PROLOGUE TO WOODWALKER
“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.”
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By age 10, Alex Skatell already had a knack for knowing his market. He convinced his dad to take him to Wal-Mart to buy 24-pack cubes of soda. From there he filled a rolling cooler with ice and the soda and went and sat on the smoldering hot corner near a halfway house and a golf course and just waited. The people came to him since he was selling soda for less than the local convenience store.
“I was doing so well that after a while [the convenience store] called the police on me. I was 10 or 11. I was really young. And they called the police on me to get me to move because they said I was taking their business,” Skatell laughed.
But he saw a need and anticipated it. Supply. Demand. Market-setting trends. He sees them.
Now, he’s anticipating the news, media and how stories will unfold and how people want to view, read, scroll or listen to their stories. Since his days on the corner, the construction science major has carried the same attitude into his ventures creating start-up Independent Journal Review and co-founding IMGE, a digital consulting firm. In the last year, Skatell was named to Forbes “30 under 30” rising stars in media and was also named to Wired magazine’s “20 Tech Insiders Defining the 2016 Campaign.”
“I made a bet that I thought iPhones were going to change how we communicate with one another. … And I made a bet that Facebook … was going to change how news was distributed. So I didn’t just talk about it, I went about figuring out how this platform was going to do that and how could I best invest my time and energy into understanding this platform that would change how news was distributed,” he said.
This past fall Independent Journal Review played host to a Republican debate in New Hampshire along with ABC News by providing first-hand accounts from the candidates’ and viewers’ perspectives.
“So what our experience allowed to have happen was for everyone in America to have input in who’s up and who’s down during the debate. That’s what Americans are looking for in news. They expect the news not to tell them how to think, but show them what is happening and let them make their own decisions,” he said.
Skatell’s success looks like it happened overnight, but success and building two companies with 105 employees took a lot of rejection.
“Entrepreneurship is also just getting rejected and punched in the face nonstop. You really have to be a glutton for punishment,” he said. “You have a lot of people tell you no, and you have to make a lot of decisions that won’t go over well with a lot of people, but you know you have to be confident in your decisions and your vision. The barriers to entry for just anyone right now are so low. You don’t have to ask for permission.”
“I saw an opportunity,” he said. “There have been several times in my life where I’ve seen opportunities and I’ve leveraged just a very little amount of capital at my disposal and made big bets on whether or not those things would change an industry.”
In 1975, a group of freshman women found themselves living in Benet Hall and began a lifelong journey of friendship and family. It’s a group that perfectly represents what alumni mean when they talk about the Clemson family. Every year, the Benet Babes get together to renew their friendship and catch up with each others’ lives.
This year, that group decided it was time to pay it forward, and they joined together to establish a scholarship fund. Lisa Burnett Hendrix, described as “the chief Benet Babe advocate for establishing and maintaining our scholarship,” says it best:
“In 1975, we came from different towns, states and backgrounds, to receive a quality education at Clemson University. As fate would have it, we were assigned rooms in Benet Hall and so began our lifelong friendships. As the years passed, we began to get together on an annual basis and reminisce about how fortunate we were to meet one another at Clemson.
“We decided it was time that others were offered the same type of experience. Hence, the establishment of the ‘Benet Babes’ scholarship which will allow a Clemson student to gain a great education while developing relationships that may last a lifetime. After all, we are one big family, the Clemson family, and we take great care of one another.”
Luke Yoder ’94, director of field operations for the San Diego Padres, is a behind-the-scenes star.
On a hot July day in 2011, Luke Yoder was watering the infield dirt to keep the dust down — as he does before every home game — when a grounds crew member caught his eye. The man was gesturing frantically, pointing at a mound of turf that was rising, alien-like, near the left field line. Yoder dropped his hose and ran over to it. It was 3:15 p.m. The game was due to start at 3:35.
On reaching the spot, he saw that the bubble, now two-feet high, was surrounded by an 8-by-4-foot square of wet turf, and when he bent down and touched the area, it rippled like a water bed. It was now 3:20 p.m. The stands were filled with spectators and the team was warming up.
