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For the Public Good: Pamela DeFanti Robinson ’73

Prodding from a library colleague led Pam DeFanti Robinson on an adventure that’s put her at the heart of influencing young lives — just in a different classroom than originally planned.

Robinson currently serves as the director of the University of South Carolina School of Law pro bono program. Before law school, Robinson’s path was elementary education. The Rhode Island native came to South Carolina as a teen during her father’s relocation with DuPont. With no ties to Clemson, she applied because a summer program had piqued her interest. After teaching in Atlanta and outside Washington, D.C., life brought her back to South Carolina, where she settled in Camden as a children’s librarian. “I knew I needed to go back and get another degree,” said Robinson.

A colleague challenged her to try law school. Robinson stayed around USC’s law school after graduation to assist with projects. A conversation over a cup of coffee with her dean was how the pro bono program idea started — the first of its kind in the state and the nation. Now she’s opening doors for those who need legal aid and students who need guidance navigating careers. The program is open to all law students who are willing to volunteer to work on everything from filing taxes to translating documents to Spanish.

“[Pro bono] doesn’t mean for free. The phrase is part of a Latin phrase meaning ‘for the public good.’ Sometimes [services] are free or low cost for people who can’t afford an attorney for whatever reason,” she said. “When you’re in law school [students] can’t practice law, or give legal advice, so we go right up to the line of what’s legal.”

Robinson says every class is different and offers a different skill set and potential for what they can accomplish that year, but the one-on-one experience the program offers showcases the breadth of the law and what a potential practice can entail.

And even though her students are bigger than first-graders, she still gets tickled when her students have “eureka” moments. “That’s such a good feeling to say, ‘Hang in there, you can do that,’” she said.

“We can’t, as law school and law students, solve all the problems of the community, but we can be there as part of the solution,” she said.

Golden Girl: Brianna Rollins ’13


One, two, three — jump. One, two, three — jump. With a fierce face and a breakneck pace, former Clemson track standout Brianna Rollins lunged across the finish line. A time of 12.48 seconds earned Rollins a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August. Right behind her were USA teammates Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin in second and third place. “It was awesome feeling to have to my teammates up there on the podium alongside me. We made history and I couldn’t have been happier to share it with Nia and Kristi. Kristi and I train together, and Nia is a really good friend of mine. It just goes to show you that if women can come together as one we can accomplish something huge.”

After catching their breath, the women draped their bodies in three American flags and jumped for joy for the cameras and the television crowds back home. It was the first time three American women claimed all three medals in a track and field event in the Olympics.

Rollins isn’t new to claiming victories. In 2011 and 2013 she was the NCAA indoor champion in the 60-meter hurdles, the 2014 NCAA outdoor champion in the 100-meter hurdles, and the 2013 IAAF world champion in the 100-meter hurdles while still a student at Clemson. But it wasn’t until her time at Clemson that she realized she could compete at an elite level. Rollins didn’t begin competing in the sport until she was in high school in her hometown of Miami. In 2012, as a sophomore at Clemson, she made the Olympic Trials. In the next months she earned a win at the NACAC Under-23 championships. From there she blossomed into the runner she is today.

“At the 2012 Olympic trials is when I realized I could compete on the professional level. I had the second fastest time coming back in the finals at the trials. I finished sixth in the finals but seeing that I was competing with the professional and running so close gave me the hope I needed,” she said. “Training as an elite-level athlete is a blessing; it comes with a lot of hard work, sacrifices, commitment, and focus but it is all worth it when the reward is being an Olympic champion and an inspiration to those who look up to me.”

Rollins is the second female from Clemson to win a gold in track and field and the first Clemson athlete to win an individual Olympic gold medal since 2004. Kim Graham won a medal as a member of the 4×100- meter relay team in 1996 and Shaw Crawford won the 200-meter dash in 2004. Nine athletes from Clemson have gone on to win Olympic gold.

Rollins is currently training for the next 2017 World Championships in London and hopes defend her title in Tokyo in the 2020 Olympics.

 

Fast feet stay in the game: Fabio Tambosi ’02

Fabio Tambosi spent his childhood with a soccer ball rolling at his feet. Soccer came naturally to him, and he moved from playing in the streets of Brazil to playing in the youth academy of a professional club in São Paulo.

It was here that Tambosi received his first pair of cleats — two freshly worn Nike Tiempos from Zé Roberto, a living soccer legend. “I was walking out of the locker room after practice and [Zé Roberto] said, ‘Hey shorty, what’re you doing? Do you want some shoes?’” Tambosi said. “That pair lasted me another two years.”

These days, Tambosi isn’t bumming cleats off the most famous players in the world — he’s partnering with world-class athletes to sell them. As the director of global football brand marketing at Nike, Tambosi is a leading voice for an iconic brand.

