Alumna Establishes Endowment for Graphic Communications

Kimberly BruceKimberly Bruce’s Clemson journey led her to a successful career in graphic communications, but that is not where her path began. Late in her freshman year, when she heard a fellow student discussing his classes, her interests were sparked. Bruce sat in on one graphic communications class — and that was all it took. She realized she had found her passion. Shortly after that first class, she changed her major and the course of her future.

“Sometimes when you are uncertain about the direction of your life, I suggest asking questions and being a good listener,” Bruce said.

She credits her Clemson experience with her success in life, and now, she is sharing that enrichment with future generations of Clemson students through the Kimberly A. Bruce ’92 Graphic Communications Endowment — benefiting those who will follow in her footsteps in the graphic communications program.

“The hands-on experience is one of the essential components that make the Clemson graphic communications program an industry leader,” Bruce said. “Whether it was applying class knowledge in the lab or during an internship, I felt well prepared for employment when I graduated. In fact, my first job offer after graduation was from the company that provided my college internship.”

Bruce went on to earn an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology with an emphasis in print technology. In 2008, she founded her own firm, The Kimberly Company, a consulting firm located in Greenville. The Kimberly Company provides printing and packaging services for growing companies that have limited resources and large companies that need to create cost-effective standardized printed packaging, allowing the creation of a uniform, recognizable image for manufactured goods — something that is crucial in brand recognition.

The graphic communications program at Clemson provides students with an understanding of equipment, theories and problem-solving in a variety of professional fields. They learn printing, packaging, publishing and imaging but can also focus on related disciplines in the industry, such as management, marketing, sales and customer service. Placement rates from the program are consistently high with competitive starting salaries.

Through this endowment, Bruce will provide future generations with the same opportunities that she was able to receive as a student. “I wanted to give back because Clemson has given me so much,” she said.  

Schwehr Family Gift Supports Global Learning Opportunities

Study abroad to Costa Rica

The Schwehr family gift will fund global service opportunities like this trip to Costa Rica.

Clemson values opportunities for students and faculty to engage globally. Student organizations and Creative Inquiry participants are currently solving problems and serving communities in Tanzania, India, Thailand, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala and Dominica. The initiatives include bioengineering students working with low-resourced communities to find affordable solutions to health care challenges; agriculture faculty engaging around the world to develop drought-resistant crops and technologies to improve food security; engineers addressing water quality; and the School of Nursing’s Global Health Certificate candidates, for which students address health-delivery systems in Peru.

These global efforts were recently given a boost with the creation of a $250,000 Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Endowment and a $250,000 Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Annual Fund. The gift was made by the Michael W. Schwehr family of The Woodlands, Texas: Michael William ’81, Linda Pogue, Laurel Michelle and Victoria Leigh ’16. Both funds will support service learning, research and engagement in under-resourced communities.

“The generous gift will not only make a lasting impact on the Clemson community but will allow faculty to expand the use of service-learning models and open opportunities outside of the traditional study abroad locations,” said Sharon Nagy, associate provost of Global Engagement. “Faculty and students will positively impact communities while addressing many of the challenges faced by societies today. Students will be able to do their part to change the world while being changed themselves by the experience.”

The Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Annual Fund will be used immediately to support student and faculty opportunities in developing countries. It will provide annual competitive seed-funding grants to faculty for the development of new global service-learning programs. Proposals will be reviewed and awarded for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Once fully funded, The Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Endowment will provide financial support to programs designed for students from any discipline for service-learning projects in communities worldwide.

“Having spent time in his career working and raising his family abroad, Mike Schwehr recognizes the importance of preparing students for meaningful lives and careers in our globalized world,” said Nagy. “The Schwehr family’s commitment and altruism are evident in the careful thought they put into the ideas of global service learning. Their gift will make an impact in ways we can hardly imagine today.”

