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The Idea of Clemson

Fourteen years ago, James Barker approached the podium for his inaugural address. Unlike many new presidents, he already had a fairly comprehensive understanding of the institution. After all, “president” was just the most recent of his Clemson monikers. Student, alumnus, faculty member, dean, parent — he had already experienced the University from all of those perspectives.

As he reflected with those in attendance on “The Idea of Clemson,” it was from a very well-informed perch. In an address that was forward-looking and optimistic and challenging, he examined nine qualities — of being inclusive, academically challenging, visionary, indomitable, bold and innovative, distinctive, sensitive to the needs of others, focused on the value of the individual and based on family — that he said described the “wonderful, powerful, noble idea called Clemson.”

“The most important ideas,” he said, “have a physical manifestation. The idea of Clemson surrounds you today in the ‘sense of place’ and ‘sense of community’ you can see and feel on this campus.” He went on to say, “To all gathered here today, I say that with everything I am, I believe in the idea called Clemson. But Clemson is still a work in progress.”

And the charge that Jim Barker accepted at his inauguration was “to ensure that the idea of Clemson will be stronger at the end of my service than it is now at the beginning.” In what is known now as characteristic Barker, he stated his strong conviction that “the only way to fulfill this responsibility is to find the way for each of you to join me in this effort.”

With that statement, and the one that followed, he launched the idea of “One Clemson.”

“I am convinced,” Barker said, “that there is no university in America stronger than Clemson when we are ‘one Clemson.’ … If we unite around the idea of Clemson, we have a future beyond our highest aspirations.”

After referencing the legacy and destiny of the University, President James Barker finished by simply saying, “Let’s get started.”

And get started he did. In the next few pages, alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends share their reflections on the ways in which Jim Barker’s presidency advanced what he called “The Idea of Clemson.”

In my humble opinion, James Barker and R.C. Edwards were the best presidents to have served Clemson in any time or season, but especially this was the case when it came to their steadfast leadership surrounding issues of race relations.

Dr. Edwards’ leadership during Harvey Gantt’s 1963 enrollment is well documented and widely known. What many may not know, however, is the quiet, dignified and determined way that President Barker built on President Edwards’ legacy to garner Clemson the coveted reputation as one of the nation’s premier institutions for tackling very complex and vexing issues surrounding diversity in higher education.

Three such initiatives that he led include:

• The visionary Call Me MISTER program: No one really knew what to do about the chronic black male teacher crisis until this program unfolded. It is the national model.

• The National Best Practices Conference in the Achievement of Students of Color: Poor retention of all students had been one of higher education’s ugly secrets for many years.

This challenge was most acute among black students. After more than a decade, this annual gathering has become the gold standard for identifying solutions to this persistent problem. President Barker has participated in every minute of every session. He thus created an indelible impression about Clemson on the minds of the thousands of leaders from across the nation.

• Black faculty recruitment: With the appointment of Dr. Juan Gilbert as chair of Human-Centered Computing and later as the first Presidential Endowed Chair, President Barker has done what many in higher education, industry and government thought to be impossible. Recruiting and retaining black faculty is intensely competitive in all disciplines, but especially in science, technology and mathematics. In short order, Clemson now has the largest concentration of black computer science faculty and Ph.D students in the nation. This could not have happened without President Barker’s leadership.

These accomplishments have truly been game changers in terms of how Clemson is perceived across the nation and around the world. President Barker’s singular ability to do the right thing while institutionalizing positive outcomes will hold Clemson in good stead for decades to come.


Frank Matthews


— Frank L. Matthews ’71
Co-Founder, Cox Matthews and Associates
Publisher, Diverse Issues in Higher Education

During most of President Jim Barker’s tenure as president of Clemson, I served as the director of the National Scholars Program, which was inaugurated by President Barker in 2000. “To be a national university,” he said at the time, “we must have a national-caliber scholarship program, and this is it.”

For me, the National Scholars Program symbolizes Clemson’s extraordinary academic and intellectual growth during Jim Barker’s presidency. To create the program called for extraordinary vision and for enormous faith in Clemson’s students, staff and faculty. To sustain it required a continuing commitment to providing the resources necessary to recruit, educate and challenge some of our very best students. Finally, to establish the program as a vital and integral part of Clemson’s culture required President and Mrs. Barker’s personal involvement and support. Jim and Marcia have been at nearly every important National Scholars event. They have entertained every group of National Scholars freshmen at their home. And they have made it clear to everyone at Clemson that the National Scholars Program — and the Calhoun Honors College as well — are both key symbols and very real products of Clemson’s commitment to academic excellence.


William Lasser


— William Lasser
Alumni Distinguished Professor of Political Science
Director, Calhoun Honors College

I believe that President Barker’s commitment to elevate the academic standards of Clemson, to lead with transparency and to be accessible to the entire Clemson family, especially to students, is second to none. Although I did not attend Clemson, I have worked here for 41 years, and it has been so rewarding during President Barker’s tenure to watch the University develop from an excellent regional university to one that is highly ranked nationally and well-respected. All Clemson alumni, and past and present faculty and staff, are proud that a degree from Clemson means much more now than in the past.

In addition to being a masterful architect of so many academic innovations and accomplishments, President Barker’s handprint is obvious in the improvements on the facility and the landscaping that have occurred during his tenure as president.