Yoder ran and shut off the water main to stop the pressure from building. “Then I switched into surgical mode, snatched a knife and made a four-inch cut in the bubble. Water immediately gushed out,” Yoder recalls. It was 3:25. As the groundskeeper reached into the hole to determine its depth, his arm sunk up to his shoulder. “I grabbed four bags of Diamond Dry, a drying agent that’s like kitty litter, and filled the hole with it,” he says.
Yoder prepared to tell the umpires to delay the game. If that happened, it would make the news on ESPN, and even though the problem with the turf wasn’t his fault, Yoder’s bosses would not be happy. Even more important, the area could be a safety hazard. A player stepping into a 3-foot hole could be badly injured.
With six minutes until game time, Yoder stood for the national anthem. Then he tamped down the Diamond Dry, checked that it was packed solid, and breathed a sigh of relief as he hurried off the field. This was definitely not a typical day at work.
The Genesis of a Career
As a kid, Yoder never thought he’d end up working for a ballpark. The summer of his junior year in high school, on a family visit to his grandfather’s farm in Ohio, an uncle took him to the elite country club where he worked as golf course superintendent. “I was amazed at how meticulously the fairways were maintained. They looked like carpets,” Yoder says. He had a lawn cutting business at the time, and his uncle was the one who suggested that the teen study horticulture because he knew his nephew liked being outside. Yoder decided to study horticultural turfgrass management at Clemson.
Because he wasn’t sure he’d get in, he and his parents were thrilled when he got accepted. Between the biochemistry and physiology, the coursework didn’t come easy, he admits. But with discipline, his GPA rose every semester.
Yoder worked for a golf course his first three summers during college, and during the year he worked at the turfgrass research plots on campus, which gave him a chance to apply what he learned in class. “I assumed I’d work on golf courses, like most students in my major at the time, but my adviser suggested I try sports turf, or athletic turf management, to make sure I wouldn’t be missing anything,” he says. As it turned out, the summer before he graduated in December 1994, he worked for the Greenville Braves and fell in love with ballparks.
His first job was as head groundskeeper with the Sioux City Explorers in Iowa. Then he moved to the Iowa Cubs, followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, which proved to him that sports turf could be a viable career. He’s been with the Padres for almost 12 years.
A Perfect Match
Turfgrass management requires knowledge of both art and science; the former, for the design and aesthetics of both the grassy areas and the dirt, or skinned areas, and the latter, because of diseases and insects that can affect the grass and plants. The Clemson alumnus gained his artistic skills on the job and his scientific knowledge from his college classes like plant pathology and ornamental plant diseases.
Ask him his favorite part of the job, and he rattles off a litany of favorite tasks instead. Being outside every day. The smell of fresh-cut grass. Getting his hands dirty. Traveling to the Padres’ minor league fields, which takes him to places such as El Paso, Texas, and the Dominican Republic. “Just showing up to the ballpark every day is something a million people would love to do, and it never gets old. I get to work on, be in charge of and mold the biggest parcel of natural grass in downtown San Diego. It’s like a canvas for our artwork,” he explains.
The Home-Field Advantage
Baseball has more of a home-field advantage than other sports, Yoder maintains, because aspects of the field can be manipulated to give a team a leg up. “Take the grass,” he says. A football or soccer field is all grass; it doesn’t make much difference how high you cut it. But if you cut a baseball field one quarter of an inch higher or lower, it affects how far the ball will roll into the infield and favors different pitchers or hitters.
Then there are the skinned areas, Yoder continues. In baseball, 70 percent of the field is played on these areas, so you might make the area in front of home plate extremely soft if you have a sinker-ball pitcher on your team. Since batters will be more likely to hit ground balls, that can help with getting an easy out. Or, if you have a batter up against a sinker-ball pitcher on the other team, you could make the area hard so your team has the advantage.
Yoder may not wear a Padres uniform, but he says that “to be able to work with the players and give them an edge” makes him feel part of the team. And the team, in turn, would likely describe him as a most valuable player.
Yoder, whose family is from Greenville, may live on the opposite side of the country now, but he tries to get home for at least one Clemson football game a year. If there’s one thing he has taken with him, it’s his Clemson pride. His sister and two brothers also attended Clemson, and if his math is correct, he calculates that for 16 years straight there was a Yoder attending the University.
