“Education has been the ticket for me”: C. Tycho Howle ’71, M ’73

Profile-TychoHowleThis past spring, C. Tycho Howle stepped up to the microphone and told a room full of Clemson faithful, “I’m glad to be home.”

The stage at his alma mater was a long way from his humble beginnings in a small South Carolina town, but Howle never forgot how important education has been in his success.

With two degrees from Clemson and one from Harvard, Howle became a pioneer in the e-business world and an Atlanta philanthropist. A company he founded in 1983, Harbinger Computer Services, grew to more than 40,000 active customers, 1,000 employees spread across eight countries and annual revenues exceeding $155 million.

“All along the way, a quality education has been the ticket for me to be able to move on to the next stage of life,” Howle said in an interview. “I think most people know how important education can be to a successful career, but I take every chance I can to reinforce that notion with the young people I encounter.”

Now retired and living in Naples, Florida, Howle returned to Clemson to help recognize Eileen Kraemer as the C. Tycho Howle Director of the School of Computing. Her directorship was the second endowed chair his family has supported.

Howle began life in Lancaster, a small city about 40 miles south of Charlotte. The son of a mechanic and seamstress, he was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. He played football and ran track and did well on his SATs. He needed to pick a state-supported school and, as a Tigers fan, preferred Clemson.

He graduated with honors in physics and went on to get a master’s degree in systems engineering. After a few years at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Howle went to Harvard Business School for a master of business administration.

“When someone is given a lot, it seems to me that you’re also responsible for giving back,” he said. “It seems the more generous we have been, the more good fortune we’ve had in our life. Some might think that a cliché, but in our case it’s true.

“When I think about the people and organizations that have played a major role in my life, Clemson is in the top tier. It prepared me not only with a great education, but also with a good set of values and lasting friendships.”

Sharing culture and conversation: Derek Owens ’11

Profile-Derek OwensA number of times during his college career, friends and acquaintances told Derek Owens he’d be a good fit for the Peace Corps. After researching the possibilities, he agreed, wanting to spend a significant period of time fully immersed in a culture, refining his Spanish skills and as he put it, “to put off life in the real world.” Plus, he says, “I love providing a service that I truly feel is needed and that I feel is fulfilling.”

He’s called Panamá home since February of 2014, and he’ll be there through May 2016. As a Teaching English volunteer, he’s living in a small indigenous community of about 400 people where he’s teaching English, but also working with 12th-grade students to encourage them to continue on to the university. “The idea and goal,” he says, “is that these students will return to their home after graduation to share more sustainable farming practices that produce more food for the subsistence farmers of the area.”

The community in which he lives may be very poor, but the people he says, “are incredibly warm and welcoming, always quick to brew some coffee over the stove or gift me a plate of their latest meal if I grace them with a visit.”

And while Owens is there to share his language and his culture, he has learned a great deal about the history of the people he lives among. “I have had the opportunity to interact with this still very persecuted minority group and have seen the direct effects of institutionalized racism, which has been difficult to stomach at times and has influenced me in more ways than I can measure.”

A political science major at Clemson with a Spanish minor, Owens says that he gained an incredible amount of self motivation and self direction in his political science classes and leadership skills through Tiger Band that have contributed to his success as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Wherever he heads next, Owens will leave as a different person than when he came, “deeply affected by the opportunity to get to know another country and everything about it in such a more intimate way than I would in any other circumstances.”

Mentoring on a Mission: Serita Acker M ’99

Environmental portrait of Serita Acker in the Fluor Daniel Building. Also a group photo with her WISE mentors.

Environmental portrait of Serita Acker in the Fluor Daniel Building. Also a group photo with her WISE mentors.

Mentoring others, especially those who may not realize their potential, has been a lifelong passion for Serita Acker. Those who know her weren’t surprised that she received the 2015 Calder D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual Award at the 11th Annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards dinner. The dinner is hosted by the Richard W. Riley Institute® of Government, Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University and the Greenville Chamber, with support from other Upstate chambers. The event recognizes those who have shown leadership in promoting diversity in the Upstate. Acker was nominated by colleagues but was completely surprised by the honor.

