Marking our History

Clements_019

The next time you visit campus, you may notice some new additions in the form of three historical markers. These markers will commemorate the contributions of Native Americans and African-Americans in the history of our University and the land it occupies.

A plaque at the Calhoun Bottoms will commemorate the Native Americans and African-American slaves in the development of the land where Fort Hill now stands. A plaque at Woodland Cemetery — a.k.a. Cemetery Hill — will commemorate the burials of the family of John C. Calhoun, as well as slaves and convict laborers who built many of the earliest buildings on campus. The third plaque will be located near Lee Hall, where slave quarters for Fort Hill once stood and where a stockade later housed convicts working on construction, to acknowledge the role of enslaved people and prisoners at both Fort Hill plantation and in the construction of early campus buildings.

For Clemson to move forward as an environment of true inclusive excellence — a place where every individual feels valued and able to achieve his or her full potential — we must start by being honest about our past. We must be willing to discuss it, learn from it and, in the process, discover more about one another. Because, for better and for worse, each of us is shaped by the generations who came before us. A greater understanding about our history will lead to a greater understanding about the challenges and opportunities that face us today.

These markers are a small — but significant — step forward in our efforts to be a more inclusive campus. In order to make progress in this area, how we tell the story of Clemson needs to be inclusive as well. Many know the story of Anna Calhoun and Thomas Green Clemson and John C. Calhoun. But the University was not built by these people alone. Many enslaved people and prisoners, as well as the Native Americans who lived here for centuries before the Clemsons and Calhouns even set foot on this soil, literally laid the foundation for this University. Now we are telling more fully their stories to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and campus visitors.

The historical markers are only one piece of the puzzle. There is much more work to be done, but I am pleased with our progress. Our Diversity Advisory Council has been looking at seven specific initiatives, some of which we are already implementing:

• Expand the Office of Diversity.

• Create a multi-cultural center.

• Increase the minority representation of faculty, staff, students and administrators.

• Develop a tracking and reporting system to measure our progress in inclusive excellence.

• Emphasize diversity and inclusion in the ClemsonForward strategic plan.

• Enhance the use of inclusive images in University marketing.

• Provide a fuller presentation of the University’s history reflecting the important contributions of minorities and women in the development of the University.

I am also pleased to report that we have hired a new chief diversity officer. Lee Gill comes to Clemson from the University of Akron, where he served as chief diversity officer and associate vice president for inclusion and equity. He brings with him more than 20 years of experience in higher education, and I am excited to have him join my leadership team. I also want to commend the board of trustees task force on the history of Clemson for the work they did to examine how we need to tell the full Clemson story. The historical markers are part of their recommendations on how we can educate people on the accurate history of the University. You can read their full report of recommendations at clemson.edu/administration/bot/clemson-history-taskforce/. They received a great deal of feedback from students, faculty, staff and alumni throughout the process, and I want to say thank you to everyone who sent them their input.

Clemson should be a place where every member of the Clemson family, regardless of background, feels like they are valued. At the end of the day, we are working to make Clemson an even better University, and it will take all of us to achieve that.

James P. Clements
President

 

Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead

Happy New Year from campus. The start of a new year and a new semester is a good time to pause and reflect on the year just completed and look ahead to what comes next.

2015 was a year of many achievements and accomplishments — more than can be listed here. We continue to rank among the nation’s top public universities, we set records in undergraduate applications and private fundraising, and we made progress on the largest construction initiative in Clemson’s history.

We advanced efforts to enhance diversity and build a culture of inclusive excellence through the re-creation of the Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center, launch of the President’s Lecture Series on Leadership and Diversity, appointment of a 
new Diversity Advisory Council and work of a Board of Trustees task force on how to document and tell the full story of 
Clemson’s history.

As this magazine went to press, our men’s and women’s soccer teams were heading into the NCAA tournaments, both seeded 
No. 2, and the football team was finishing up an incredible 
undefeated season and headed for post-season play.

By any measure, it was an exceptional year. So as we look forward to 2016 and beyond, what’s next?

Much of what comes next at Clemson will be driven by a new strategic plan that will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval next month. We call it ClemsonForward, because it’s about constantly moving forward, striving to reach greater heights and preparing Clemson for the next 50 years.