Pat Olsen is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. Photos by San Diego Padres
Golden Tiger Reunion
June 11-12, 2015
Madren Conference Center
The 2015 Golden Tiger Reunion will be held Thursday and Friday, June 11–12, at the Madren Conference Center. We will be celebrating the class of 1965 with the Golden Tiger induction ceremony. Make your plans to join us this summer! Call the Martin Inn at 888-654-9020 for reservations. For more information and registration details, go to alumni.clemson.edu/reunion.
Welcome Back Festival
Aug. 17, 2015
Join us to kick off the school year at the annual Welcome Back Festival, sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Student Alumni Council. College Avenue is closed down and local restaurants, businesses and University organizations line the street with food tastings, prizes and merchandise from more than 70 vendors. Entry is free; food and merchandise can be purchased with 50-cent tickets sold to raise money for the Student Alumni Council Endowment Scholarship Fund. If your company is interested in being a vendor, contact Stewart Summers at 864-656-5653.
Alumni Golf Tournament
Sept. 11, 2015
Walker Golf Course
Join us for the 6th annual Alumni Golf Tournament on Friday, September 11, 2015, at the John E. Walker Sr. Golf Course on the Clemson campus. Limited to 20 teams, this tournament is an opportunity to compete for bragging rights as the best Clemson Alumni golf foursome and the chance to represent Clemson on the national stage at the Acura College Alumni Team Championship at Pinehurst in October. Sponsorships also are available, beginning at $250 and ranging to $5,000. For more information and to register, contact Randy Boatwright at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit alumni.clemson.edu/alumni-golf-challenge.
Anyone who pays attention to the news knows that STEM education and environmental sustainability are hot topics, deemed crucial to our country’s ability to remain competitive and to our long-term economic prospects. Since long before these topics started generating headlines, this year’s Class of ’39 Award for Excellence recipient has been applying her expertise to generate innovative and comprehensive approaches to these important topics.
Sociology professor Catherine Mobley’s research in these areas has not been isolated, as she has collaborated with colleagues in a variety of disciplines across campus. Whether she’s examining human behavior as it pertains to water quality and quantity, college student perceptions of environmental issues or the academic experiences and pathways of engineering majors, Mobley’s research is marked by creative collaboration and insights that “would not otherwise emerge if I were working in isolation.”
That creative collaboration in research has been supported by more than $10 million in grants on which she has been either principal or co-investigator. And it extends into the classroom as well. She has engaged in several interdisciplinary teaching endeavors, has mentored more than 300 students seeking field experience in sociology and has served on nearly 70 master’s and Ph.D. committees. A nationally recognized expert on service-learning, she has been a core faculty member for two living-learning communities: the Community Scholars/Civics and Service House and the Leading for the Environment and Future community. Mobley also extends her sociological expertise to her community efforts as well, having served on the board of several local organizations, including the United Way of Pickens County, the Upstate Homeless Coalition and the League of Women Voters of the Clemson Area.
This recognition is particularly meaningful to Mobley, knowing she was chosen by her peers for the award. “I’ve been walking by the Carillon Bell monument for nearly 20 years now, in awe of the people whose names are inscribed there,” she says. “Little did I know when I was attending Clemson University in the early 1980’s that I’d be here 30 years later, pursuing the career of my dreams.”
Described by Interim Dean Bobby McCormick as “a top researcher and dedicated teacher,” Mobley did her undergraduate work at Clemson, graduating in 1984. She earned her master’s in policy analysis and development at the University of Bath in England and her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Maryland. She returned to Clemson in 1996 as assistant professor of sociology, earning tenure in 2001 and promotion to professor of sociology in 2012.
The Class of 1939 established the Award for Excellence in 1989 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the class. It is presented annually to a member of the faculty whose outstanding contributions for a five-year period represent the highest achievement of service to the University, the student body and the larger community.
Wayne and Shirley Bennett hosted this group of 21 for the Clemson Alumni Danube Cruise this past year. Their enthusiasm is infectious as they talk about the cities they explored, the things they learned, the people they enjoyed and the comforts of cruising down the Danube River through eight countries and 12 cities. A particular highlight was having a Clemson expert along to share tidbits about the history and culture of the areas in which they were traveling.