Michael W. Schwehr graduated from Clemson with a degree in mechanical engineering, then went to ExxonMobil, where his career spanned more than 35 years. During his time there, he served in various assignments, including refining, products supply, retail marketing, environmental remediation and real estate. He traveled and lived abroad on numerous occasions, leading him to Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

Schwehr’s daughter, Victoria Leigh ’16, studied and worked abroad in Paris as an undergraduate and later graduated from Clemson with a degree in language and international trade. 

The Power to Transform

Melinda ChappellMelinda E. Chappell’s passion for sports, recreational therapy and helping others has played a large role in every aspect of her life.

Now, she is demonstrating that passion through two gifts to her alma mater. The Melinda E. Chappell ’82 Endowment for Recreational Therapy will provide unrestricted support for Clemson’s recreational therapy program, which is part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. When funds are reached to endow that program, a second endowment, the Melinda E. Chappell ’82 Golf Endowment, will be directed to the Clemson Women’s Golf team.

Chappell’s road to creating this endowment was straight and determined. Raised in a die-hard Clemson family in Columbia, Chappell and her four brothers were instilled with a love for athletics from an early age.

But when Chappell was around 9 years old, doctors discovered a bone cyst in her hip that required two surgeries. During her recovery, she quickly found that she enjoyed swimming as a form of physical therapy. That experience and her passion for the Tigers eventually led her to Clemson, where she majored in recreation and parks administration with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation. Her goal was to work with children and teens challenged with physical disabilities.

While at Clemson, Chappell embraced collegiate life. She was part of a group that started Clemson’s first collegiate golf club.

“The first meeting was composed of men and a handful of women,” said Chappell, “and we played lots of courses throughout the area. It wasn’t competitive, but it was a start.” That small start finally paid off in 2013 when Clemson Women’s Golf team was formed.

Upon graduation, Chappell was able to fulfill her passion by working for a psychiatric hospital as a recreational therapist. She worked with adolescents struggling with various mental and physical issues, using swimming, tennis, bowling and other sports to not only help them restore their self-esteem, but also provide direction in all aspects of their lives.

During her successful career as a recreational therapist, Chappell worked tirelessly with nonprofits. While working at the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Muscular Development Center in Columbia, she helped found Limitless Sports, a nonprofit organization designed to help people with disabilities compete in sports activities. She was instrumental in bringing the late Christopher Reeve to speak at a fundraiser for that organization, an accomplishment of which she is still proud.

Chappell was tapped to be the director of the North Myrtle Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center before it was even built — a position she still holds today.

She has continued her philanthropic work in the North Myrtle Beach community she now calls home. She started another nonprofit, Coastal Adaptive Sports, and is involved with Teen Angels, an organization aimed at helping homeless and otherwise struggling teens achieve successful educational experiences through the use of community resources. She is also a founding member of the Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association, a nonprofit hosting regional athletic competition for persons with disabilities.

As an active alumna, Chappell understands and appreciates Clemson’s commitment to adaptive sports. She was instrumental in moving the Southeastern Wheelchair Games to a more central location in order to make it accessible for attendees from places such as Atlanta and Charlotte. Due to her efforts, this year’s 25th annual event was held in Clemson. The Southeastern Regional Wheelchair Games welcomed 15 participants to the Clemson campus, including two students, Marsden Miller and Scarlett Lawhorne. Volunteers included students from Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management program and several Clemson Football players.

Chappell believes there is no limit when it comes to philanthropic endeavors and generosity, a mentality that led her back home to Clemson once again as she began considering ways to leave a legacy that reflected both her passion for helping others through sports and her love of Clemson.  

Lecturers Host Monthly Gathering for the Deaf Community

Professors Hurdich and ClementsWhen two Clemson faculty members decided to host a coffee get-together for the local Deaf community in Greenville, little did they know that 300 people would show up.

Starbucks wasn’t prepared either. “They only scheduled one signing barista, and he was swamped,” said Jason Hurdich, a lecturer in the Clemson Department of Languages.

