what I’m going to do. I never use a pattern.” Even her use of color isn’t conventional as she doesn’t follow traditional color relationships, but instead gut reaction to the ways a red or an orange can paint a purple or a blue a different hue. “I don’t follow patterns because colors inform me in a way what to do with them.”

In “Beige #1,” the piece wasn’t about color at all, but instead about the relationships of the seams and how they intersect. “I just started mapping lines and free form — it’s a lot less color,” she said.

Tedesco said she tries to be disciplined about her work. Each piece takes about 40 to 80 hours. A bedroom in her Pendleton home serves as a studio.

Unlike her work office, which has clean lines and barely a trace of a paper trail from the day’s work, her studio showcases years of ideas. Quilting books stacked about 4-feet tall stand by the door. Scraps of a current orange, beige and black piece are pinned tall and high on the wall.

“When you make a piece of art, it’s a solitary activity. … That’s why I create art. It allows me to do something alone.”

Military career begins, ends on same stage: Jimmy Mullinax ’94


April 29, 2016 - Jimmy Mullinax Professor of Military Leadership Lieutenant Colonel - Retirement Ceremony in Honor of LTC Jimmy Mulling, US Army Held in Tillman Hall auditorium

April 29, 2016 – Jimmy Mullinax Professor of Military Leadership Lieutenant Colonel – Retirement Ceremony in Honor of LTC Jimmy Mulling, US Army Held in Tillman Hall auditorium

An extraordinary U.S. Army career came to an end this spring as Lt. Col. Jimmy Mullinax, commander of Clemson University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, retired on the same stage where he was commissioned 21 years earlier. This is the first time a graduate of Clemson’s ROTC has retired as the commander of the very program that molded him into a leader.

Army officers do not get to choose their assignments, so getting orders to come back to Clemson was a highly unusual but serendipitous twist in Mullinax’s career.

“How do you get to go back to your alma mater?” he asked during his retirement ceremony. “I only have one answer for that: God brought me back here. Because it wasn’t my doing, and it couldn’t have been the Army because it made no sense. It was orchestrated for me to come back, and I’m blessed to be here.”

Retired Col. Eric Schwartz, who was assistant professor of military science for Clemson’s ROTC in the early 90s, returned to help retire the young officer he had mentored more than two decades before and recalled the instantly recognizable potential of the young cadet he knew. “I wanted to tell stories about little Jimmy Mullinax when he was a cadet in the Army ROTC program, and I was his instructor. I wanted to tell you stories about Jimmy getting lost in the woods, or showing up late for physical training, or losing his weapon, or [being] afraid to rappel of a cliff — but I got nothing,” said Schwartz. “From the moment he stepped out on the parade fields of Clemson he was a beautiful young man to serve with. Everything about him represented what we believed were the core values of being a good soldier, a good leader and a good American.”

Mullinax graduated from Clemson in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management and was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the quartermaster branch (supply and logistics support), detailed to the Air Defense Artillery Branch. He earned a Master of Military Studies from the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. He went on to hold numerous positions of leadership in quartermaster and logistic elements, including two tours of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, culminating in an assignment to Fort Knox, Kentucky, prior to returning to Clemson.

Mullinax said it was a blessing to return to Clemson in a military capacity, because the school has such a rich military history and goes out of its way to support its ROTC program. He returned to the theme of being blessed throughout his remarks, emphasizing a point made at many Army retirements; he only got through the last 21 years because of his faith and his family. He noted that he and his wife, Angie, moved their family to nine different duty stations together over the course of his career.

He closed by addressing all the people who had taken the time to be there for this seminal moment in his life. “I started this saying I was blessed. I hope you can truly see why I’m blessed. It’s not about me. It’s about you and what you’ve done in my life. You’ve given me the best life I could ever dream of. Continue to support our military men and women.”

A shore thing: Sarah Strickland ’12


Sarah Strickland8Teamwork and adaptability learned at Clemson served Sarah Strickland well abroad and back home. Critical skills such as communication and resourcefulness have helped Strickland from every job as a nurse in the ICU step-down unit, to working on a ship in Madagascar, to now working in an emergency room.