ClemsonForward is built on the success of the previous strategic plan — the 2020 Road Map — and remains true to our Top 20 vision. The planning process elicited hundreds of ideas and recommendations from faculty, staff and students through committees, town meetings and online discussions. Many common threads and themes emerged, which we have distilled into the following strategic priorities:

Research — to drive innovation and economic growth, solve problems and build a strong national academic reputation.
Engagement — the cornerstone of the Road Map and essence of the land-grant mission.
Academic Core — the central teaching, learning and student support mission.
Living — that is, the quality of the campus as a beautiful, supportive and nurturing place to live, work and learn, which has always been a treasured part of the Clemson experience.

You may have noticed that the acronym spells “REAL” — a word that came up frequently throughout the planning process, expressed in many ways:
• Real impact on the great challenges of our time.
• Real-world experiences that prepare students for success after graduation.
• Real family — supportive, inclusive and respectful.
• Real solutions to real problems facing our state and nation.

That’s not surprising, because we were founded in 1889 to solve real problems and find real solutions, and that remains the essence of the land-grant mission.

It’s not that Clemson was not “real” in the past. The University has been in the Top 25 for eight consecutive years, and it’s time to cement our place in that company. We believe the ClemsonForward plan will help us do just that.

A critical component of the plan is a reorganization that creates seven new colleges, including a College of Science, a College of Business and a College of Education. All colleges will have departmental realignments, even if the names don’t change, that are intended to sharpen their mission focus, support recruitment of outstanding academic talent and increase the opportunities for national prominence.

Throughout 2016, you will see tangible signs that the plan is being implemented. In January, we will open the Watt Family Innovation Center as a hub of engagement and entrepreneurship, and over the next few months we will erect new historical markers to document the role of Native Americans and African Americans in our early history, develop a capital improvement plan for research and academics, and launch major new research initiatives.

ClemsonForward truly reflects the energy and attitude of Clemson’s DNA, which is built on core attributes of vision, drive, determination, optimism, family — and, yes, competitiveness, as we look to make a positive difference for our students, state and nation.

You can find more about ClemsonForward online at clemson.edu/forward.

Go Tigers!

The View from Sikes: Preparing for What Comes Next

PrezClementsVFSikesA new academic year always brings a sense of renewed optimism and anticipation for what comes next. Preparing for what comes next is — after all — the essence of what universities do. Asking questions, experimenting, creating, debating and thinking deeply and critically — these are essential tools for equipping students to succeed during and after college. They also are tools for finding solutions to the great challenges of our time and for discovering innovations that drive economic growth.

It’s easy to be optimistic when we consider the accomplishments of the year just completed:

• Achieving a Top 20 national ranking from U.S.News & World Report and a seventh consecutive Top 25 ranking.
• Setting new records in demand for enrollment and quality of the student body.
• Reaching record levels in private fundraising.
• Earning national rankings for quality, value, return on tuition investment, town-gown relations and the No. 1 ranked alumni network.
• Securing additional state support for critical educational, economic development and public service programs and facilities.
• Opening our first off-campus visitors center — Experience Clemson — in downtown Greenville.
• Tackling the largest construction program in University history to address facilities needs and take advantage of a competitive external market, low interest rates and the University’s strong debt capacity.

Our strategic plan — 2020Forward — is a key part of preparing Clemson University for what comes next. In July, the board of trustees gave preliminary approval to the key concepts in the strategic plan and charged the administration to return this fall with a final plan for review.

Included among those key concepts are the following priorities:

• Providing high-impact engagement opportunities to students as a cornerstone of undergraduate education.
• Growing research and doctoral enrollment, with emphasis on programs and research focus areas where we can achieve national prominence, and an organizational structure that supports excellence.
• Making Clemson an exceptional place to work.
• Increasing our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.

The plan also retains many of the strategic priorities of the 2020 Road Map — including a sustained Top 20 national ranking, an aggressive capital improvement plan and commitment to outreach and economic progress for South Carolina.

In order to achieve these goals, we must create a climate where every person feels valued and has the ability to succeed. The need for a more diverse and inclusive campus emerged as a consistent message from the strategic planning team. Based on that work and the dozens of meetings we held with faculty, staff, students and alumni in the spring, we have framed a plan for diversity and excellence that has the following four pillars:

• First, develop and implement a strategic plan to increase the diversity of the student body, staff, faculty and administration, with measurable goals.
• Second, promote greater cultural awareness and a sense of community, which is the focus of several initiatives launched last spring, such as the monthly student dialogue lunches and a planned lecture series.
• Third, assess and enhance the effectiveness of existing diversity initiatives and support services. As part of this effort, we will move the Gantt Multicultural Center from Student Affairs to the Office of Diversity — to enhance coordination and better leverage the expertise and resources of each unit.
• Fourth, document and communicate the history of Clemson, including the role of under-represented groups. We have initiated a process with state authorities to add a series of markers to campus to help document additional parts of our history.

