Color Brave: In our polarized world of incendiary tweets and combative Facebook posts, honest and civil conversations about issues of race are not a common occurrence. This fall, a group of students and faculty took on those conversations.
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.”
Clemson honors Barker and Bostic with University’s highest public honor
This spring, Clemson recognized two alumni — President Emeritus James Barker and businessman and trustee James E. Bostic Jr . — with its highest public honor, the Clemson Medallion. The Medallion is presented to individuals who have rendered notable and significant service and support to the University and who exemplify the dedication and foresight of its founder, Thomas Green Clemson.
The lives of both men began as Clemson students and their commitment to the University never waivered. Here are the 2016 Clemson Medallion winners.
One Clemson. It’s a term that permeates Clemson vernacular, along with “Clemson family” and “All In.” But the two words together helped James Barker ’70 lay a foundation for a vision where he saw Clemson achieving more than ever as an institution.
“I am convinced 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,” he said during his inauguration address.
And unite the campus he did. Clemson went from being ranked No. 38 among public universities to No. 21 during his term. Undergraduate applications increased from about 11,400 a year to more than 18,500. Scholarship support increased from $5.4 million to $13.8 million annually. Freshman retention went from 83 percent to 91 percent. More than 59,000 degrees were awarded during his time as president — representing 41 percent of all living alumni.
“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,” said Trustee E. Smyth McKissick III ’79, when interviewed about Barker’s presidency in 2013.
From student, alumnus, faculty member, dean, president and even parent — Barker’s seen Clemson from every perspective. “All of us who love Clemson will always be indebted to Jim Barker for his visionary leadership and service. It is an honor to present this well-deserved award to him,” said President Jim Clements.
His roles throughout the University and community are varied and active, including participating in IPTAY as an honorary life member; serving as president emeritus and professor in the School of Architecture; and serving at Fort Hill Presbyterian as an elder and choir member.
Under his administration, the Will to Lead campaign, which concluded successfully this summer, was launched with a $600 million goal and then re-launched with an ambitious and historic $1 billion goal.
James E. Bostic Jr.
With $10 from his mother tucked into a Bible, James Bostic ’69, Ph.D. ’72 stepped off the bus from Marlboro County into the hills of Clemson. Since that day, Bostic’s legacy has included success in education and business, as well as philanthropic support for efforts to provide a more diverse campus.
Even as a White House Fellow in 1972-73, Bostic’s love of Clemson never faltered, according to retired Gen. Colin Powell, even if it wasn’t always endearing to others. The two met as the only minorities in the class, with Powell becoming like a big brother to Bostic.
“His life revolved around things colored orange, Tigers and basketball,” said Powell. “Only when he got married were his wife and I able to get the orange furniture and paintings out of his apartment, to his great distress.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Clemson, Bostic went on to serve as deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture until 1977. From there his business acumen gathered steam as he served 10 years with Riegel Textile Corporation before moving on to Georgia–Pacific Corporation, moving up through the ranks to the position of executive vice president in 2000 and retiring in 2005.
“He has volunteered his time and talents as a leader for the University,” said President Clements, “and he continues to lead by assisting us in our efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. I am extremely proud to honor him with this award.”
Bostic’s desire to pay it forward goes well beyond what’s listed on a resume. He and his wife helped fund the Edith H. and James E. Bostic Presidential Scholarship as part of the Harvey B. Gantt Scholars program for diversity scholarships. His name is also on the Dr. James E. Bostic Presidential Scholarship in the College of Engineering and Science and the James E. Bostic Endowed Leadership Program for Resident Assistants.
“Jim’s love for Clemson can’t be measured by what he has done but by the difference he has made in the lives of students and Clemson University as a whole,” said Bert Henderson, IPTAY/ Athletics Director of Gift Planning.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY DALE COCHRAN
Members of this year’s class of Gantt Scholars were recognized this spring at a reception that featured remarks by Jim Bostic ’69, Ph.D. ’72, the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from Clemson, and Lee Gill, the University’s new chief diversity officer.
The Clemson Black Alumni Council established the Harvey B. Gantt Scholarship Endowment Fund in 1988 to honor Gantt and to recruit and retain African-American students, with special preference to South Carolina residents and entering freshmen.
In his remarks, President Clements said that Harvey Gantt’s admission to the University was a major milestone in Clemson’s transformation from an all-male, all-white military college to a civilian co-educational desegregated public university. “I applaud him for his persistence and his incredible resolve many years ago to fight the battle to attend Clemson,” said Clement. “As a result, Clemson is better and stronger today.”