I will always be grateful to President Barker for the wonderful support that he has given the arts programs at Clemson, for no university can be considered great without having a strong program in the arts. He and Clemson’s gracious first lady attended performances at the Brooks Center as often as their schedules would allow. President and Mrs. Barker leave huge shoes to fill.


Mickey Harder

— Mickey Harder
Director, Brooks Center for the Performing Arts

“Do you wish to be great?” St. Augustine once asked. “Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundations.”

Fourteen years ago, Jim Barker set out to build a better university. He had a vision that Clemson could be a nationally recognized public institution. The fact that President Barker’s lofty vision for Clemson has been realized is certainly commendable by itself. But the most compelling part of the story is not about the obvious success President Barker has achieved, but rather how he went about achieving it. He met the challenge posed by St. Augustine to the faithful so many centuries ago — he stayed grounded in humility — built a foundation on it — even as Clemson soared.

History is replete with examples of powerful leaders who are larger than life, whose force of personality makes them irresistible to watch; leaders who are at their best and most dynamic when the spotlight shines the brightest on them. Few of us equate power, much less success, to those who turn the spotlight away from themselves. And yet, that is exactly how President Barker has achieved such remarkable success as one of the longest-serving college presidents in the U.S. He is always ready to lead and always reluctant to take credit. His humility encouraged and enabled other talented people to work on Clemson’s behalf — all headed in the same direction, all following his lead.

He and Marcia were always exceedingly gracious, greeting students, parents and staff as warmly as they did visiting dignitaries and VIPs. They represented Clemson globally and championed the University in prestigious venues. But he and Marcia were just as content — probably more so — opening their home at night to students who simply needed some support. He was comfortable walking the campus and cheering at games. He wanted Clemson to succeed on his watch, not because of his own personal investment or aggrandizement, but because when he went off to college as a young man, he went to Clemson. He wanted to give back better than he had received.

Today the University stands taller than ever, nationally recognized for its academics and athletics. It’s in the top tier of public schools — just as Jim Barker envisioned more than a dozen years ago when he began building a lasting foundation.

For Barker, it was always about Clemson rising tall, about generations of students crediting CU for providing a springboard to countless opportunities. It was never about his own legacy. Yet, history will undoubtedly record President Jim Barker’s rich contributions to Clemson, accolades the man himself is too humble to accept.


David Wilkins


— David Wilkins
Chair, Clemson University Board of Trustees

I have been privileged in my teaching career at Clemson University to have had James F. Barker as a student in my classes for three of his early semesters (one B, two A’s).

Few people have known that Jim Barker came to Clemson on a partial athletic scholarship. He was a pole-vaulter from Kingsport, Tennessee. Like his reticence to talk about his ability to draw, he seemed less inclined to review his brief career as a vaulter.

During his early years as a student in the school of architecture, he had an assignment, possibly in design or to test his creative inclinations. He visited my office and asked if I would take a look at his project. To me, Jim always had been a serious student. Naturally, I was flattered by his request. He unveiled plans and drawings for a city to be constructed in the area where South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina boundaries are contiguous. The overall concept was a layout of a series of concentric circles, in which each circle some function or activity — habitation, religion, education, civic government, business, medical, etc., would be planned. I was amazed at his vision.

Jim Barker’s vision has carried over to the planning and development of the Clemson University campus, which now impresses students, visitors and local residents.

I have always taken pride in and have admiration for my former student from Kingsport, Tennessee.


Ben Skardon


— Col. Ben Skardon ’38
Professor Emeritus of English

As I reflect on the presidency of Jim Barker, I am so very proud of the accomplishments that Clemson has achieved over the course of Jim’s administration. Under Jim’s leadership, Clemson has risen to become a top-25 public university. Jim aspires to see Clemson improve because he wants to see Clemson students have an opportunity to receive the best education possible.

Jim Barker is a man of integrity. He is a great visionary and great strategic planner. He leads with a core passion to put the students and their success first. Most importantly, this “down to earth” man loves Clemson University! Marcia Barker has been an incredible leader as well and a fantastic ambassador for Clemson. She leads with a very special style and grace, and she has made Clemson a much better university.

Clemson has been blessed by the Barkers!


Harvey Gantt


— Harvey B. Gantt
Principal, Gantt Huberman Architects

I have always admired Jim Barker as the essence of a true Clemson man. He proved my long-held belief that architects, because of their unique education and training, could go out into the world and do much more than design buildings. Jim and I have often reminisced on a speech I gave at the College of Architecture years ago. I spoke on the theme of how some of us student architects could one day leave Clemson to serve as leaders in society … because we were being trained to analyze problems, examine alternatives, choose a way forward, and execute a solution with conviction. In other words, we were trained to be leaders, in our design firms, in civic life, in politics, in business, and even to lead a great university … like Clemson. Jim was in that audience when I spoke, and says he was inspired. Wow!!! And he has gone on to build a great record as one of Clemson’s finest presidents and a great leader in education for South Carolina.


Smyth McKissick


— E. Smyth McKissick III
Clemson University Trustee

Jim Barker is well-known for his intense interest and caring spirit for the well-being of Clemson students. What is not so well-known is his unique ability to manifest that same level of interest for campus organizations that are not an integral part of the University’s core mission of teaching and research.