These efforts will be enhanced by the board’s recent action to adopt a resolution and appoint a task force to explore ways to accurately preserve and tell the complete history of Clemson, which includes opening a discussion on Benjamin Tillman. I applaud the board for their action, and I look forward to assisting the task force with their work.  Evaluating, discussing, critiquing and debating important issues are what great universities do to arrive at the best solutions. Understanding and communicating the full story of Clemson’s history is an important part of creating a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment.

So what’s next for Clemson in 2015-16?

• Enrolling another outstanding class of students.
• Launching a new strategic plan by January 1, 2016.
• Successfully completing the Will to Lead for Clemson capital campaign, which will make Clemson the first public university with an alumni base our size to surpass a $1 billion campaign goal.
• Opening new academic and athletic facilities on campus, as well as additions to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research campus in Greenville and the Zucker Family Graduation Education Center in North Charleston — with more groundbreakings to come.

What comes next — is another great year to be a Clemson Tiger!

Go Tigers!

The View from Sikes

Building Futures

If you’ve been on campus lately, you’ve noticed a lot of construction fences, cranes and re-routed traffic. That’s because Clemson University has embarked on one of the largest campus development projects in at least half a century — maybe in history.

We call it Building Futures — a capital improvement plan to ensure that Clemson can compete at the highest levels and win — whether we’re competing for top students, big grants or athletics championships. This once-in-a-generation physical transformation will move the university forward and cement our place as a top-20, nationally regarded research University.

Building Futures is a strategic plan to look past 2015 or 2020 or even 2025. It is intended to set the stage for Clemson’s next 50 years, just as a surge of construction half a century ago, in the 1960s, positioned Clemson to become what it is today. It’s about building advanced and sustainable facilities to prepare us for whatever comes next — facilities that foster innovative teaching and learning, support advanced research and technology transfer, improve productivity and efficiency, and protect our rich physical and natural assets. It’s also about creating more educational and economic opportunities for South Carolina.

Already underway are major projects that will transform many areas of campus.

This summer, work begins in earnest on the Douthit Hills redevelopment to create a residential village for students that will change a main gateway to the campus — and change the view from the President’s House. Seven residential buildings and a contemporary student hub will rise on 80 acres on the north side of Highway 93, telling students and visitors they’ve arrived at one of the nation’s top schools. The facilities will provide more on-campus housing options for upperclassmen and bring Bridge to Clemson students to campus. A comprehensive tree plan will ultimately increase the number of trees on the site by 30 percent.

With the Core Campus development, the last vestiges of 60-year-old Johnstone Hall — built as temporary housing, mind you — and Harcombe Dining Hall will give way to a complex that includes a residential hall for freshmen that provides convenience, security, utility upgrades, modern dining facilities, a home for the Calhoun Honors College and more amenities. I know many of you have fond memories of Johnstone, but your children probably don’t share that sentiment.

An addition to Freeman Hall will add teaching and office space for industrial engineering that frees up research space, helps accommodate growth in student demand and makes room for fast-growing online master’s programs targeted to non-traditional students working in corporate engineering jobs.

In the center of campus, the digitally dazzling Watt Family Innovation Center will further define the area south of the library as the academic heart of the University. The center will be a hub of intellectual and entrepreneurial activity as it connects students, faculty and leaders from industry and government to generate ideas, solve problems and move new product concepts to the marketplace.

Days after graduation, Littlejohn Coliseum closed for a major renovation that will include reconstruction of seating areas, new practice facilities, locker rooms, meeting rooms and offices for the men’s and women’s basketball teams — a project completely funded by the athletics department and IPTAY.

Less visible but essential to the success of the Building Futures plan is a major overhaul of our electrical infrastructure — components of which date back to the 1950s.

The process won’t always be pretty. But the long-term gains — more and better housing and classrooms for students, capacity to grow research, improved landscapes and a tree stewardship plan that will leave us with more trees than when we started — are worth the temporary inconveniences.

There’s more to come — pending development of business plans and board and state approvals. Stay tuned for updates.

