Comporium Inc. partners with Watt Family Innovation Center

The Watt Family Innovation Center

The Watt Family Innovation Center

An innovative South Carolina-based telecommunications company is partnering with the new Watt Family Innovation Center to transform student lives and campus academics. Comporium Inc. has pledged $3 million in financial support and in-kind products and services to the Watt Center and will be a Founding Innovation Partner in the new facility that fosters collaborative research activities, product use and demonstration, and philanthropic support.

“It is wonderful to have another South Carolina-based company on board as a Founding Innovation Partner for this incredible facility,” said President Clements. “Comporium is a world-class leader in telecommunications, and I am grateful for their support.”

Headquartered in Rock Hill, Comporium Inc. is a diversified telecommunications company that embraces innovation to provide voice, video, data, wireless and security products and services. Clemson’s faculty, staff and students historically have collaborated and partnered with Comporium in academic and research areas related to a wide spectrum of interest and business operations. This new relationship centers on a multi-faceted engagement that includes philanthropic support of students, faculty, equipment and operations in the new center.

“Comporium sees a great value in educating students in real-world collaboration to take a technologically advanced idea to the development of a practical application,” said Comporium President and CEO Bryant Barnes ’76. “We believe that the center’s role in fostering entrepreneurship and leadership with an emphasis in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) will serve the citizens of South Carolina. The Watt Center enables the connectivity of the Technology Incubator at Knowledge Park in Rock Hill and others to this network.”

Charles Watt, executive director of the Watt Center, said, “We are excited that Comporium has joined our elite level of Founding Innovation Partners. It is an outstanding family-owned company with corporate operations in Rock Hill.

“Since its original chartering in 1894, it has embraced delivery of innovative products and services that are provided in its telephones, data centers and connected security systems. The company has received numerous national, state, county and local awards for excellence in the telecommunications industry and for its contributions to academic and community activities in South Carolina.”

The Comporium gift is part of the $1 billion Will to Lead for Clemson capital campaign.

For more about the Watt Family Innovation Center, see the feature story in this CW Spring 2016.

A Plan Designed to Build Futures

Chuck Fish graduated from Clemson in 1982 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, and in 2012, he and his wife, Sue, made a commitment to establish an endowed fund, ultimately to leave their legacy and provide College of Engineering and Science students from out-of-state with a wonderful college experience. This commitment originated with the Chuck ’82 and Sue Fish Annual Engineering Scholarship, which they have been funding over a four-year period.

Leadership Circle Brunch

Leadership circleMembers of the Leadership Circle came together on Saturday, January 16, in Greenville at a brunch of celebration and appreciation. The Leadership Circle was created in 2009, and since that time 7.6 million in unrestricted dollars have been given to the University administration to address critical needs and opportunities. President Clements addressed the members, as did two students, April Seiler and Jarret Miller, who expressed their appreciation for how these gifts have made a difference in their educations and their lives.

McMillian honored with endowed professorship

Provost Bob Jones (left), Heather and Glenn Hilliard, Patrick McMillan and George Askew, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, at the professorship presentation.

Provost Bob Jones (left), Heather and Glenn Hilliard, Patrick McMillan and George Askew, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, at the professorship presentation.

Professor and naturalist Patrick McMillan, co-creator and host of the Emmy-award winning ETV nature program “Expeditions with Patrick McMillan,” has been named the recipient of the Glenn ’65 and Heather Hilliard Endowed Professorship in Environmental Sustainability.

The Hilliards have given $1 million to establish an endowment at Clemson for a professor to teach and motivate future generations to both treasure and manage the balance between the natural and human-made worlds. The gift qualified Clemson for a dollar-for-dollar match from the state under the SmartState program, creating a $2 million professorship.