I witnessed this during the past two years as IPTAY went through a reorganization. Early in the process we sought guidance from President Barker. He maintained a high level of interest in IPTAY , and never failed to avail himself to us. As the IPTAY Board moved through our changes, we recognized that the new landscape of college athletics suggested more involvement of college presidents. President Barker was aware of this new trend, and embraced our idea to have him become an active member of the IPTAY Board.

Jim never hesitated to help IPTAY through these changing times and was fully engaged and supportive during my term as president. I saw firsthand why the Clemson Family has so completely embraced
the Barkers.


Charles Dalton


— Charles Dalton
President, IPTAY Board of Directors

Jim Barker is one of the finest individuals I know, and I’m incredibly appreciative of what he’s meant to me both personally and professionally during my time as ACC commissioner.

As I look back over his tenure as president of Clemson University, it’s important to note that his fingerprints are all over the many monumental milestones that have happened within the ACC . From the league’s expansion in 2003, through the latest expansions and the grant of media rights, Jim has been instrumental in strategically positioning the Atlantic Coast Conference for the long term.

There’s no question that Jim is one of the most well-respected presidents, not only in the ACC but also across the NCAA landscape. As an educator and leader, he is insightful, thoughtful and brings tremendous wisdom.

Jim has become one of my most trusted advisers, and I’m thankful for the friendship we’ve developed over the years.

I wish Jim, Marcia and the entire Barker family nothing but health and happiness in the years ahead.


John Swofford

— John Swofford
ACC Commissioner

I first met my architecture classmate, the future president James F. Barker, on Riggs Field in August of 1965. Riggs served as the track at that time, and Jim was practicing his event, the pole vault. My first Clemson roommate was the other freshman vaulter, and he was excited to introduce me to his teammate since, he surmised, we had so much in common as architecture majors. Little did he know that this thoughtful introduction would lead to a lifetime of collegiality marked by true friendship.

As we approached the field from the south stands, Jim picked up his pole, took a deep breath and ran at full speed toward the box, the bar and the pit. Jim planted the pole perfectly in the box, leaned back with all his strength and swung his body skyward into a handstand with amazing grace. Then, the pole shattered. The sound was like a rifle’s blast echoing off Holtzendorff and the Barracks. All motion stopped and all eyes turned to the vaulting pit. Seeming unfazed by the disruption, Jim continued the backward flow of his body, executed a perfect back flip and landed on his feet in the pit. Still holding a four-foot piece of the offending instrument, he strode out to greet his teammate and his classmate with a broad smile as if to ask: “How’d you like that?”

Occasionally I will retell this story as I introduce President Barker and I like to add: “and he’s been landing on his feet ever since.”


John Jacques


— John Jacques ’70, AIA, CAF Director
Professor Emeritus of Architecture

From my perspective, the most significant contribution made by Jim Barker during my tenure as vice president for research and economic development was to articulate the “Top Twenty” Vision, and hold us accountable for it. The vision was compelling, succinct, memorable and measurable. It galvanized our thinking about Clemson University as a distinctive, national research university, guided our strategic planning and drove our implementation. The quarterly “Report Card” measured our progress.

For me, the second most important concept by Jim was to challenge us to develop a “Town/Gown” relationship with the City of Greenville.

These two bold ideas set in motion the deliberations and strategies which culminated in CU-ICAR and the other innovation campuses. As we worked on developing the practical implications of public/private partnerships that were aligned with the University’s core academic missions of teaching and research, and fostered economic development for South Carolina, Jim was personally engaged in these discussions. As the physical campus of CU-ICAR was designed and built, he brought his architectural background to the design charrettes. It was a personal privilege for me to tour the CGEC with Jim, and have him give me a passionate description of the sight lines and the architectural highlights of the building.

Finally, from a personal perspective, I could not have asked for a more supportive and encouraging president than Jim Barker. Recognizing the very high risks associated with such a bold idea as CU-ICAR , he consistently was the “champion” with our Board of Trustees, our state legislators and the Greenville community. I consider it a great honor and privilege to have spent the last nine years of my professional career serving under President James F. Barker.


Chris Prizembel


— Christian E.G. Przirembel
Vice President Emeritus for Research and Economic Development

It would be easy to rhapsodize about Jim Barker’s intelligence, his dedication and his humaneness. But anyone who has been near Clemson University in the last dozen years knows about all that.

So I add this comment: Throughout his presidency, Jim taught a course called “The President’s Seminar.” It met on Tuesday afternoons each spring and included about 15 students from several different disciplines. And it included six or eight faculty who, along with the president, made presentations and joined discussions. I was lucky enough to get in on it, and I count it as one of the best experiences of my 38 years at Clemson. As I look back on that seminar, I realize that, except for his Tiger Paw cuff links and ties, Jim did not appear to be president of anything. He was just a part of the general fray. Maybe he was so good with the students because he had been a Clemson student himself; maybe he was so good with the faculty because he had been on the faculty — and was still on the faculty. Whatever the cause, he was one of us, and we loved it.


Bill Koon


— Bill Koon
Professor Emeritus of English

“One Clemson” was more than a motto to President Jim Barker. He truly wanted the academic and athletic communities to merge and achieve a unified pride in Clemson University. That’s where Solid Orange came from — speaking to our traditions and how we conduct ourselves to understand our part in making the University strong. He worked hard to create an environment of unity when so many campuses across the country experience disunity.