Mentoring others, especially those who may not realize their potential, has been a lifelong passion for Serita Acker. Those who know her weren’t surprised that she received the 2015 Calder D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual Award at the 11th Annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards dinner. The dinner is hosted by the Richard W. Riley Institute® of Government, Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University and the Greenville Chamber, with support from other Upstate chambers. The event recognizes those who have shown leadership in promoting diversity in the Upstate. Acker was nominated by colleagues but was completely surprised by the honor.
“It was such a great honor to receive it. Calder recently passed, and this award is in his honor and the work he has done. It was very exciting for me. It was such a complete surprise,” said Acker.
Acker is in her 16th year as director of Clemson’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, which provides support and resources for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Additionally, Acker oversees WISE-sponsored camps and programs to introduce elementary, middle school and high school girls to careers in STEM.
Acker’s outreach in the community is not limited to helping young women. She has worked with the University’s Staff Development Program that trains staff members for professional and personal growth. She has also served as a board member for the Rape Crisis Center to develop initiatives that assist survivors.
In addition, Acker was named one of 10 U.S. individuals selected as a mentor for the 2014-2016 MentorLinks cohort, a program of the American Association of Community Colleges and National Science Foundation that advances technological education. She travels to Texas State Technical College to assist the school in programs that encourage and support Latina women in automotive technology. Acker was also honored by Women of Color magazine with the 2014 College-Level Promotion of Education award. Acker said her Clemson studies were the perfect preparation.
“My Clemson degree in human resource development has done exactly what it was supposed to do. The degree is about training people and helping them develop. My Clemson experience as a student has helped me as a staff member. I love that my journey has been ‘in these hills’ and preparing students for great careers.”
Recently Acker received certification as a Global Career Development Facilitator, where she’ll focus on educating people about STEM career opportunities.
“I like to be that person who bridges the gap between the community and the University,” Acker said. “I want to educate people, encourage people and help them fulfill their dreams.”
A new academic year always brings a sense of renewed optimism and anticipation for what comes next. Preparing for what comes next is — after all — the essence of what universities do. Asking questions, experimenting, creating, debating and thinking deeply and critically — these are essential tools for equipping students to succeed during and after college. They also are tools for finding solutions to the great challenges of our time and for discovering innovations that drive economic growth.
It’s easy to be optimistic when we consider the accomplishments of the year just completed:
• Achieving a Top 20 national ranking from U.S.News & World Report and a seventh consecutive Top 25 ranking.
• Setting new records in demand for enrollment and quality of the student body.
• Reaching record levels in private fundraising.
• Earning national rankings for quality, value, return on tuition investment, town-gown relations and the No. 1 ranked alumni network.
• Securing additional state support for critical educational, economic development and public service programs and facilities.
• Opening our first off-campus visitors center — Experience Clemson — in downtown Greenville.
• Tackling the largest construction program in University history to address facilities needs and take advantage of a competitive external market, low interest rates and the University’s strong debt capacity.
Our strategic plan — 2020Forward — is a key part of preparing Clemson University for what comes next. In July, the board of trustees gave preliminary approval to the key concepts in the strategic plan and charged the administration to return this fall with a final plan for review.
Included among those key concepts are the following priorities:
• Providing high-impact engagement opportunities to students as a cornerstone of undergraduate education.
• Growing research and doctoral enrollment, with emphasis on programs and research focus areas where we can achieve national prominence, and an organizational structure that supports excellence.
• Making Clemson an exceptional place to work.
• Increasing our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.
The plan also retains many of the strategic priorities of the 2020 Road Map — including a sustained Top 20 national ranking, an aggressive capital improvement plan and commitment to outreach and economic progress for South Carolina.
In order to achieve these goals, we must create a climate where every person feels valued and has the ability to succeed. The need for a more diverse and inclusive campus emerged as a consistent message from the strategic planning team. Based on that work and the dozens of meetings we held with faculty, staff, students and alumni in the spring, we have framed a plan for diversity and excellence that has the following four pillars:
• First, develop and implement a strategic plan to increase the diversity of the student body, staff, faculty and administration, with measurable goals.
• Second, promote greater cultural awareness and a sense of community, which is the focus of several initiatives launched last spring, such as the monthly student dialogue lunches and a planned lecture series.
• Third, assess and enhance the effectiveness of existing diversity initiatives and support services. As part of this effort, we will move the Gantt Multicultural Center from Student Affairs to the Office of Diversity — to enhance coordination and better leverage the expertise and resources of each unit.
• Fourth, document and communicate the history of Clemson, including the role of under-represented groups. We have initiated a process with state authorities to add a series of markers to campus to help document additional parts of our history.