Alumni trips offer unequaled access, educational value and the knowledge of Clemson experts to enrich your experience. You can relax, explore and immerse yourself in dream destinations without having to worry about making arrangements and reservations.
Has the travel bug bitten you? Trips this year include Alaska, the Swiss Alps, the Pacific Northwest and Nashville. Contact Randy Boatwright at email@example.com for more information.
Every spring, Clemson recognizes a select number of extraordinary alumni. And this year is no different. Five men have been nominated and selected by their peers using three areas of evaluation: enhancing Clemson’s value for future generations, serving both in the professional and public realm, and serving as a model for present and future students through personal accomplishments.
These are no ordinary alumni. And because of that, they have been designated as recipients of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award.
When Gerald Glenn was still a student in civil engineering at Clemson, he was offered a position with Daniel Construction, which merged with Fluor. An integral part of the team that designed the structure of Fluor Daniel, he rose to group president and later became the chair, president and CEO of Chicago Bridge & Iron, one of the world’s largest construction companies. After early retirement in 1994, he started his own consulting company, The Glenn Group.
Glenn serves on the board of directors of Houston’s CHI-St. Luke’s Hospital and United Way. He stays involved with Clemson, recruiting students from The Woodlands area and supporting the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, named in his honor.
A member of the Clemson University Foundation Board, he is a founding partner of the Barker Scholars Endowment and a major supporter of IPTAY.
Personal discipline and the mentorship of one of his closest friends, Dean Walter Cox, helped Normal Pulliam achieve his degree in industrial management. A job at Owens Corning Fiberglass and an MBA from Harvard Business School followed. After a position at Sonoco Products, Pulliam founded Pulliam Investment Company and Pulliam Enterprises, as well as First National Bank of the South in Spartanburg.
Pulliam has served on the board of commissioners of the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind, and has been president of the Spartanburg Boys’ Home and currently serves on the board of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
A faithful Clemson supporter, Pulliam provided the endowment and initial funding for Clemson’s Master’s of Real Estate Development, is the namesake of the Norman F. Pulliam Founders Award and was responsible for the development of the Walter T. Cox Scholarship.
Gregg Morton believes Clemson prepared him for life — it taught him discipline and to always be prepared. After graduating in administrative management in 1978, he worked his way up at Southern Bell to become president of AT&T Southeastern region, managing state governmental and external affairs.
Morton has served on and chaired the executive committee and legislative task force of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education and the National Advisory Board of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville.
A mentor for students in the College of Business and Behavioral Sciences, Morton is a past member of the Clemson University Foundation Board. He has supported Clemson Athletics both financially and by mentoring football players through the new Tigerhood Program. He has secured more than $1 million in gifts and contributions from AT&T for the University, including donations for the AT&T Auditorium at the CU-ICAR campus.
Charles Mickel credits his Clemson education for his success — from graduating with a degree in industrial management to earning an MBA from the University of South Carolina to his professional career.
After serving as vice president for U.S. Shelter Corporation, which
was acquired by Insignia Financial Group, Mickel founded Capital Deployment LLC, which manages commercial real estate and private equity investments.
Mickel volunteers with the Daniel-Mickel Foundation, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all people in the Greenville community. President of the Museum Association board and of the 2014-2015 Artisphere festival, he serves on the Christ Church Episcopal School Board of Visitors and with the Community Foundation of Greenville.
Mickel was the president of the Clemson Real Estate Foundation, served on the Board of Visitors and the Clemson University Foundation Board, and was integral in the development of the CU-ICAR project in Greenville.
A member of the 1980 basketball team that advanced to the Elite 8, Bobby Conrad graduated with a degree in history. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia, then carved out a legal career that took him from South Carolina to Washington, D.C.
Conrad was selected by Attorney General Janet Reno as chief of her Campaign Financing Task Force in 2000. That year he became the first lawyer to question under oath in the same week a seated U.S. president and vice president (Clinton and Gore). In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated him as U.S. Attorney for Western North Carolina, and in 2005, he was confirmed by the Senate to a position as U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of North Carolina.
Conrad is an adjunct professor at Wake Forest School of Law, a trustee at Belmont Abbey College and on the faculty of the Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia.
A member of Clemson’s Athletic Hall of Fame and Letterwinners Association board of directors, Conrad serves as a mentor for pre-law students.