“Both Heather and I are thrilled Patrick was selected,” said Glenn Hilliard, a noted business leader, environmentalist, arts patron and education advocate. “The purpose of this professorship is to foster the identification and preservation of natural environments in the state of South Carolina and to identify and support sustainable development and economic growth for our state in places other than in or around our irreplaceable natural environments. “Heather and I love South Carolina and its natural heritage, and we want our state to be a wonderful place to live, play and work for generations to come.” Director of the South Carolina Botanical Garden, McMillian has worked as a naturalist, biologist and educator. He is a professional naturalist and faculty member in the forestry and environmental conservation department. “I am extremely humbled and honored to be the recipient of the Hilliard Professorship,” McMillan said. “This gift will greatly advance and embolden our efforts to advance the preservation of the natural and cultural resources that make South Carolina the state that we all love and enjoy. This is a gift that will benefit the economic and environmental integrity of South Carolina for generations.” The Hilliard gift is part of the Will to Lead for Clemson campaign to support faculty and students with scholarships, professorships, facilities and technology.

Swann pledges $3.3M Cornerstone Gift to Clemson athletics facilities 

Joe Swann (center) with President Clements and Coach Brownell.

Joe Swann (center) with President Clements and Coach Brownell.

Joe Swann ’63 has been a lifelong supporter of Clemson, and recently he and his wife, Barbara Ann “Bobbi” Swann, provided a Cornerstone Gift of $3.3 million to athletics. Pushing his lifetime giving total near $5 million, Swann joins fellow board of trustees member Bill Hendrix, along with Betty Poe and an anonymous donor, in their support of Clemson Athletics’ facilities projects.

In recognition of the Swann family donation, the new addition to Littlejohn Coliseum housing practice court, locker rooms and coaches’ offices — the everyday home of the basketball programs — will be named Swann Pavilion.

Swann’s history of philanthropy to the University includes the Swann Fitness Center on campus named in the family’s honor and an endowment of the men’s soccer coaching position. He was a leader of his class and its gift of $1 million to name the Class of 1963 Bridge to Clemson Program.

“Joe Swann has always been an outstanding leader for Clemson beginning with his student days when he served as class president,” said President Clements. “Joe and Bobbi and their children have given incredible support to the University. I am grateful for everything they have done for academics, student life and athletics. Clemson is a special place because of people like Joe Swann and his family.”

The Clemson Athletic Cornerstone Program is a vital part of the new athletics facilities initiative. With new facilities, upgrades or rebuilds planned for football, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer and Vickery Hall, it will be the most comprehensive change to athletic facilities ever undertaken at Clemson.

“We can’t thank Mr. Swann and his family enough for their support of our program,” head basketball coach Brad Brownell said. “I know this first-class facility will be a difference-maker for our student-athletes, and we’re honored to have the Swann family name on the home of Clemson basketball.”

This gift is part of the $1 billion Will to Lead for Clemson capital campaign to support faculty and students with scholarships, professorships, facilities and technology.

View the announcement of the Swann family’s Cornerstone gift:

APO Endowment honors Jack McKenzie

Jack McKenzie ’76

Jack McKenzie ’76

Clemson’s Gamma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega (APO) National Service Fraternity marked its 75th anniversary by establishing a $50,000 endowment to benefit student leadership in honor of Mullins native Jack A. McKenzie ’76, a long-serving member and adviser of APO since the early 1970s. McKenzie is also program manager for Clemson’s Office of Stewardship and Events.

The chapter surprised McKenzie by announcing the endowment at its 75th anniversary banquet with National President John K. Ottenad and National Executive Director Robert J. London in attendance. The room, filled with Gamma Lambda Chapter members both young and old, erupted into prolonged applause as McKenzie’s fellow Gamma Lambda brother Larry Keese ’81 made the announcement.

To contribute to the endowment, go to Your gifts will count toward the $1 billion Will to Lead for Clemson campaign.

Celebrating two endowed chairs

At a celebration of two SMARTSTATE endowed chairs, John Ballato, holder of the J.E. Sirrine Foundation Endowed Chair in Optical Fiber, and Anjali Joseph, holder of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Endowed Chair in Architecture + Health Care Design, are pictured with President Clements. At the luncheon, donors and professors were presented with endowed chair medallions.

Indigo Pine finishes strong

Congratulations to the Clemson team for their amazing performance in this year’s Solar Decathlon, held in October in Irvine, California. They finished sixth overall among a global field, ranking second in both the architecture and communications sections and third in the market appeal section of the competition.