It’s a dream job, but he took a long journey to attain it. Early on, Tambosi played forward for the men’s soccer team at Clemson where he helped the team to an ACC Tournament championship in 2001. “The atmosphere at this school, it’s contagious,” Tambosi said. “You get there, and on a weekend when there are a lot of sports happening, you get a real sense of the community. You have the sense of being part of a family.”

Tambosi hasn’t left that family behind, despite his success. He stays involved as a board member at the Erwin Center for Brand Communications, where he helps students develop advertising and marketing skills. “There’s nothing better than being recognized by my alma mater and going back and giving back what Clemson has given to me,” Tambosi said.

Tambosi wants students to understand that it isn’t possible to fulfill one’s dreams without risking failure. He knows this to be true because he has risked it all. In 2012 he was working a stable, well-paying job in London for Nokia. But, Tambosi wasn’t satisfied — he had other ideas. “I wanted to go back to sports, and I wanted to have a role in the World Cup in Brazil. And I wanted to work for Nike,” Tambosi said.

So, he quit Nokia, and left for Brazil in January 2013. While he had no job offer on the table, he told everyone he was going to work at Nike. Once in Brazil, he spent his time networking with Nike employees, which eventually helped land him a job as Nike brand manager for the 2014 World Cup. “Growing up playing football at a very high level in Brazil, it was a dream to play in the World Cup,” Tambosi said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to do it as a player. But I had the opportunity to live the World Cup, to impact the World Cup, personally, in Brazil through my job.”

When the World Cup ended, Tambosi stayed on with Nike. Now Tambosi can stay in touch with the game he loves, the game for which he has crossed borders and risked professional failure. That passion, that commitment, is something he wants to impart to Clemson students and young people everywhere. “Know where you want to go,” Tambosi said. “Don’t be afraid to fail, and follow your dream.”

— Glenn Bertram ’18

Media moguls in training: J. Seldric Blocker ’01

While looking for internships at Clemson, Seldric Blocker was plucked for a program with First Union. But not for banking or financial needs; it was human resources. Now he’s the director of campus recruiting, shaping paths for future generations of network newsies and entertainment execs as the director of NBCUniversal’s talent acquisition campus programs, Campus2Career.

Each year he fields more than 42,000 applications for about 2,000 spring, summer and fall internships. In the last three years he’s managed more than 5,500 interns, including 300 added to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

Part of Blocker’s job has entailed streamlining the Campus2Career program so there is a standard NBCUniversal experience at each campus they visit, and across all internships and all markets, including their London and Singapore programs. “Flawless execution” is how Blocker defines it. “We want them to have a great experience, even if they decide this isn’t what they want to do long term,” he said. “We want them to leave more curious than when they came in. We want them to have fun.”

Lessons he learned from his own academic and career experience very much inform how he mentors others. He encourages those that come through his office to take advantage of study abroad, be more ambitious and take more risks. One of the ways Blocker and his team allow interns to have fun and take ownership of their internship is through NBCUniversal storytelling. “The students are digital natives, and we encourage them to craft and tell the NBCUniversal story through a multifaceted approach, whether that’s Snapchat or some other social platform. They have their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening next and are brand ambassadors for future generations of interns.”

Blocker is also focused on building diversity across NBCUniversal’s platforms. “We are looking for people who have demonstrated their leadership on campus. We employ a wide variety of majors and backgrounds. They don’t just have to have a passion for media and the entertainment industry. We want to know what you can take from your background and bring to the table to help us tell a more well-rounded story,” said Blocker.

Even after hanging strong in the financial sector through the economic downturn of 2008, Blocker said navigating the media industry at first was a new, interesting beast. “It was tough at first. In the media you have a lot of creative people who have a competitive edge, and you’re managing a first-impression for a major media brand,” said Blocker. Blocker said the experience at NBCUniversal has taught him to meet people where they are, and that being relatable is a skillset that transcends any workplace environment. “[Clemson’s] academic environment did a good job of fostering a sense of responsibility and ownership and made me feel like I belong,” he said. “I want to give others that sense of feeling like they belong, too.”

First-aid kindness: Johannes Huber

Student safety first. It’s a call answered by Clemson Fire and EMS every day, but it was a group of students who first wanted safety ensured.

In the late 1970s Johannes Huber was part of the core group that formed an EMS club on campus. Through training from the Pickens County EMS, Huber and his friends aided students with everything from helping when a Homecoming float turned over and injured a dozen people to providing aid to heart attack victims. “We were really taken in by the student body,” said Huber.

Within a year, they were already seeking funds for an ambulance to have proper transportation for runs. Within Huber’s three years at Clemson, his team was completing up to 150 runs a year, with the backup of Clemson’s fire department.