But it was working abroad that brought all the lessons from Clemson to the forefront. Knowing she was wrapping up the first few years of her career in Clemson, Lexington native Sarah Strickland began looking for adventures in nursing. She found one in Mercy Ships, an international faith-based organization with a mission to increase health care throughout the world. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has delivered services to more than 2.54 million people.

From November 2015 to February 2016, Strickland lived on Africa Mercy which was docked in Madagascar, and worked alongside surgeons in facial tumor removal and cleft lip and palate reconstruction. The ship, which began service in 2007, offers an 82-bed ward.

Strickland learned about the mission opportunity from one of her co-workers who lived in Africa for a while. And after multiple short-term mission trips as a high school student, Strickland wasn’t afraid of tackling a challenge overseas. “I prayed about it for a few weeks and ended up applying at the end of the summer,” she said.

The timing meant she wouldn’t be on an early 2015 trip, but would be considered for an early 2016 team. But life in South Carolina didn’t prep Strickland for everything. “I’d never done much with pediatrics or facial patients,” said Strickland. “And most conditions would have been treated long before they got to the point we were seeing. I worked in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and a step-down unit, but for the most part, working in Madagascar was completely different from anything I had ever done, which was the situation for most of my co-workers, so it was a learning curve for everybody.”

What Clemson and her training had prepped her for was being adaptable. “Clemson definitely teaches you how to think critically. When we were over there we didn’t have access to as many resources as we have over here. … We had to rely on a lot more of our judgment. Clemson just also really encourages a teamwork approach to nursing. Over there I really experienced the need to rely on my co-workers as teammates even more so than working here.”

Clemson tiger paw temporary tattoos, stickers and flags also helped Strickland bring one of her loves to her patients. “There was 14-year-old kid who had a tumor. The day he had it removed was the day of the National Championship game. So I put [tiger paws] on a bunch of the kids, including him. The first time he got to look at the back of his head without the tumor, he had a tiger paw on his cheek.”

“Seeing the look on his face when he got to see that just reminded me [Clemson] is what brought me here, and it just all came together,” she said.”

Gambles are a safe bet: Jason ’00 and Hesha Nesbitt ’00, M ’01 Gamble


Gamble_012Ensuring the health, safety and well being of others via the roads you drive or the buildings you enter isn’t just a day job for Jason and Hesha Nesbitt Gamble, but a desire they’ve each pursued since teenagers. The couple are stand-out licensed professional engineers who found their route to Clemson by way of high school internships, which also set into motion a path to each other.

As an exam development engineer for National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) in Seneca, Jason is one of only five people in the country commissioned with managing the creation of 25 national licensing exams that examinees take to become licensed in 17 different engineering disciplines. Jason is tasked with managing four of those 25 exams. Hesha serves as county engineer for Greenville where she oversees 77 employees as well as the engineering and maintenance of all county roads, approximately 1,760 miles serving 450,000 residents.

“We take that job very seriously,” said Hesha. “If there’s a problem, we need to fix it. Greenville is my community so of course I want the best for my community.”

“I’ve never had a job that didn’t affect people in some way,” chimed in Jason. “What I do now at NCEES affects the future of the profession and affects what (engineering) is going to be for the next generation.”

Even beyond technical skills, the pair says honing soft skills like communication and public speaking prepares their teams to execute a project efficiently. “You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t effectively communicate or explain something, you’re not going to be successful,” said Jason. “It’s about knowing how to interact with people. I’ve worked with Ph.D.’s to someone with only a third-grade education, but we all had to work together in order to get a job done.”

Those so-called “soft skills” were picked up in Clemson classrooms, where the two met each other through study groups for upper-level undergraduate courses. The couple praise their time at Clemson for making them effective engineers today. They especially credit the PEER program for many of their successes.

“We bring engineers and experts from all over the country to do a job, and to be able to relate to each of them individually and not just professionally, just to be able to hold a conversation, Clemson was where I learned to do that,” said Jason. “I have no doubt it makes me better at my job to be able to relate to people and just work with them regardless of where they’re from.” Jason and Hesha, despite their busy careers, find the time to be “All In” raising their five-year-old son, Justus.