Please pardon our progress. Think of the sound of construction as a tiger’s roar — a sign of strength and greatness.

James P. Clements

President

My Freshman Year

Many people have asked me what I learned during my “freshman year” at Clemson.

Most of what I learned confirmed what I already knew. Our University has world-class faculty, dedicated staff, smart students, loyal alumni, great traditions, a proud history and unlimited potential.

In 2014, the rest of the country caught on to this truth as Clemson rose to the rank of No. 20 among national public universities in the U.S. News Guide to America’s Best Colleges. This recognition was based on the hard work done by thousands of people and the visionary leadership of President Emeritus Jim Barker that put a singular focus on improving the quality of undergraduate education.

We did it, and we should be very proud. But we know that Top 20 is not a destination. This is not a moment to kick off our shoes, sit back and relax.

Now the question is: With Top 20 as a starting point and a launching pad, where can Clemson go from here?

This question will be asked often this spring as a review of the current strategic planning gets underway, led by our new provost, Robert Jones, and co-chaired by Brett Dalton and Ellen Granberg.

If you are not familiar with his qualifications for the job, let me introduce Bob to you. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in forestry and forest management from Clemson. It was here that he met his wife Jeri, also a Clemson graduate. Both hold doctorates — his in forest ecology and hers in veterinary medicine.

Bob is not only provost, but also Clemson’s first executive vice president for academic affairs. That means he will provide leadership for our undergraduate and graduate programs, academic support programs, research and public service activities.

His previous experience at Georgia, Auburn, Virginia Tech and West Virginia included leadership of very successful strategic planning efforts. They were inclusive, “bottom-up” efforts that succeeded because they had broad participation and a big vision.

At a November 19 Town Meeting in Tillman Hall — which was well attended and live-streamed to online viewers through ClemsonTV — I asked the campus to think 10, 15, even 50 years into the future. Bob and I challenged all of us to seek not only undergraduate excellence, but excellence in graduate education and research. To meet that challenge, we will be guided by four key words that we hear over and over when people talk about Clemson:

  • Quality. This has been Clemson’s mantra and rallying cry for many years, and we must continue our push for academic excellence.
  • Impact. Thomas Green Clemson founded this University to have a positive impact — on our community and our economy.
  • Distinction. Where can we be the best? What will bring us distinction? We must focus our limited resources on building areas of strength.
  • Differentiation. What sets us apart from other universities? Let’s look for the niche areas to develop where Clemson’s unique strengths match society’s need for answers and innovation.

We need to look over the horizon to what might be future opportunities to serve humanity, drive economic growth and distinguish Clemson from other research universities. And we need to do this in a way that does not de-emphasize or diminish our unshakable commitment to undergraduate excellence.

Will it be hard? Yes. Can we do it? Yes.

But it will require the best thinking and the best efforts of every constituent, every stakeholder and every member of the Clemson family. That includes you, our fantastic alumni. I invite you to be part of this process of reflection, goal-setting and planning. Visit our website at clemson.edu/strategic-plan and join the conversation.

In 2015, our focus is solidly on the future. By this time next year, we will be well on our way to building a new vision for Clemson in 2025 and beyond.

I am excited about our future!

Go Tigers!
James P. Clements
President

The radical ideas and passion that resulted in a university

In my inaugural address at Commencement May 9, I spoke about the upcoming 125th anniversary of the University’s founding. In November 1889, the state of South Carolina officially accepted the terms of Thomas Green Clemson’s will to establish a scientific institution on the grounds of his Fort Hill home.

But the story of Clemson University begins much earlier than that. It started with a set of ideas and the passion to make them happen.

These were radical ideas for the mid-19th century:

  • The idea that education and research could lift a state and a people out of poverty and despair.
  • The idea that education should not be limited to an elite class.
  • The idea that institutions should serve their states and be engaged with their communities.

All of us at Clemson today are the beneficiaries of the vision — and the bequest — of our founders.

These ideas helped shape the Morrill Act of 1862, which created our national network of land-grant universities. Many of these ideas were actually developed, articulated and championed by Thomas Green Clemson. Mr. Clemson wrote and spoke often about the idea of scientific education as the path to prosperity. In the late 1860s he wrote, “Our condition is wretched in the extreme. There is, in my opinion, no hope for the South short of widespread scientific education.”