Huber’s interest in medicine and helping people goes back to his childhood in Germany, when he would bandage local bikers. “Medicine was always my gift,” he said. Grades though, not so much.

A letter from a pen pal from Pennsylvania mentioned Clemson University. Knowing he needed to improve his grades to get into medical school, Huber thought studying abroad would be good for him. So to the hills of South Carolina he went. “It’s just this beautiful town in the countryside with rolling hills and open to an orange and white heaven,” he said with a laugh.

Twice a week he wrote home. Once a month he’d call so his family could hear his voice at $10 a minute. But as an older biochemistry student at age 21, he was looking for more than football games and fraternities to fill his time. “Implementing something new gives you so much energy,” said Huber.“I couldn’t go home on weekends, so I stayed and learned [medicine] through experience.” Huber finally did get into medical school in Germany and returned home for training in general, plastic and microscopy surgery. Now he oversees a staff of about 25 nurses and clocks more than 70 hours a week.

“I’ve been back [to Clemson] several times. … It’s always a homecoming for me,” he said. “I’m just amazed at all the construction, and that spirit is still ever present.” On every return trip he drops by the Clemson Fire and EMS. “College life offers you an opportunity for friendship, and I was very fortunate to be in a position to do that.”

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.”

Light of hope for beating cancer: Brittany Anne Avin ’15

Brittany Anne Avin

With the Capitol building as a backdrop, Brittany Avin and hundreds of volunteers placed 20,000 lights in paper bags — each representing a loved one who has battled cancer — and arranged them to spell out two words: “HOPE” and “CURE.” The most important words, though, were the handwritten messages of compassion and support that decorated 
each bag.

This breathtaking display is a staple of the annual “Lights of Hope” ceremony held in Washington D.C. As the event’s emcee, Avin gave voice to the 750 cancer patients, survivors and volunteers from across the country who attended the event. In addition to honoring those whose lives have been affected by cancer, the ceremony urges Congress to take specific steps to make cancer treatment and research a national priority.

Avin’s determination to make a difference began at Clemson, where she took on an ambitious genetics and biochemistry major. Her impressive academic accomplishments earned her an invitation to the prestigious National Scholars Program, and when she wasn’t studying, she spent her summers participating in undergraduate cancer research programs at Emory University and Vanderbilt University.

Avin was chosen to lead the national event based on her involvement with Clemson’s “Relay for Life” event as a student and her continued commitment to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) as an alumna.

At the ceremony, Avin spoke from her heart, but also from her experience. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 13.

Avin is going beyond advocating for legislative reform as one of 14.5 million cancer survivors living in the United States today. She is currently studying at Johns Hopkins University with hopes to become a cancer researcher.

“Research helped make a difference for me when I was 13 years old,” she said. “It is critical that our lawmakers do everything possible to ensure progress toward treatments is not impeded for those who are receiving a cancer diagnosis today or in the future.

Tiger Mascots

Celebrating 60 Years of The Tiger

Sixty years ago, the Clemson family grew by one, one who quickly became one of the most recognizable, lovable and iconic members of the family: the Tiger mascot.

He’s been to every football game since his welcome to the Clemson family, done thousands of push-ups, visited hospitals and even danced at weddings. But only the select few actually have had the honor of bringing life to the Tiger.

With around 350 appearances each year, committing to being the “man in the suit” is no small feat. These men must travel frequently and train extensively, spending hours brainstorming and executing creative and entertaining stunts, mastering the mascot’s mannerisms and practicing hundreds of push-ups in preparation for sporting events all while still balancing a full student workload.

Michael Bays ’97, M ’99, Tiger mascot from 1994 through 1997 and record holder for most push-ups in his career, organized a reunion of former Tigers during Homecoming to share stories and memories of their glory days behind the mask as a celebration of the Tiger’s 60th birthday.

“Not only did being the Tiger bring me closer to my school,” said Bays, “but it also brought me closer to many people and taught me that the most important thing is putting a smile on a person’s face.”

An impressive total of 35 alumni and former Tiger mascots gathered together to tailgate, reunite at Death Valley and honor the birthday of their beloved mascot. Among others, this group included several Tiger legends such as Zach Mills ’80, inventor of the push-up tradition, push-up record-setters like Bays, and the oldest living Tigers, Billy McCown ’60 and *Steve “Frog” Morrison ’63.

“I think all of us feel a special connection to Clemson that nobody else can ever understand,” said Bays. “When the Tiger is around, it is magic. All I can say is that with 35 Tigers around, the magic is indescribable.”

For more stories of Mascots though the years, go to clemson.edu/clemsonworld and click on “Alumni Profiles.”