Alumni raise cheers to Clemson: Ryan Workman ’05, Emily Barber Workman ’06 and Greg Pierdon ’08


Biergarten“Bavarian inspired, Southern made” is their catchphrase. Making sure you eat at their restaurant in Charleston is their game. Clemson is their shared love. Ryan Workman, Emily Barber Workman and Greg Pierdon are all Clemson grads, but it was a game of kickball and acquaintances in Charleston five years ago that brought them together post graduation.

Along with business partner Laura Patrick, the three took a conversation about what was missing in their home of Charleston into a reality that is Bay Street Biergarten. “We saw something different,” said Ryan. It took the group meeting every week for a year to chase their dream.

You won’t find kitsch at Bay Street Biergarten though. No lederhosen for sure, but pretzels and schnitzel are abundant. But you’ll also find gator and shrimp and grits on the menu. The 7,400-squarefoot facility is the renovated Wilmington Railroad Depot, offering large exposed beams and original brick, as well as family-style seating for large groups waiting to take in the latest Tigertown brawl.

“We wanted patrons to have a traditional German biergarten experience,” said Ryan. “We wanted it to feel like a beer hall, but then have the tech side of it. We use iPads to put in orders directly from the table. We have taps at the table, and you can use a card to pay by the ounce.”

The three said their love of Clemson and the Clemson network only strengthened their ties to each other and the community as they pushed toward their goals over the past four years. “Solid Orange continues to show support,” said Greg. “It feels pretty good to know you have the support. They seek you out. And it’s a good conversation starter.”

Lessons learned at Clemson, from Greg’s accounting degree to Ryan and Emily’s work in communications and management also come into play every day to keep the business running. Emily said her psychology major is constantly at work as she manages staff and expectations for different personalities. “It’s a people business, and you have to be willing to get yourself out there,” said Emily about management. The three said their team meetings and team spirit, much like they learned through the Greek system while at Clemson, keep them in check when days get long.

“We have to drive each other. Complacency is death in this industry,” said Greg. “It’s a cutthroat business … and we’re driving it.”

My Clemson: Jeannie Brown ’15


Jeannie Brown-2015

My Clemson experience was many years in the making.

When I was nine, I went to live with my grandmother. My great aunt took me to Clemson games, where I learned Clemson history and traditions. Each year my Christmas present was going with my aunt to see Clemson play in their bowl game. I dreamed of playing in Tiger Band and becoming a nurse. When I wasn’t accepted to Clemson my senior year in high school, I was very disappointed, but determined never to give up on that dream.

I started taking classes at Greenville Technical College, but marriage and two children interrupted my education. In 2002, I returned to school and graduated as a respiratory therapist. Working full time, I attended Tri-County Technical College, graduating in 2012 as a registered nurse. It was a busy time — our son played basketball and participated in high school band, and our daughter cheered and danced on a competition team, but we never missed a beat.

I held on to my dream of becoming a Clemson graduate. At the age of 40, I applied to Clemson’s RN/B.S. nursing program and was accepted to begin in the spring of 2015. It was an outstanding program and very manageable for a working nurse. But I had one more dream to fulfill … to play in Tiger Band. I worked it out with my boss to adjust my work schedule so that I could attend band camp and practice throughout the fall. My Clemson dream was coming to pass.

I couldn’t wait to put on my uniform and play “Tiger Rag” for 80,000 fans in Death Valley, but I never expected to have such an outstanding football season — I went to Syracuse, the ACC Championship, Miami for the Orange Bowl and all the way to Arizona for the National Championship. Who would have dreamed all this?

On December 17, 2015, I graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in nursing, and my diploma hangs in a central location in my home as a reminder that with hard work, you can accomplish your dreams.

No matter where life takes me, my blood will always run orange. I’m Jeannie Brown, and this is MY Clemson.

Photos courtesy Imagine Studios.


Business meets cultural impact: Kerry Murphy ’91, M ’92


Kerry Murphy_020aWith a $6.3 million economic impact on the Greenville community, Artisphere is the annual arts and culture fair that’s served as a signature event since 2005. As executive director, D.C.-area native Kerry Murphy is the face behind making sure the event goes smoothly. “I have a real passion for Greenville,” she said. “Working for Artisphere makes me feel ensconced in the community.”