Signing Starbucks-Greenville has become a lively monthly gathering since the first event in January. “People have come from all over South Carolina, plus North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida,” said William “Bo” Clements, also a lecturer in the Department of Languages. “I’m sure there are more than just these states.”

Hurdich and Clements are two of four Deaf faculty members in the American Sign Language program at Clemson.

Clemson is the only four-year public institution in South Carolina that recognizes and offers ASL as world language credit. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in ASL or minor in the program, which is part of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

Public coffee chats for the Deaf community are held throughout the nation, but Hurdich and Clements believe the monthly Greenville gathering has immediately catapulted to the largest in the country. “Most Deaf coffee chats across the nation attract between 20-70 people, and we were surprised but glad to see so many members of the community,” Hurdich said by email.

Hurdich and Clements knew the Upstate had a sizable Deaf community, but social opportunities, particularly for those in small towns, are limited. “There are very few opportunities for us to meet,” Hurdich said. “The Deaf community tends to be isolated from mainstreamed settings.”

The two looked around for an appropriate location and found a relatively new Starbucks on Laurens Road. “It was a perfect place with bright light and plenty of tables and chairs,” Clements said.

Starbucks has a particularly strong commitment to the Deaf community, having opened a “Signing Store” last fall in Washington, D.C., where every employee is proficient in ASL, Hurdich said. The Laurens Road Starbucks, meanwhile, regularly schedules up to four signing baristas on Signing Starbucks nights.

Attendance at the monthly meeting has declined somewhat due to the summer holidays, but Hurdich said he expected the numbers to climb back up to 300 in the fall.

At Signing Starbucks get-togethers, ASL chats are not so different from conversations by the hearing community, with topics touching on “work, family, sports, churches and universities,” Clements said.

But members of the Deaf community also share information to help each other navigate the challenges they face, said Hurdich, who earned the nickname “Rockstar” as a prominent ASL interpreter for Gov. Nikki Haley during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

“We thrive on sharing information since we miss out on incidental information,” he said. “Think of all the talking that happens throughout the day, and imagine how that information is missing for a Deaf person.

“With the isolation of the Deaf community, having the opportunity together to share topics is important,” Hurdich added. “Most commonly we discuss community happenings, quality of interpreting services, even technology that impacts the Deaf community.”

Often in attendance also are the hearing children of Deaf parents. “It is their opportunity to connect with other children in similar circumstances,” Hurdich said. “[It’s] a great way to share, so it’s wonderful to see that!” 

Making a Global Difference

NibigiraOne of 84 doctoral degree recipients in May, Carmen Nibigira knows the value of focus and persistence.

Nibigira moved to Clemson in 2012 from the small African country of Burundi to pursue her Ph.D. in travel and tourism. It was a difficult decision that took her away from her children, who stayed with family back home while she studied.

Although she had quickly risen in her field, Nibigira was conscious that dynamics in the tourism and hospitality industry were changing and that she had much to learn if she wanted to continue to advance her career.

“My professional background was in hospitality; however, I began to see tourism industry discussions shift to a greater focus on conservation, preservation and community engagement,” Nibigira said. “I had little knowledge at the time about how my journey in Clemson would unfold but had faith that pursuing my education in tourism development, with a focus on policy, was the best decision, regardless of the circumstances.”

Her studies have been interrupted several times — by career opportunities and by political unrest in Burundi. But she persisted, at times working on the degree part time, and completed her degree in May. Nibigira’s faculty adviser, travel and tourism professor Sheila Backman, said this kind of tenacity and focus is typical for Nibigira: “Other graduate students find themselves needing to overcome challenges while they complete their credential, but not like Carmen. Instead of slowing her down, she always manages to navigate through anything that’s thrown her way. And she does it the right way. As a result, her academic and practitioner colleagues have tremendous respect for her and the knowledge, skills and commitment she brings to the table.”