He not only talked about supporting athletics, but as a former student-athlete, he is competitive. He and Marcia would attend many, many sporting events; they welcomed student-athletes regularly into the President’s Home, and knew most of our coaches and staff by name. You could count on seeing their Labs, Macs and Mookie, at rowing meets. In addition to an already full schedule with campus responsibilities, he chose to be involved with the NCAA at the national level.

He entered his tenure with extremely high athletic goals, targeting national success especially for football and men’s basketball. We’re all proud that under President Barker’s leadership, Clemson football has returned to the Top 10, won three divisional championships and the first outright conference championship in 20 years.

While men’s basketball at Clemson had historically struggled, President Barker’s support enabled our program to enjoy some unparalleled success and continuing progress — specifically, four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, a first in Clemson history.

Certainly, Clemson enjoyed success and significant progress in other sports as well, but I find it fitting that as a track letterman, his final spring as president included Brianna Rollins’ thrilling individual national championship at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and our men’s and women’s track programs again competing at the highest level.

What’s refreshing about the athletic success is that it was accomplished with President Barker’s high academic expectations as well. While Clemson’s student-athlete academic performance has been strong in the past, it became measurably stronger in all sports the past decade.

Jim Barker gave our athletic program his support, his vision and his energy. He gave us “One Clemson.”


Terry Don Phillips


— Terry Don Phillips
Former Clemson Athletics Director

Jim Barker’s passion for being a president who was devoted to public service became evident within his first 100 days in office. He took teams of his administrative group on two trips across South Carolina to meet the people who love Clemson dearly but rarely get to the main campus. He continued that enthusiasm for engaging with the public throughout his time as president.

He extended that commitment to public service when the University embarked on the creation of “new” enterprise campuses in locations across the state. His brand of economic development was to take the University to where the action was located. This idea has led to one of the country’s most relevant and successful university technology-based economic development strategies. Jim’s unique ability to engage with the state’s citizens has allowed Clemson University to maintain a strong sense of reality as we do our daily work.


John Kelly


— John Kelly
Vice President for Economic Development

In early May 2006 a senior, Travis Rada, realized he was an hour short of graduating. Travis’ mother, Janet, was very ill with cancer, and he had lost track of his hours since he had been trying to spend as much time with his mom as possible. Travis took the course during Maymester to complete his requirements to graduate in August. But the doctors had told Janet that she probably wouldn’t be alive in August. Through all of Janet’s cancer treatments, her one goal had been to see Travis graduate from Clemson, and Patrick, her youngest son, graduate from T.L. Hanna High School, both that May.

With the help of registrar Stan Smith, President Barker presented Travis with a certificate of completion on June 1, 2006. The ceremony took place in the President’s Office with Travis’ parents, brother and grandparents present, Travis in his cap and gown and President Barker in his academic regalia. Less than six weeks later, I attended the memorial service for Janet Rada. Front and center of all the pictures that were placed on the table to honor Janet’s memory was the photograph of President Barker and Travis in their academic regalia and Travis’ proud family members.


Sandy McKinney


— Sandy McKinney
Executive Assistant to the President

President Barker’s accomplishments at Clemson will leave a lasting impact on the future of the University. His consistent involvement with the student body has been a major factor in producing the “Clemson Experience” that is so often discussed. Students have been reflecting on their favorite memories with him, including times when he passed out lollipops at the Homecoming floats, opened his home for trick-or-treating on Halloween, allowed students to walk his dogs, did pushups as the Tiger mascot during a football game and helped with freshman move-in.

President Barker’s desire to make Clemson the best it can be, while preserving the rich heritage and traditions that make the Clemson experience so unique, is remarkable. Clemson’s success in the past decade is largely due to his leadership and unwavering values He will always be remembered as one of Clemson’s most outstanding and respected presidents, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him during these last few months of his presidency.


Kayle Seawright


— Kayley Seawright
President, Undergraduate Student Body

As I reflect over the past 14 years of Jim Barker’s tenure as president of Clemson University, two words, in particular, come to mind — Clemson Family. President Barker really does understand the meaning of these two words because he was reared in the family that is so proud to call him one of our own.

He possesses a deep sense of caring and placing the Clemson Family and, in particular, the current Clemson students first. His unwavering resolve has helped Clemson remain a “high seminary of learning” just as Clemson’s founder, Thomas Green Clemson, so eloquently stated in his Will. We are so proud and fortunate to have been able to call Clemson’s 14th president one of our own.


Ann Hunter


— Ann W. Hunter ’80, ’82
President, Clemson Alumni Association

Jim Barker has been the only president I have known since I came to Clemson in 2003. He has set the bar very high for future presidents and has certainly brought Clemson to a higher level academically, athletically — in all areas.

He is a class man who has been a joy to work with. I will be forever indebted to him for supporting my hire as head coach in 2008. He has treated me with respect in every way since I have been here.

What I will remember most about Jim Barker is his genuine love for Clemson.