“It was such a great honor to receive it. Calder recently passed, and this award is in his honor and the work he has done. It was very exciting for me. It was such a complete surprise,” said Acker.

Acker is in her 16th year as director of Clemson’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, which provides support and resources for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Additionally, Acker oversees WISE-sponsored camps and programs to introduce elementary, middle school and high school girls to careers in STEM.

Acker’s outreach in the community is not limited to helping young women. She has worked with the University’s Staff Development Program that trains staff members for professional and personal growth. She has also served as a board member for the Rape Crisis Center to develop initiatives that assist survivors.

In addition, Acker was named one of 10 U.S. individuals selected as a mentor for the 2014-2016 MentorLinks cohort, a program of the American Association of Community Colleges and National Science Foundation that advances technological education. She travels to Texas State Technical College to assist the school in programs that encourage and support Latina women in automotive technology. Acker was also honored by Women of Color magazine with the 2014 College-Level Promotion of Education award. Acker said her Clemson studies were the perfect preparation.

“My Clemson degree in human resource development has done exactly what it was supposed to do. The degree is about training people and helping them develop. My Clemson experience as a student has helped me as a staff member. I love that my journey has been ‘in these hills’ and preparing students for great careers.”
Recently Acker received certification as a Global Career Development Facilitator, where she’ll focus on educating people about STEM career opportunities.

“I like to be that person who bridges the gap between the community and the University,” Acker said. “I want to educate people, encourage people and help them fulfill their dreams.”

No Time for Tea: T. Moffatt Burriss ’40

Profile-T-Moffatt-BurrissAnderson native Moffatt Burriss spent World War II with the famous 82nd Airborne Division, from North Africa to VE Day, but perhaps his most searing memory of World War II is teatime.

His story is featured in the National World War II Museum’s Campaigns of Courage pavilion in New Orleans.

As a company commander in the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Burriss participated in one of the war’s truly heroic actions. Operation Market-Garden was designed to seize a bridge over the lower Rhine at Arnhem in Holland. Burriss and his company quickly captured their initial objective. Next, they were ordered to cross the wide Waal River in a near-suicidal attempt to capture the critical Nijmegen Bridge by attacking from both ends at once. In collapsible, canvas-sided boats, Burriss and his men set out in broad daylight and under German guns. Losing half of his men, Burriss finally reached the north shore where he rallied the survivors. In the face of long odds and withering fire, the paratroopers scaled the dike and captured the north end of the bridge. At dusk, British tanks began to rumble across, in a frantic dash to reach British paratroopers desperately fighting in Arnhem against overwhelming German armor.

After crossing the bridge, the lead tank was disabled by a German 88 mm gun, bringing the column to a halt. Out came the teapots.

The captain commanding the tanks would not proceed without orders from his superiors. Using colorful language, Burriss objected, cocking his tommy gun and putting it to his ally’s head. “I’ve just sacrificed half of my company in the face of dozens of guns, and you won’t move because of one gun.” The tank commander dropped down into his tank and locked the hatch. The tanks were still there 24 hours later, and the surviving British paratroopers at Arnhem were forced to surrender.

Burriss was awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, three presidential unit citations, French Fourragere, Belgium Fourragere and Dutch Lanyard.

From 1950 to 1990, he served as president of Burriss Construction Company. Burriss resides in Lexington.

Engineered for Success: Tony Elliott ’02

Fans of Clemson Tigers football may recognize Tony Elliott. You’ll find him alongside Dabo Swinney on Saturdays in the fall, figuring out how to penetrate defenses and move the ball across the goal line.

Elliott serves as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach, but his connection to the university runs all the way back to his days as a player and student in the College of Engineering and Science.

While playing wide receiver for the Tigers, Elliott managed a rare feat. He excelled in one of higher education’s most demanding sports and one of its most rigorous academic programs.