Last year the arts and culture event received a record 1,090 applications for 135 booths. The event also boasts being one of Top 20 events for the Southeastern Tourism Society 2016, one of 2015’s Best Art Fairs as voted by and one of 2016’s Top 10 Fine Art Shows according to Art Fair Sourcebook.

Murphy said her undergraduate and MBA work at Clemson, as well as the network she’s made over the past 20 years, have allowed her to bring a balanced perspective to the event. She always works to maintain classic favorites people expect, but she also wants to be on the edge of trends and broadening Greenville’s acceptance of new artists and mediums.

“I just have such a sense of pride. To be able to contribute to [the art scene] and know what our team does has an impact just means a tremendous amount,” she said.

Murphy said although she’s structured and methodical, she wants the event to reflect the lively, energetic and colorful personalities of not only herself and her team, but also the vibe of Greenville. “I love attention to detail. You’ll find lots of little things in Artisphere that from a user perspective can have a big impact,” she said.

Even though the event is only in May, Greenville visitors can create a “mini-Artisphere” experience just by taking a trip through downtown, Murphy said. “Just visit a local restaurant or take a walk through the open studios in the fall,” she said. “There is a good mix of stuff for every level of interest.”

Murphy was lured to the upstate after she saw a glossy Clemson brochure a friend had during their senior year of high school. “I went to the career center and looked it up — I want to say ‘Googled’ it, but I’m not even sure what we did before Google,” laughed Murphy. “I kind of always knew I wanted to go away to college. … When I saw Tillman [Hall] and Bowman [Field] I knew immediately this is where I was going to go. It had a warmth about it.”

As a member of the Student Alumni Council, she saw first-hand how influential a Clemson network could be even though she hadn’t settled on a career path. “We were celebrating the 100th anniversary [of the University] and traveling to different clubs, and I went to Florence. That experience is where I had the ‘a-ha’ moment about the power of the alumni network. People who didn’t know me were offering to assist me. Just their willingness to help you out because of a shared affection for an alma mater was just powerful.” Murphy makes sure to pay that forward through her work in Artisphere and as a sorority adviser.

“Nonprofit work can be very rewarding. I would, as a tip, suggest to students an internship. It was more rare when I was a student, but start internships as soon as freshman year,” she said. “Interns at a nonprofit really become part of the team, and working as an intern means you get to know the board of directors and make connections even before you’re out of school.”

MY CLEMSON: Eric Mac Lain ’15


during the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 6, 2015. (Photo by Jason E. Miczek,

Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 6, 2015. (Photo by Jason E. Miczek,

My name is Eric Mac Lain, and this past December, I became a Clemson alumnus. It was a day I thought would never come, but now that I am reflecting on it, I realize it happened in what seemed to be a blink of an eye.

My experiences at Clemson were second to none. I was very fortunate to have been a team captain during our special 2015 football season (14-1), losing only to Alabama in the National Championship. I graduated with a B.S. in health science and was able to start my master’s program in athletic leadership. This past fall, I had the honor of introducing Vice President Joe Biden when he spoke at Clemson.

More important than all of that, I found my future wife at Clemson. We met freshman year because she and my roommate were family friends, and I tagged along to a cookout. We became good friends and started dating two years later. So the phrase Clemson family is very real to me! Her father and other relatives went to Clemson, and both of our brothers now attend Clemson. It is safe to say that orange will run in our bloodlines for many years to come.

There is something special about Clemson that’s not true about every other University. As soon as we aren’t at Clemson or at least nearby, we miss it. I can attest to this because I have been away this spring training for the NFL, and cannot wait to be back in Tiger town.

I’m Eric Mac Lain and this is MY Clemson. CU soon!

You probably saw Eric Mac Lain during the coverage of the Orange Bowl and the National Championship as he was being interviewed by what seemed like every reporter in the country. Click on the photos below to see more about Eric’s life at Clemson.