These efforts will be enhanced by the board’s recent action to adopt a resolution and appoint a task force to explore ways to accurately preserve and tell the complete history of Clemson, which includes opening a discussion on Benjamin Tillman. I applaud the board for their action, and I look forward to assisting the task force with their work. Evaluating, discussing, critiquing and debating important issues are what great universities do to arrive at the best solutions. Understanding and communicating the full story of Clemson’s history is an important part of creating a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment.
So what’s next for Clemson in 2015-16?
• Enrolling another outstanding class of students.
• Launching a new strategic plan by January 1, 2016.
• Successfully completing the Will to Lead for Clemson capital campaign, which will make Clemson the first public university with an alumni base our size to surpass a $1 billion campaign goal.
• Opening new academic and athletic facilities on campus, as well as additions to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research campus in Greenville and the Zucker Family Graduation Education Center in North Charleston — with more groundbreakings to come.
What comes next — is another great year to be a Clemson Tiger!
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 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
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
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
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.
— 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 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.
— 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
— 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
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 ’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.
— 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
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
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
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
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.
— 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 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
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!
Madeline and Eliza Barker
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.
Mookie and Macs
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
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)
As children with siblings, many of us were admonished by our parents to “do the right thing” and “set a good example.” For most of us, following that advice didn’t mean choosing to make groundbreaking decisions. But, for Harvey Gantt, those words were prophetic and resulted in decisions that would change Clemson University and South Carolina.
On January 28, 1963, Harvey B. Gantt took a step onto Clemson’s campus that would stake his claim in history. But as a quiet young man who only wanted a great education at a great institution, Gantt’s battle to gain admission to Clemson during state-mandated segregation was a step of courage and commitment. It was one step in a lifetime of steps that would set a good example and provide inspiration for generations to come, even for a future president of the United States.
An early inspiration
In 1990, Gantt was in a tight race for a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina. In Cambridge, Mass., 850 miles to the north, Harvard law students gathered for an election watch. One of those students, 29-year-old Barack Obama, proudly donned a T-shirt in support of Gantt. Gantt, a successful architect and two-term mayor of Charlotte, was the city’s first African-American in that leadership role. And although Gantt lost his Senate race, he provided an inspirational example for the students who would follow him, including Obama, who would become the 44th president of the United States. Today, Gantt takes pleasure in displaying the signed photo of Pres. Obama, inscribed with the message, “To Harvey, an early inspiration,” and signed, “Barack Obama.”
This past fall, Gantt returned to Clemson to give the keynote address at Convocation to mark the beginning of the University’s 50th anniversary of integration. Gantt talked with pride about the accomplishments of his classmates and how the members of the Class of 1965 had made a positive impact on their world. He challenged faculty and students to do the same. But he also talked about the importance of the relationships they would forge at Clemson. These are just a few stories of African-American students who followed in his footsteps in the decades since Gantt stepped on campus.
The lessons of diversity
By the time Frank L. Matthews ’71 came to Clemson in 1968 from a two-year branch campus in Sumter, there were approximately 35 African-American students on campus. In looking for ways to bond, this small community formed the Student League for Black Identity to enhance their college experience, support each other and respond to other needs. “There were no black role models on campus,” Matthews recalls. “No black faculty or administrators. We got to know people in the community who were kindhearted and wanted us to succeed. They acted as surrogate parents and mentors.”
Despite some challenges during his college experience, Matthews said he learned lessons that have carried him through the rest of his life. “I learned to overcome obstacles, and I learned resilience,” he explains. “I made some lifelong friends, both black and white. Friendship comes in all shades.”
The co-founder of Cox, Matthews and Associates, an educational publishing and communications company, Matthews is publisher/editor-in-chief of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, considered the premier news source for information about access and opportunity for all in higher education.
Matthews went on to simultaneously earn his J.D. and MBA from the University of South Carolina in 1976. Affiliated with George Mason University for the past 29 years, he has taught in both the Law School and School of Business Administration. He was recently inducted into the Writers’ Hall of Fame for his contributions in publishing.
The power of friendship
Frank E. Wise was a three-sport standout athlete at Eau Claire High School in 1972, just a few years after Gantt had graduated from Clemson and three years after Craig Mobley had became the University’s first African-American student-athlete in 1969. Clemson was on his short list because of the relationship Eau Claire faculty had with Clemson administrators. But Wise was a member of a large family, and staying close was a priority. Clemson won out for one simple reason. “I wanted my mother up there in the stands cheering me on,” Wise explains, “and she could do that if I came to Clemson.”