Elliott graduated with a degree in industrial engineering in 2002 with a team-high 3.55 GPA. He lettered four times, finishing with 34 receptions for 455 yards and two scores. A survey of Clemson players conducted by the Anderson Independent Mail in his senior year found that he was the team’s “most respected player.”

After graduation, Elliott worked for Michelin North America for two years. He later returned to coaching at South Carolina State and Furman University before coming home to Clemson.

Industrial engineering is a natural fit for football. Students learn to look at entire systems and processes involved, which are key skills on the field.

Cole Smith, the chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, recently sat down with Elliott on the 50-yard line of Memorial Stadium to learn more about his formula for success.

The excerpts have been edited for brevity.

Smith: How did you manage being in one of the most difficult academic programs, while balancing time for one of its most demanding teams?

Elliott: First and foremost, I had tremendous support. I had tremendous support from the football side. Obviously, Vickery Hall provides resources to stay up to speed in the classroom. But then I also had great support from the industrial engineering department and the student body as well. You have to manage a lot. There are a lot of sacrifices that have to be made. When your buddies are going out and hanging out on a Thursday night and a Friday night, you’re in the library.

Smith: You had some good mentorship as a student but also professionally. How has that played a role growing up, and what would you recommend for other students currently in the program to look for in a mentor or mentoring program?

Elliott: Just as in football, in life you can’t do it by yourself. You’ve got to have people that you’re connected to who can help you through the tough times, who can give you advice to help you prepare for the future. The advice that I would give to students in the program now is surround yourself with other students within the program who are likeminded, who understand the importance of teamwork. That’s how I survived industrial engineering. If you want to be successful, we tell our guys all the time, ‘Sit in front of the class. Create a relationship with the professor and engage so that you can build that relationship.’ If you come upon a tough time, you’ll have somebody in your corner to help you.

Smith: So you never got to the point where you thought, ‘I’ve got to give up one or the other?’

Elliott: There were plenty of days when I thought, ‘Man, what am I doing?’ But my journey to get to Clemson was a little bit different, a little bit unique. I started at the Air Force Academy to play football, and then I decided to come Clemson and (at first) not play football. So when I decided to play football at Clemson, it put it in perspective. I understood that it was a privilege and that it was secondary to my education.

Smith: What lesson from industrial engineering sticks with you the most?

Elliott: The thing I learned from industrial engineering that I take every day is just the engineering, methodical thought process (that goes into) preparation. Football is all about preparation. I think a lot of people come in and they see me on Saturdays, but there are a lot of hours that go into preparing for Saturday. You just make sure you’re being effective and efficient with your time, that you have a strategy in place. And the strategy is going to change week to week.

Smith: You must be seeing a huge amount of increased attention on data and analytics and decision-making. How much have you seen that come in, especially in the use of technology, in college football?

Elliott: It’s changed tremendously. There are a lot of firms and companies that have come into play. They’re taking that data and using an engineering perspective to really, really break it down and make it detailed. And it helps us tremendously. You really want to be efficient and effective in your preparation, and now there are services that have created programs to where that information is automatically calculated.

Smith: How much of your success is due to talent, and how much is due to persistence and hard work?

Elliott: I’d like to say that I’ve been very blessed from an academic standpoint. Things, especially in the math world, early on came easy to me. But I would say it’s more hard work and, again, relationships with individuals who could help me along the way when I didn’t understand something. They could put it in a format that I could understand. So I think there is talent, but I would say that hard work will outwork talent. We tell guys all the time talent is one thing, but it’s the hard work and determination that takes that talent to the next level. We all have a certain amount of natural talent, but you can elevate your natural talent to a higher platform if you put that hard work and dedication to it.

Smith: So we’ve established that there’s nothing that you can’t do. Give us something surprising that you can do that people don’t about.

Elliott: I don’t know if it’s surprising, but I like to snowboard. I don’t have a whole lot of time, so I’m not very good at it. But I do enjoy snowboarding. There are several things I have to work at. But, ultimately, I think if you put your mind to it and you’re dedicated to putting in the hard work that you’ll be successful.

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.