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 artfaircalendar.com 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, theACC.com)

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

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.”

Marilyn-Thompson

Working with words: Marilyn Walser Thompson ’74

Marilyn Walser Thompson is no stranger to breaking news. From being the first reporter who revealed the existence of Strom Thurmond’s biracial daughter in 2003, to editing reporters’ pieces that went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes, Thompson’s background with the major news players led her to being named a Joan Shorenstein fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

As one of eight annual recipients, she’ll research where tax dollars head when taxpayers donate money to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

“It’s highly relevant because of the 2016 race. I’m looking at the financing for presidents put in place after the 1970s,” she said. “The pace of modern campaigning — and to be in an ultra competitive race – means this fund is no longer relevant [to candidates.] No one wants to use it because you have to agree to restrictions.”

Thompson’s fellowship and reporting will look into how candidates who have used the fund spent the money and if the fund should still exist.

“It’s an exciting challenge — and a frightening challenge — moving back into writing because I’m an editor, and I work on other people’s stories. Generating all the information through reporting, it’s a different skillset,” she said. “It’s a great step in anyone’s career to take a step back and say, ‘Can I do that?’ ‘Will I provide anything useful people want to read?’”

Thompson’s reportage started in The Tiger newsroom where she began by selling advertising before jumping to reporter and eventually becoming the managing editor.

“It was the ’70s and The Tiger was this scrappy, liberal, anti-war publication,” she said. “I was this meek little freshman. I was so happy to be at college because I didn’t think I would get to go. I remember vividly being really dressed up — in a dress and heels — and it was like nine flights of stairs to the top of the horrible dorm to get to The Tiger meeting. I get up there in my prissy dress and heels and it’s like a hippy haven. I looked like an idiot because I thought I actually had to dress up!”

Once she kicked the heels and changed her major to English, Thompson settled into the newsroom atmosphere for life. Her career has taken her from local coverage at The Greenville News to national politics with The Washington Post, Reuters and Politico.

“I do look at things differently than most people,” she said about her career. “That probably goes back to my childhood and the influence of my father — the counter-intuitive Archie Bunker type. He didn’t trust anything or anybody.”

Thompson’s fellowship research will be out this May, as well as featured in future Politico publishing.

Pottery perfection: Brent Pafford M’14

BrentPaford1BrentPafford_StudioShotGrowing up exposed to heirlooms on his family farm in Rock Hill gave Brent Pafford an appreciation for creative work that holds multi-generational significance.

“The objects I create are made to be used, enjoyed and imbued with memories of shared experiences,” Pafford said.

Pafford produces under the studio name Brent Pafford Ceramics and recently qualified as a finalist in Martha Stewart’s American Made contest, which honors creative entrepreneurs for their contributions to their field.

His pieces are made with the pinching wheel-thrown method which “allows the porcelain to capture, preserve and document the process of making,” Pafford explained.

Pafford collaborated with fellow Clemson MFA graduate Adrienne Lichliter and Chef Lindsey Byrd to produce “Southern Intentions: Prints, Pots and Provisions,” a series of dining events. He crafted the dinnerware used for the meal and displayed other work in a gallery.

“When I get to see [my work] utilized in the lives of others, it has to be the most exciting part of my job,” said Pafford.

Pafford participates in the national and international ceramic community through social media, blogs and publications. He attends the Council on Education for Ceramic Arts each year, where he contributes to national discussions and exhibitions.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. Treading water doesn’t get you anywhere,” Pafford said.

To keep up with Pafford’s creative journey, go to his website at brentpafford.com.

Woodwalker excerpt, by Emily Benson Martin

WOODWALKER

PROLOGUE TO WOODWALKER

King Valien drummed his fingers on the rough table, the scars on his right hand shining pink against his copper skin.  Both he and the figure facing him were keeping their hoods up over their heads, and this extra covering coupled with the unsettling news he had just received were making his skin damp with sweat.  Before him, the only distinguishing characteristic the shadowed figure bore was a wrought silver band around one finger, set with a milky pearl.

“Are you sure?” the king pressed quietly.  The tavern buzzed with the ambient noise of townsfolk drinking away the day’s toils, but he could take no chances that he might be overheard.  If there hadn’t been a howling storm outside, he would have met his informant far out in the hills, away from sharp-eyed folk all too ready to report his surreptitious meeting back to his council.

“Positively,” replied his informant.  “I found them in Sunmarten.  All three.  Queen Mona Alastaire and her brothers.  My king, the royals of Lumen Lake are not dead as we assumed.  And it’s only a matter of time before our enemies find out as well.”

The king frowned, his fingers still restless.  This changed everything.  This threw every power in the eastern world into a startling unknown.  His own crown, so recently won, would be among the first to be affected.

“Well,” he said evenly, curling his fingers into a fist and staring at the hooded figure.  “We must do something about it.”

Read more about the Emily Benson Martin here.