Dabo Swinney


— Dabo Swinney
Clemson Head Football Coach

Cappy and Sweet, you’re our favorite Tigers! Thank you for teaching us cadence count, that orange and purple are the best colors, and for letting us hitch rides at the First Friday Parades. We’ve loved our many adventures in the President’s House, like counting tigers and camping out in our tiger tent in the living room. We’re saving chairs for you at the tailgate. We love you!
Love,
Madeline and Eliza Barker
Granddaughters

We would just like to thank you both for introducing us to so many friendly students over the years. You are so right when you say Clemson students are the best! We sure are going to miss our morning walks on campus with you guys.
Love,
Mookie and Macs
Barker pups-in-residence

P.S. We really are SO SORRY for chasing after that skunk we found in front of the P & A Building one morning. We had no idea he would spray us and that it would take a week full of baths to get us clean!

President Barker was never just a figurehead — he was an active participant in every Clemson student’s experience. Few university presidents have improved their school’s academics so remarkably, and even fewer have earned the genuine love and respect of its students.

At the Clemson vs. Furman game this past year, the crowd bellowed, as usual, in coordination with the Tiger’s pushups. After a fairly long count, the Tiger unexpectedly stood up, threw off his headpiece and revealed an impassioned President Barker. Upon recognizing him, the stadium’s roar soared because we all knew that he shared our love, devotion and pride for Clemson.

At my ring ceremony, President Barker showed his unyielding devotion to Clemson students once again. I had always heard that there is something sacred about a Clemson ring ceremony; after 90 hard-earned hours we would walk with our fellow classmates to receive that famous and celebrated Clemson ring. Unfortunately, we knew that President Barker had recently received emergency surgery and assumed he would not be able to present our rings. However, as he had throughout my entire Clemson experience, he proved that Clemson students were his first priority. As he presented me with my ring, he leaned over and said, “We’re proud of you,” and I, along with the rest of the students receiving their rings April 8, 2013, knew that he truly was.


Ashton Lee


— Ashton Lee
Senior, Clemson University


When I think of the Barkers’ tenure at Clemson, I am struck by their family approach. They always would speak at orientation programs and offer their home, their dogs and even themselves to anyone feeling a little homesick. I believe Clemson is such a happy place because you do not feel like you’re at an institution. There is a constant feel of home, no matter where your other home may be. I truly feel the Barkers were at the center of this warm, caring atmosphere.

On a personal note, they arrived for move-in day for my daughter Libby, and then a couple of years later for my daughter Hannah. President Barker gave them each a signed miniature Clemson banner and told them to keep it with them till graduation for luck. Right from day one it was a personal, magnetic approach that made our whole family feel like we were home. The Barkers’ genuine love of the place was transparent and infectious, and thankfully will continue to live at Clemson.

— Bart Proctor
Parent of Libby ’13 and Hannah (sophomore)

Cadence Count: The Barker Presidency

For 14 years, James F. Barker ’70 has served as Clemson’s 14th president and an ardent cheerleader for the University. Under his leadership, the University has grown substantially while still maintaining a firm grip on its identity and sense of family.

Here are just a few of the numbers that tell the story.

The presidency of Jim Barker … by the numbers.

A time for change

For the first time in 14 years as Clemson’s president, the volume of mail I received this semester was so great that I could not even consider answering all of it. So forgive me if I use this space in Clemson World in a very personal way — to say thank you to alumni and others who sent messages of support, encouragement and gratitude, and to reflect on what I learned during my “medical sabbatical” and return to duty this spring.

Lessons learned

First, I learned that the “Clemson Family” is very real. After my heart surgery in January, Marcia and I received literally thousands of cards, letters, emails and posts to a special “get well” blog. And when I say “literally,” I mean it in the classic not ironic sense — literally thousands! These messages were a vital part of my recovery.

Some were heartfelt and touching. Others were funny. Many alumni welcomed me to membership in the “zipper club.” They shared stories of their own or a family member’s improved health and well-being after the same surgery.

Second, I learned that it is humbling and healthy for a pilot to step out of the cockpit and into the passenger cabin once in a while. When you do, you quickly learn there are many people capable of flying the plane.

To paraphrase something former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said: When you think you are important or essential, stick your hand in a bucket of water and then pull it out. The hole you leave behind is how much you will be missed.

Clemson University is and always has been larger than the individuals who serve her at any given point in time.

Today, we have many, many dedicated and able folks working for Clemson’s success — faculty, staff, administrators, Trustees and volunteer leaders. So I am also grateful to Chairman David Wilkins, Provost Dori Helms and all others who stepped in to keep the University machine running smoothly in my absence.

Finally, I learned that though my arteries were blocked, my heart was and is very strong.

Eight weeks after my surgery and two days after this picture was taken, Marcia and I left for a trip to Germany and Italy. I met with BMW’s Board of Directors in Munich, and we attended the 40th anniversary celebration of our architecture center in Genoa. It was a wonderful trip in a beautiful place. We were happy to be there, and even happier to be home.

Changing majors

I returned from my medical leave on March 29 and two weeks later asked the Board of Trustees to begin its search for the 15th president of Clemson University. I will remain in office until the new president is found and begins work. After that, I will begin preparing for the next phase of my Clemson career as a faculty member in the School of Architecture.

This is a transition I had always planned to make, and it is not directly related to my surgery. I feel good, have a high level of energy and plan to remain engaged. The personal journey I have taken in the first half of 2013 led me to conclude that this is the right time to “change majors” from the president’s office to Lee Hall simply because Clemson University is in such good shape.