Unlike high school, Wise was unknown to his classmates at Clemson. But several factors helped smooth the waters. One was his teammate, Bennie Cunningham Jr., a local star athlete who had visited most of the same colleges as Wise and had played in the Shrine Bowl with him. Cunningham would introduce him to a friend who lived nearby, Rosemary Holland, which proved to be a turning point. The introduction led to a date and later to marriage.
“That proved to be a stable force in my transition to college,” Wise says with a laugh. “We just never saw any African-American women on East Campus.”
Wise also credits his relationship with administrators and faculty. “I had a great relationship with Dr. (R.C.) Edwards and Dr. Gordon Gray, dean of the School of Education. He had a genuine interest in African-American students and wanted them to be successful.”
Wise received his B.A. from Clemson in 1976 and his Master of City and Regional Planning in 1979. The first African-American city planner in Seneca, he later worked for the Health and Human Services Agency in Anderson. While he was in this position, Wise was diagnose with leukemia. And during his low points, he came to realize the value of the friendships he’d made at Clemson.
“I can’t say enough about G.G. Galloway and staying with him in Florida after my bone marrow transplant. He was also instrumental in pulling together the Clemson community. Contributions from the Clemson Family allowed us to focus on recovery rather than financial burdens. Those former student-athletes gave me hope. We don’t forget each other.”
All in the family
In 1978, with a stellar high school basketball career under her belt, Barbara Kennedy-Dixon ’85, M ’92 had several options for college. Clemson varsity athletics had just started for women in 1975. Kennedy-Dixon considered other schools, but after meeting coach Annie Tribble, the decision was easy. “The first time I spoke to her, it was like talking to my mother. She was so pleasant and personable. I didn’t know anything about Clemson, but I wanted to play for her.”
As a freshman, Kennedy-Dixon was one of three African-American women on the Lady Tigers team, which was a comfortable fit. “A family supports each person. I didn’t see anything different from my basketball family.” And part of her family experience was living in Clemson House, where permanent residents still occupied apartments on the top floors. “It was like having grandparents on campus,” she says.
In 1982, Clemson played in the first women’s NCAA basketball tournament; Kennedy-Dixon scored the first two points. She led the nation in scoring that season (1981-82) and was named a First-Team All-American by Kodak, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and “Basketball Weekly.” Still the ACC’s record holder in career scoring, field goals made and rebounding, she’s listed in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Records for season field goals and scoring average. She is the first woman to be inducted into the Clemson University Ring of Honor and Clemson’s Hall of Fame and the first Clemson woman inducted into the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame. Her Clemson jersey was retired at the end of her student-athlete career.
After playing in Italy for a couple of years, Kennedy-Dixon returned to Clemson as an assistant basketball coach, and she has remained enthusiastic about her Clemson home.
“Sometimes students see Clemson as a rural institution. But I tell them to focus on the people. There is a unique, strong family bond here. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”
By the time Eric Foster ’85 and Lisa Johnson Foster ’84, MBA ’95 came to Clemson in 1980, there was a small but growing number of African-American students. The first African-American drum major for the marching band at nearby Seneca High, Eric had attended Clemson’s Career Workshop program to recruit academically talented African-American students into engineering majors. Lisa had graduated from Lugoff-Elgin High School and already had a brother attending Clemson.
Both describe Tiger Band as an important part of their Clemson experience. By senior year, Eric had been selected to lead the band as drum major. Although not the first African-American to hold that position, he was the first student to simultaneously hold the position of band commander and drum major.
Lisa, now a disability examiner with the state of South Carolina, and Eric, an engineer with Square D-Schneider Electric in Seneca, say the best outcome from their Clemson days was meeting each other. Lisa says with a smile, “The best part of attending Clemson was finding the person with whom I would spend the rest of my life.”
Fifty years later
Harvey Gantt’s admission into Clemson opened the doors that led to the University that exists today. Clemson now has students of every race (as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau). There are students from almost every state in the U.S. (49), as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And more than 90 countries are represented in the Clemson Family.
Fifty years later, a grateful University community commemorates Harvey Gantt’s courage and determination to do the right thing and set a truly good example.
Fifty years has made a difference – let’s keep building.
“I know that many of my classmates from the Class of ’65 had a lot to do with the changes we have witnessed. A lot of them, through personal and public initiatives, large and small, changed minds, changed attitudes and influenced behavior. That’s what an educated corps of good students do … they change minds, they change attitudes, and they influence behavior.”
This is an excerpt from the speech given by Harvey Gantt as part of the Victor Hurst Convocation on August 21, 2012. Hear his complete remarks at clemson.edu/clemsonworld/2013/winter/gantt.html.