When his wife, Anna, preceded Thomas in death, she left him the land and her resources, which he later bequeathed to the state of South Carolina. This would be used to fund the college that came from their shared dreams — which he called a “high seminary of learning.”

All of us at Clemson today are the beneficiaries of the vision — and the bequest — of our founders.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, the landmark federal legislation that created the Cooperative Extension Service. Through that statewide network, the land-grant promise became a reality.

Like the Morrill Act, the Smith-Lever Act has a direct link back to Clemson. The national Extension network was based on the “Clemson model,” and Congressman Frank Lever, one of the co-authors of the legislation, was a Clemson trustee. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery, on our campus.

The connection among the Clemson will, the Act of Acceptance and the Smith-Lever Act is that they created a unique and permanent partnership between Clemson University and the state of South Carolina. That partnership distinguishes Clemson from every other institution of higher learning in the state.

In this partnership, those of us at Clemson make an important promise. We promise to make a difference, not just for our students, but also in the lives of all the people in this state. And we make a difference by holding true to three commitments.

First, we commit that we will provide the highest possible level of academic quality. Mr. Clemson wrote that this new education system “is the only hope for South Carolina, and … that it will give life, vigor and prosperity to unborn thousands … .” I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Clemson set the bar pretty high for all of us!

Second, we commit that our campus is the state of South Carolina. We pledge to be actively engaged in every county of South Carolina. Clemson has never been content to remain isolated behind a set of walls. We go where the problems are — where the opportunities are — and where the challenges are.

Third, we commit to support the state’s economic development. Mr. Clemson’s will speaks directly to our responsibility to the economic health of South Carolina. One of the ways we can help to deliver on this promise is through research and innovation.

Holding fast to these commitments will ensure that we meet the high standards set by Mr. Clemson to provide an outstanding education for our students and keep our promise to South Carolina.

I am honored to work alongside all of you to achieve these ambitious goals.

Go Tigers!

Jim Clements

My first semester

My first semester as Clemson’s new president was busy, challenging and so much fun! Like all freshmen, I met thousands of new people and quickly learned my way around campus. My family and I even lived in the Clemson House for the semester. We enjoyed several snow days this winter and loved playing basketball outside on sunny days with our student neighbors.

James P. Clements

James P. Clements

Clemson deserves its reputation as a top-21 national public university. We have phenomenal students, teachers and researchers, and alumni who understand and support our goals.

From the Orange Bowl and a student-led campus tour in January, to Founders Week and Ring Week in April, to my investiture at commencent in May, it has been a whirlwind of activity.

On my campus “listening tour,” I met separately with students, faculty, staff and administrators. I’ve met twice with the Board of Trustees and with key volunteer groups like the Alumni Council, Board of Visitors, Will to Lead campaign executive committee and CU Foundation Board.

My introduction to South Carolina took me to Spartanburg, Columbia, Greenwood, Greenville, Charleston, Lake City and Florence. It’s a beautiful state filled with great people.

I’ve spoken with and to industry leaders in textiles and agri-business, including the Chambers of Commerce in Greenville, Clemson and Gaffney; testified at budget hearings in Columbia; announced a $5.6 million gift from Self Regional Healthcare in Greenwood; and met alumni at the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., Clemson Club.

I am also reaching out to students and alumni in some new ways. If you tweet, I hope you will follow me on Twitter @ClemsonPrez.

What did I learn in my first semester at Clemson?

First, Clemson deserves its reputation as a top-21 national public university. We have phenomenal students, teachers and researchers, and alumni who understand and support our goals.

Second, people in this state are proud of Clemson. They want to send their children here; they want to partner with us; they want to advocate for us.

They know that Clemson is the total package — number one in the state for academic quality, value, return on investment and a great student experience. We’ve made substantial progress in undergraduate education, and that will continue.

Finally, Clemson is poised for even greater things as a national leader in graduate education, research and innovation. Here are just three indicators:

  • A team of Clemson students from architecture and engineering was chosen to compete in the national Solar Decathlon 2015.
  • We hosted the first-ever international conference on “Local DC Electricity: Transforming the 21st Century Energy Economy” this spring in Charleston.
  • We are the lead institution — in a consortium that includes Wisconsin and Harvard — in a new $5.3 million National Science Foundation effort to broaden the impact of advanced computing resources to campuses across the country.

We are building on our national academic reputation as an institution that educates and innovates to solve problems and drives economic growth.