We have a high demand for everything about Clemson. We’re attracting great students, faculty and staff. We are blessed with alumni support and a capital campaign that has been very, very successful. We are financially healthy; in fact, we are in better shape financially than we were before the Great Recession. And we have a plan that has broad support by our alumni and, most importantly perhaps, by our Board of Trustees.

We are on an upward path, and I pledge to do everything I can to continue this positive momentum.

It has been the honor and privilege of my life to serve as your 14th president, and I will always be grateful to Clemson students, faculty, staff and alumni for giving me a chance to serve my alma mater in this special way.

Thank you very much. Go, Tigers!

James F. Barker, FAIA
President

Clemson Roots – Nashville Dreams

Clemson Roots - Nashville Dreams

Wander down Nashville’s Broadway early any evening, and you’ll hear strains of country music coming out of almost every door. Guitars are being tuned, microphones being checked, band members are chatting as the instruments get pulled out and plugged in.

In groups of twos and threes, tourists wander down the sidewalk, listening, stopping to hear the strains of music start to build. The bars and restaurants are interrupted by record stores and gift shops where you can find a cowboy boot-shaped vase, an Elvis Beanie Baby or a Johnny Cash onesie. There’s enough country music memorabilia to satisfy the most hard-core fan.

Stop by Boot Country, and buy one pair of cowboy boots and get two more for free. Get your picture taken with the large guitar mounted on the sidewalk that reads “Honky-Tonk Heroes” and sports pictures of country music legends from Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Wander by the windows of Hatch Show Print where old letterpress-printed posters plaster the walls. You know the kind, the ones that look the way country music concert posters ought to look. They still print those here.

The bar stools and tables fill up as the music begins for real. Most of the musicians who inhabit the neon-lit venues in this haven of honky-tonks are not household names. These aren’t the Merle Haggards and Tim McGraws of the music world. Neither are they the Reba McEntires or the Taylor Swifts. They’re often working two or three jobs in addition to these gigs.

But if they’re playing here on Broadway, they’ve got their foot in the door of Music City. And that’s why these Clemson alumni come to Nashville.

Making a living

Michael Hughes

Michael Hughes

Many nights, you can find Michael Hughes ’96 on one of these stages. He plays a mean keyboard and a masterful guitar. In fact, he’s played 50 concerts this past summer plus a USO tour with former American Idol finalist Kellie Pickler, with whom he’s traveled for the last five years.

He’s been in the music business 20 years now, but he got his first job playing the piano from a friend who lived down the hall in Johnstone his freshman year. With a mother as a Clemson nursing professor, Hughes didn’t just go to Clemson; he grew up here. And even though he was a psychology major, it was an organic chemistry professor whose offhand comment had a great impact on him.

“Karl Dieter casually mentioned after class one day that the secret to life was answering these three questions: What do you love doing? What are you good at? What do you have to do to make the answers to No. 1 and No. 2 your career? I never forgot that, and it kept me going through many frustrations and setbacks,” says Hughes.

He’s had his share of frustrations and setbacks. He came to Nashville after college, stayed for six months then went back to Clemson where, as he says, he “learned what I needed to know.” After nine years in Nashville, he can say he’s making his living in the music business.

Not to say that’s a simple task. “I think most musicians today that do music full-time wear a number of different hats in order to make a living,” he says, “and I’m no different.” He reels off the list of his various “hats”: singer/songwriter/touring and session musician/studio owner, producer and engineer.

If you’re a fan of “The Voice,” you’ve probably heard the title track from his January 2011 release, “Start Again,” which has been featured in 12 episodes. You may have caught him on “American Idol,” the “Tonight Show,” the CMA Awards, “Ellen,” “Good Morning America” or the “Today Show.”

He hasn’t forgotten those lessons from Karl Dieter. He loves music, and he’s good at it. And he’s done what it takes to make that his career.

On the road again

A four-time Academy of Country Music nominee, Lee Brice has had a highly successful album, a single ("A Woman Like You") that reached No. 1 in April 2012, and a top-5 single officially certifed Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Photo by Chris Newman.

Lee Brice  (Photo by Chris Newman)

There are more Clemson alumni in Nashville trying to get their foot in the door of the music business than you might expect. They all have the drive and determination to follow their dreams. And a willingness to work — long and hard.

For Lee Brice, the years of hard work are beginning to pay off. A four-time Academy of Country Music nominee, he has had a highly successful album, a single (“A Woman Like You”) that reached No. 1 in April 2012, and a top-5 single (“Hard to Love”) that was officially certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for digital sales of over 500,000 downloads. The New York Times has described him as “melodically eloquent.”

He’ll assure you, however, that success didn’t come easy. Brice was studying engineering and playing football at Clemson (long snapper) until an injury ended his football career. Recuperation provided time to think and reevaluate; Brice decided it was music, not engineering, that drove him. He remembered that music industry veteran Doug Johnson had promised to help him if he came to Nashville. That summer of 2001, he packed up his bags and his music. Johnson came through on his offer.

“I was able to learn a lot from him,” says Brice, “and over the next couple of years, write a bunch of songs and get started, and eventually get into Curb Records with him.” Brice’s songwriting and performances started to gain traction. He went on tour with Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson and Luke Bryan.