Indigo Pine, the Clemson team’s house, was made possible by scores of sponsors and donors whose contributions included time, knowledge, money and materials. Hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Solar Decathlon challenges 20 colleges and universities to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.

For more about the Indigo Pine project and the many donors who made it possible, as well as videos about the process, go to

A vision with no boundaries

Fisk works with students in the Pearce Center.

Fisk works with students in the Pearce Center.

It began in the 1980s when Robert Roy Pearce ’41 developed a belief that colleges should improve the writing and communication skills of students from all majors. As a Clemson alumnus who came from a long line of successful businessmen, Pearce decided to craft a plan designed to strengthen Tigers’ communication skills. So in 1989, Roy and wife, Margery “Marnie” Pearce, donated $1.5 million to Clemson to endow the Roy and Marnie Pearce Center for Professional Communication.

When Pearce and the other members of the Class of 1941 celebrated their 60th anniversary, they provided the University with a million-dollar gift to fund the construction of the Class of 1941 Studio, which opened its doors in Daniel Hall in 2004 and became the home of the Pearce Center.

The center has three signature initiatives — the Writing Fellows Program, the Internship Program and the Client-Based Program — all of which are designed to integrate students into real-world situations.

The Writing Fellows Program was formed through a collaboration between the Pearce Center and the Honors College. Writing Fellows mentor and provide peer editing for other students.

In the Internship Program, students immerse themselves in the world of professional communication and work on many long-term projects including writing, editing, video production and graphic design.

The Client-Based Program was started in 2003 by the late Summer Smith Taylor, whose goal was to give students the opportunity to practice what they are learning in the classroom. Students assist with client projects ranging from website development and social media plans to rebranding. “The program matches classes to clients who need deliverables,” said Ashley Fisk, assistant director of the Pearce Center and director of the Client-Based Program.

The center has made an impact on Clemson as a whole by contributing to the University’s efforts to teach writing across the curriculum, for which the University has been recognized by U.S.News & World Report. The 2016 ranking places Clemson among recognized schools such as Brown, Harvard and Duke.

The Pearces will always be remembered for their support, generosity and dedication to student success. Along with improving the communication skills of Clemson students, the couple established the Dr. R. Roy Pearce HD ’41 & Margery W. Pearce Library Endowment and provided funding for student scholarships.

Due to their generosity, the Pearces were inducted last fall into the Fort Hill Legacy Society, which honors donors posthumously for leaving $1 million or more to the University in their estate plans. A ceremony dedicating a bronze leaf in the Pearces’ memory was held as part of the annual Legacy Day celebration. The leaves are placed under the Second Century Oak, which stands at Fort Hill on the historic site of the Trustee Oak and the University’s first Board of Trustees meeting.

For more information about how you can include Clemson in your estate plan, contact Jovanna King at or 864-656-0663, or go to

Spiro Founder Society pledges $1.7 million challenge

A group of successful alumni entrepreneurs from a range of industries and academic disciplines have united to form the Spiro Founder Society. Collectively, they are offering a $1.7 million dollar challenge pledge to the University’s Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership to inspire the next generation of Clemson entrepreneurs.

The challenge pledge offers to match, up to $1.7 million, all donations made to the Spiro Institute that will enhance education, outreach and research in this field.

Founded in 1994, the Spiro Institute provides an educational and research program in entrepreneurship that contributes to the economic development of the region, state and nation. The focus is on wealth creation through entrepreneurial activity.

“Rather than disparate initiatives isolated in individual colleges or even majors, we believe that one funded institute serving Clemson as a whole will leverage the energy and money to the fullest potential,” said Greg Smith, president of Blue Vista Ventures and leader of the effort to form the Spiro Founder Society. “It is also helpful to consolidate our many efforts across campus so that anyone seeking to participate knows where to go to ‘plug-in’ or get help.”

The Spiro Founder Society will support ongoing Spiro Institute initiatives across campus such as undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship courses, Creative Inquiry projects for launching start-up companies, a living-learning community and two speaker series.