Everywhere I go, I find people ready and willing to help Clemson reach its full potential. They know that higher education is the key to a better future. Our University’s success will mean greater success for individuals and for society.

Thank you for my warm welcome into the Clemson Family!

Jim Clements

 

 

A Message from Clemson’s 15th President

I am thrilled to be named the 15th president of Clemson University. I want to thank the Board of Trustees and the search committee for this incredible opportunity and for believing in me and my family. It is obvious that the board really loves this University and cares very deeply about it. Their love and passion for Clemson are contagious.

One of the things that excited us so much about Clemson is that this is a family-oriented place, and the phrase “Clemson Family” means something very special. As one of the greatest public land-grant research universities in the country, Clemson has a wonderful history and a bright future. It is highly respected for being a student-centered campus that provides a top-notch, high-quality education while producing world-class research and vital services to the community.

Clockwise, from left: Maggie, a freshman at WVU; Grace, a seventh grader; Tyler, a fourth-year student at WVU; Hannah, a freshman at Clemson; Jim; and Beth Clements

Clockwise, from left: Maggie, a freshman at WVU; Grace, a seventh grader; Tyler, a fourth-year student at WVU; Hannah, a freshman at Clemson; Jim; and Beth Clements

The Clemson Family is not something new to me. Beth’s family lives near the University, and her two brothers and a sister-in-law are graduates of Clemson. For more than two decades, I have seen how passionate they are about this place — and how thankful they are for the great education they received here. Our youngest daughter, Grace, has special needs, and as she enters the next phase of her life, we believe that having her extended family close to her is something that will be very important.

I am humbled to walk in the footsteps of so many great presidents who have served at the University. I have been a big fan of President Jim Barker for a long time. He is highly respected across the country for his leadership, and he is also lucky to have a wonderful partner in First Lady Marcia Barker. I can promise you that Beth and I will rely on the Barkers’ advice and guidance in the years to come.

Clemson truly is a gem in higher education. I look forward to working with our elected officials and business leaders to promote economic and workforce development. I believe that working together — as one team — is the only way we can succeed.

When I was a kid my mother always told me to be a good person and to make a difference. I promise you that I will do my very best — working with you — to fulfill the vision set forth by Thomas Green Clemson.

Go Tigers!

James P. Clements

EDUCATION

  • B.S., Computer Science; M.S., Ph.D, Operations Analysis, University of Maryland Baltimore County. M.S., Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University

CAREER

  • West Virginia University, president and professor of computer science and electrical engineering, 2009–2013
  • Towson University (Maryland), provost and vice president for academic affairs, 2007–2009; vice president for economic and community outreach, 2004–07; executive director for the Center for Applied Information Technology, 1999–2003; professor of computer and information sciences, 2000–2009; chair, Department of Computer and Information Sciences, 1997–1999; associate professor, 1995–2000; assistant professor, 1993–1995; visiting assistant professor, 1989–1993

NATIONAL LEADERSHIP POSITIONS

  • Chair-elect, Board of Directors, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities; co-chair, APLU Energy Forum
  • Chair, American Council on Education’s Commission on Leadership
  • Business Higher Education Forum
  • Council on Competitiveness
  • U.S. Department of Commerce Innovation Advisory Board

The Last Lecture

‘President Barker was the keynote speaker at the Victor Hurst Academic Convocation on August 20, marking the beginning of the 121st academic year. This is an excerpt from his remarks.’

This morning, I will attempt to answer the question:
“If this was your ‘last lecture’ what would you say?” I’ll use this time to share with you some of what I’ve learned over the past 14 years about how my idea of Clemson has continued — and will continue — to evolve. Then I’ll try to say something useful to those of you who will help write the next chapter in Clemson history.

 

First, I’ve come to understand that Clemson must pay special attention to our relationship to both change and tradition.

Clemson exists explicitly to be an agent of change. After all, what was Thomas Green Clemson’s great cry? “Our country is wretched in the extreme,” he wrote. Our economy is struggling. Our people are struggling. And something needs to change. We need education and research to solve problems, to bring prosperity. Clemson must deliver this much-needed transformation.

So, a commitment to bold, even radical change is a true Clemson tradition.

Going forward, Clemson must take care not to embrace a false sense of tradition — the one that leads to protectionism and resistance to change masquerading as some proud commitment to the past. But Clemson must embrace its covenant with — and tradition of — change. Finding the proper balance becomes ever more important.