Giving a hand up, not a hand out: Caroline Tyler Robertson ’97

Caroline Robertson_026From an early age, Caroline Robertson was a wallflower — so shy that even a teacher calling on her in high school riddled her with immediate panic. But these days, “no” isn’t even an option. A personal challenge she made to herself while at Clemson shaped Robertson into a strong-willed, determined nonprofit executive who fights tooth and nail for her clients to succeed and have the same opportunities she’s been afforded.

Since 2007, Robertson has headed up Greer Relief and Resources, making sure every can of corn feeds a hungry tummy and every monetary donation helps a family’s financial crisis.

“The legacy I’m leaving is one of fearlessness. I don’t say no to anything especially when it comes to outreach and publicity. Because I’m not just talking to someone who might just help us donor wise, but also need wise.
I want anyone who needs us to know they can get to us. In that respect we’re not afraid. We’re not afraid to ask for help. We’re not afraid to give help. We’re not afraid to say we need to give more and do more. It doesn’t take much,” she said.

In 2015, Greer Relief assisted 3,927 individuals in 1,564 households. In addition, 10+ days of food was given to 4,991 people in 1,906 households. Having the gumption to be an advocate for others started in college with a promise to no longer let shyness dominate the determined will that truly existed within her.

Each week Robertson made herself sit in the front of the class and raise her hand at least once. She also made herself take speech as a first-semester freshman. After freshman year she joined the national service sorority Gamma Sigma Sigma and became the sorority’s public relations officer. She was a founding member and vice president of membership for Kappa Kappa Psi, a national honorary band fraternity.

By mid-college she was house manager for Tiger Paw Productions and organizing shows for James Taylor, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

“I love Clemson,” she said. “Any other place, I don’t think would have created the Caroline I am today. I have been solid orange since I stepped on that campus on Aug. 23 of 1991 and I have not looked back.”

“There were times where it was questionable if I could even afford to go to school, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer and did whatever needed to be done. Now, I take that same attitude into Greer Relief,” she said.
“We do whatever we can do to help.”

Runnin’ Wild: Christy Belcher ’03

Christy Belcher_030AChristy Belcher wrapped her arms around the newborn giraffe much like she did a foal during her field training at Clemson. Belcher had arrived at the Greenville Zoo early Feb. 2 after receiving a 5 a.m. phone call. Initially, she ignored the call, thinking she was hitting snooze on her alarm. The phone rang again. She sprang awake, now realizing what was happening. The zoo’s female giraffe, Autumn, was giving birth to her third calf.

Adrenaline racing, Belcher hurried through the dark and fog to the downtown Greenville Zoo. When she arrived, Autumn was standing in her stall, in the early stages of labor. Tatu, a boy, was born at 6:16 a.m.

“Those few moments of watching for the baby to take its first breath seemed like an eternity to me,” Belcher said. “Once I saw it breathing I felt much better about it.”

Tatu was standing within an hour.

“We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights, but it’s well worth it,” Belcher said.

A 2003 graduate of Clemson’s Animal and Veterinary Sciences program, Belcher has been a veterinarian at the Greenville Zoo since 2009. An Easley native, she was always fond of animals. As a child, she would sneak turtles and snakes into her home against her mother’s wishes.

Belcher’s training with livestock on the research farms at Clemson would serve her well as she transitioned to a career working with the 350 exotic animals at the Greenville Zoo.

“The giraffes receive the same vaccines that we use in horses and cows,” she said. “The vaccine that my cat at home gets is the same rabies vaccine that our leopards and lions get.”

After Clemson, Belcher studied in the Caribbean and at North Carolina State University and Texas A&M University. At the Greenville Zoo, Belcher helped design the first Winter Zoo Vet Camp and collaborated with Clemson’s Animal and Veterinary Science department to design a pre-veterinary science summer internship eligible for college credit.

“Everyone asks me, ‘How do you know how to work on a giraffe?’ It really did start with my training and education at Clemson, just being out on the farms with the horses, with the cows, with the goats and the sheep,” Belcher said. “I like to tell people to always embrace the education [you] are getting at Clemson because you never know what that’s going to prepare you for.”