“It’s been a long road,” he says. “I’ve written a thousand songs, I’ve been on the road for seven years, and we’ve put out four or five singles. It feels like all the work is paying off.”

Brice says that a lot of songs have come out of his Clemson experience, including “Orange Empire,” written last fall for the football team. As a student, one of his favorite things to do was to go up on top of the dam with his guitar and write songs.

“Those days at Clemson were the best of my life,” he says, “and it’s a big part of who I am. It’s played a part in a lot of songs I’ve written.” Including, he says, “the girl I dated for four years from Anderson while I was there. ‘More than Memory’ came out of that, and Garth Brooks recorded that song.”

Brice’s album, “Hard to Love,” seems to signal a different look. Gone is the trademark backward baseball cap and several days’ growth, replaced with a flat cap and a neatly trimmed beard.

“I was just trying for a little different look for that one specific album,” he says. “The realm of music ranged from country to everything else.” However, Brice says, “Every night on the stage, I still put on my ball cap.”

In November, Brice returned to Clemson and played a concert at Littlejohn Coliseum. Still sporting his backward ball cap.

Workin’ hard for the money

Rich Ramsey

Rich Ramsey

In a building that looks like a castle with a history that includes Al Capone sits Clemson alumnus Rich Ramsey ’03. Leaning back in his chair next to a control panel with more than six feet of sliders and knobs and switches, he reflects that he feels really fortunate to have landed the position as manager of this studio three years ago. There are more than 1,000 recording studios in Nashville; this one has been around for more than 30 years and has played host to a long list of legendary musicians.

At Clemson, Ramsey switched out of engineering into secondary education and math. But music had always been an outlet. He had grown up taking piano, playing at church. At Clemson, he led music for Campus Crusade and sang with Tigeroar.

Tigeroar gave him a taste of production, since the group recorded an album each year. Ramsey purchased his own Pro Tools rig and began recording some of his own music.

And then he graduated and went to work as a high school math teacher for two years. “Teaching math wasn’t the worst job I ever had,” he says with a grin, “but it wasn’t very musical.”

It was a life lesson he learned from education professor Bob Horton that gave Ramsey the courage to see if he could make it in the music business.

“It was very evident he loved what he did, and that’s why he was there and why he put himself into it,” says Ramsey. “That has definitely translated into here, because I love what I do, and it just makes all the difference in the world.”

Ramsey picked up and moved to Nashville. He went back to school at Belmont University to get the technical knowledge he needed, then interned at another studio while he was working part time for a recording equipment rental company and for Staples. Plus, he put in 15 to 20 hours a week working for an independent engineer and kept his foot in the door at Castle, volunteering to help out when he could.

“You have to keep your foot in every door you can,” he says. That philosophy played out when the studio manager and two assistant house engineers left in the span of a year. Ramsey was at the right place at the right time. “That’s how it works in this city,” he says.

“Hopefully some day, I’ll be able to just produce and engineer albums,” he says. For now, he appreciates the steady salary and the chance for the engineering to be a part of his job.

Ramsey gets back to Clemson on occasion; one trip was for a Tigeroar concert where he was introduced to Dewey Boyd, a student in mechanical engineering who also had a passion for music. Boyd’s girlfriend (now wife) was music director of TakeNote, Clemson’s female a cappella group that was performing as well.

“He told me what it was like working for free, working two jobs,” says Boyd. “I thought, ‘I will never do that.’ And here I am.”

Dewey Boyd

Dewey Boyd

You can find Boyd in a bungalow in between a chiropractor and a palm reader. The house looks fairly typical from the outside; once you enter you realize that the space has been re-engineered to function as a studio. Insulated double doors, sound baffles hanging from the ceiling. One room set up with a drum set; another with a variety of keyboards. A control room dominated by a computer.

At Clemson, Boyd says he “dabbled in recording music, running live sound and writing music.” He took recording classes with Professor Bruce Whisler, and toyed with changing from his mechanical engineering major. He even did his departmental honors thesis on analog to digital signal converters used for recording music.

But it took a year of graduate school in mechanical engineering for Boyd to realize that he didn’t love it enough. “It wasn’t just that it was hard,” he says. “It was too hard to do without loving it.”

Not that he chose an easier path. Over the last three years, he has pieced together part-time jobs, interning and volunteering to soak up as much as his mind could hold. “Working for free,” he says, “I learned what I needed to know.”

Boyd says he’s still “working to scrape together enough income from it to say that I do this ‘for a living.’ I love what I do.”

If it makes you happy

Lauren Simpson

Lauren Simpson

The Grand Ole Opry. It’s been called “the show that made country music famous.” And it’s one of Nashville’s top tourist attractions. Tours cycle through the different parts of the facility about every 15 minutes, with everyone wanting a picture taken on stage in front of the iconic neon sign or standing on the circle of wood that was taken from the Opry’s longtime home and embedded into the stage here.

But the Grand Ole Opry is not just the three-times a week “Grand Ole Opry” show. The venue hosts concerts and award shows, corporate events, general sessions, dinners, meetings and more. And the person making sure those events come off right is Lauren Simpson ’08, events manager.

“Anything you can think of to do,” she says, “we figure out a way to make it happen.”