The ability to “dance with uncertainty” will be a fundamental quality needed in Clemson University’s next president.

Second, I’ve learned the truth of something Gen. Dwight Eisenhower once said: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Clemson has a well-deserved reputation for doing effective, meaningful planning. But the true value in any planning is not the document you produce at the end of the process. A plan is merely a tool to inspire good, clear thinking about the future.

In the end, sound thinking yields strategic behaviors that persist long past the discard date for the plans themselves. We describe these behaviors with words like honest … brave … resourceful … nimble.

The Clemson 2020 Plan must be carried forward and implemented with honesty, resourcefulness, courage and … never forget … adaptability and flexibility.

Third, I’ve learned that the world truly needs its educational institutions to be incubators of creativity.

All children are naturally curious and creative. Too often, our educational system is guilty of drumming the creativity out of them instead of helping them to nourish it and channel it in constructive ways. Creativity — where good ideas come from — is a special interest of mine. My soon-to-be department chair, Kate Schwennsen, has asked me to prepare a course on “Creativity and Leadership,” and I hope to do so.

There is a proper emphasis here on equipping our students with the skills of math, science and technology. But if you ask business leaders — and I have done this — “What do you value most in prospective employees?” They will answer: “People with skills who are also creative thinkers and problem-solvers.”

Finally, I’ve learned in the most personal sort of way that leadership is service. It is the opposite of self-advancement or resume building. In fact, people who claim for themselves the mantle of leader are often not the ones whom other people want to follow.

Clearly, I felt called to this service out of my deep affection for this place — Clemson.

Your next president will likely be answering a different call. The love of learning … or a passion for making sure venerable 19th century institutions can remain viable and sustainable in the age of digital, mobile technology. The kind of chief executive Clemson needs tomorrow is different from the kind we needed in 1999 — after five presidents in 15 years.

I’ve always thought that leading a university is more like conducting a symphony orchestra or jazz band … one in which each individual player is a skilled, talented and creative star in his or her own right.

But I know that it is you — the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Clemson— who work in harmony to turn the noise into music. And what a beautiful song it has been for us for 14 years. Today, Marcia and I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude at being given the responsibility and the opportunity to serve, with all of you, in protecting and advancing this noble idea of Clemson.

The lasting imprint of the Paw

President Barker's view from his office in Sikes Hall

President Barker’s view from his office in Sikes Hall

From my second-floor office window in Sikes Hall, I look down every day on Bowman Field and a giant orange Tiger Paw painted on the road at the intersection of Old Greenville Highway and Calhoun Drive. You can see it, too, on a live webcam at clemson.edu.

From all points on the globe, alumni send us photos of themselves holding Tiger Rags and Tiger Paw flags. The backdrop may be the Eiffel Tower, a glacier in Alaska or a fighter jet on a dusty runway in Afghanistan, but the people are always smiling. You can see these photos, too, in this and every issue of Clemson World magazine and throughout the social media world.

Wherever Marcia and I travel, our Tiger Paw shirts and caps and lapel pins are recognized by strangers. They also smile and say: “You’re from Clemson!”

These are the measures of a successful graphic design.

The Tiger Paw is universally acknowledged as the most recognizable logo in all of college sports. It has helped define Clemson athletics and Clemson University for more than four decades. It has brought joy to thousands of alumni and fans.

The evolution of a symbol

The paragraphs above were read aloud from a message I sent to Arlene Antonio, the wife of the late John Antonio, at his memorial service in June. John and his talented team at Henderson Advertising had created the Tiger Paw logo for Clemson.

On behalf of the Clemson Family, I was proud to express our gratitude for the excellent work they did on our behalf.

More literal representations of tiger mascots — even cartoon versions — come and go in style. Some are ferocious and intimidating, others are cuddly and lovable. The Paw, on the other hand, is ageless.

The Clemson Tiger Paw is as fresh today as it was when it was introduced in 1970. As a designer myself, I can appreciate the skill it took to create such a successful, enduring piece of graphic art.

As an alumnus and Clemson’s 14th president, however, I have come to appreciate its symbolic power.

The Paw has evolved from an athletics logo into a university symbol. Why? Because the Tiger Paw managed to capture something essential about the “One Clemson” spirit. It is beloved by all and we are united, as a community, by that simple affection.

It also represents not only our ferocious power, but the lasting imprint Clemson folks leave upon the world as we pass by.

Go Tigers!

James F. Barker, FAIA
President