She may be young to hold this position, but she has a lot of experience under her belt. Four years of that experience was at Clemson, working with Tiger Paw Productions and Littlejohn Coliseum. Before she graduated, the speech and communication major had worked in every department in Littlejohn, and also interned with Radio City Music Hall and MTV.

“The way that it [Tiger Paw Productions] is structured — to have students in management roles working with other students — was really the best opportunity I could have been given. I tell people I’ve been working at a venue since I was 18,” she says. “Most internships don’t give you that much hands-on stuff.”

Nashville may be the home of country music, but it’s a city that has turned country music into a tourist industry bringing millions of people every year. Like the Grand Ole Opry, some of those tourist attractions are natural outgrowths; others are a bit more on the periphery of the music business.

Christel Foley

Christel Foley

About 20 minutes south of Nashville, you’ll find a successful vineyard owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn. Running the commercial side of the business is Clemson alum Christel Foley ’95, who began working there six months before it opened.

“I was brought in to get everything organized and ready for us to become the premier vineyard and winery in the Southeast,” she says. “I handle all of the marketing and public relations, daily retail operations and procedures for the winery, direct the sales and management team and pretty much anything else that comes up.” She has approximately 40 employees who report to her, including the general manager, controller, wine club manager and tasting room manager. And on any given Saturday, more than 2,000 locals and tourists will be there, picnics and blankets in hand, to enjoy the free wine tasting and the music, usually a local jazz trio.

Foley majored in parks, recreation and tourism management, which she says provided a good foundation for the two industries in which she has worked: sports marketing and the wine business.

As a Clemson student, Foley waitressed at Charlie T’s, a local hangout across from the baseball field. One night, she waited on a group of men who turned out to be professional baseball scouts, two from the Minnesota Twins, one from the Atlanta Braves.

“I struck up a conversation with them,” she says, “and they said, ‘You need to work for a sports team; they need people like you with a lot of enthusiasm.’” That stuck in her mind; her first job out of college was with the Charleston Stingrays (minor league hockey). She went from there to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Tennessee Titans and back to hockey with the Nashville Predators.

Two young children made her reassess all the nights and evenings of sports marketing. The contacts she had in Nashville led her to Kix Brooks and his fledgling vineyard. The wine business, she says, has many similarities to sports marketing. “I’m selling a product here that’s similar to selling a ticket. I have a celebrity — like having players. The difference here is that there’s no winning and losing; it’s all winning,” she says. “And no lockouts. Everybody goes away happy.”

Foley may be more on the edge of the music business than some of the other alumni in town, but she shares a drive and determination and ability to see the possibilities. When asked what about a Clemson experience makes alumni successful in Nashville, she responds, “a great education that doesn’t limit your ideas of what opportunities are out there.”

No business like show business

Teaching management may seem even further away from the music business, but not when it’s at Belmont University, named by Time and Rolling Stone magazines as having one of the best music business programs in the country.

Beth Woodard

Beth Woodard

And in the hallway of the building where she teaches, Beth Woodard ’87 shows off the display of gold and platinum records. Belmont grads have been a part of each of those records, whether writing, performing or producing.

Teaching music business students adds a different dimension to the classroom, says Woodard, who has been at Belmont since 1999. “My music business students are very creative. They see things through different lenses.”

Woodard, a management major at Clemson, might not have even finished her undergraduate degree if it hadn’t been for Professor Mike McDonald. His teaching, she says, both gave her a thirst for knowledge and restored her confidence in herself. “It was because of him that I stayed in school and I finished my degree,” she says.

And when she finished that degree, she never imagined she would end up back on a college campus, encouraging aspiring musicians and patterning her teaching style, in many ways, after McDonald.

Tigers raised in the Southland

Aspiring musicians keep coming to Nashville, its siren song pulling those who dream of connecting with sold-out audiences and producing gold records. Musicians like Doug McCormick ’04, whose voice belies his age. You’d swear you were listening to a seasoned singer when you hear the strains of “Tiger Raised in the Southland.”

In his Tiger Paw cap, he revs up the crowd at the Esso Club on one of his returns to town. Clemson University, he says, “is more than a football game. It’s a way of life. It’s who I am.”

He’s beginning to make himself known in Nashville and the Southeast, sharing the stage with artists like Luke Bryan, Rhett Akins and Corey Smith. And his success has inspired Cody Webb ’11, who spent weekends during his time at Clemson listening to McCormick play at TDs. Like others, Webb has taken memories of college and turned them into music. “Turning Four Years into Five” was his first single. He took advantage of Kickstarter, a popular online funding platform for creative projects, to underwrite the production costs of his first album, “Thing to Prove,” in 2011.

Like other Clemson alumni in the music business in Nashville, Webb has discovered that it takes a lot of grit and determination and hard work. Not that his quick smile and the self-deprecating, likable personality don’t help. But he’s taken the fan base he developed in Clemson and broadened that by playing 150 shows last year around the Southeast. And it’s beginning to pay off; he has a contract with Monument Entertainment to produce his next album.

Roots & Dreams

There are more Clemson alumni in Nashville than these. More who are following their dreams, wedging their foot in the door. Some have always known they wanted to be in the music business; others have ended up there almost serendipitously.

What they all seem to have in common is a willingness to work long and hard, and a desire to follow their dreams and do what they love.

And they haven’t left their Clemson roots behind.