Nibigira started her academic career in the United Kingdom, earning her undergraduate degree in Brighton and her master’s in Birmingham, with experiences in Switzerland and East Africa. She decided to pursue her Ph.D. in North America, in part to learn about tourism from a different cultural perspective. She chose Clemson because of its climate, tourism and parks management program, and faculty’s international reputation.

While she studied, Nibigira also continued her long-standing work to empower women throughout East Africa by creating opportunities for education and mentorship. She has mentored dozens of women during her 20-year career in the travel and hospitality industry and is committed to continuing that.

“Education is a great opportunity for young women,” she said. “But it’s not just about education. It’s about the quality of education, equal pay, being able to get a good job and striving to have it all, just not all at once. It took me 15-20 years to work toward my Ph.D., when you factor in my university education and work experience. Once you understand that hard work pays, you become mentally prepared for the challenge.”

Nibigira is now working as a project director for Horwath HTL, an international consulting firm that provides governments and other clients with tourism research, policy and strategy development, and implementation support in East Africa. Recently, she has found a new challenge to pursue after a conversation with one of her sons. “He asked me, ‘Why are you always focused on helping girls? Why not boys?’” she said. His statement caught her off guard and made her think.

“I’m a mother of boys and began to wonder, are we creating the same opportunities for them? We perceive boys as having an advantage, but I’ve started to wonder if that’s really the case,” Nibigira said. “I’m compelled to see how I can start engaging boys in the very near future. We have helped girls and women access education and equal opportunities, and boys are feeling left out.”

“After all, in Africa, we say that it takes a village to raise a child,” she continued. “I feel like it took several countries to raise me. If I can make a difference in any way, I will.”

Students Earn Goldwater, Hollings, Tillman Scholarships

Melissa McCullough

Melissa McCullough

Clemson students are the recipients of premier national undergraduate scholarships this year.

Riley Garvey, a biosystems engineering major from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Caleb Todd, an environmental and natural resources major from Summerville, S.C. are the recipients of the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship from the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The award supports two years of full-time study as well as a paid summer internship with the NOAA between the junior and senior year.

Clemson claimed three winners of the 2019 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a national undergraduate award in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. Laura McCann, a chemistry major; Erin Mihealsick, a genetics and biochemistry major; and Benjamin Slimmer, a physics major, each will receive one-year scholarships that will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500.

Melissa McCullough (left), a Navy veteran and Ph.D. student, is among 60 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses who have been named to the 11th class of Tillman Scholars. The scholarship is named for Pat Tillman, who left his NFL career to join the U.S. Army and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Honorees are sharing in more than $1.2 million in scholarship funding this year. McCullough is pursuing her Ph.D. in bioengineering while teaching and working full-time as a bioinstrumentation lab manager.

Students interested in applying for these or other major fellowships should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at

Clemson, Duke Energy Partner on Mobile Engineering Lab

Mobile engineering labClemson and Duke Energy are hitting the road this fall behind the wheel of the Explore Mobile Lab, an innovative approach to educating middle school students across the Palmetto State about the critical and growing field of engineering.

The mobile STEM lab, made possible by a $400,000 gift from Duke Energy, was created to educate and engage young scientists and engineers who will be the future workforce for industries that will power communities in the 21st century.

As Duke Energy and other utilities build the smart-thinking grid of the future, having great minds on our team who understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics will be critical to our success,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president. “Engineers will lead our efforts to build the smarter energy infrastructure necessary for our state. I cannot think of a better partner than Clemson University to work with on this project, and I know our efforts together are going to raise interest in the field of engineering as a career for young students across our state.”

The Explore Mobile Lab was unveiled at a ceremony in July with leaders from Duke Energy, Clemson and the community alongside seventh- and eighth-grade students participating in the Project WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) summer camp on campus, which also is sponsored by Duke Energy.

The mobile lab will be managed by the University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. Student-focused activities are designed to show students how the math and science they learn in the classroom apply to real life.

Brad Putman, the college’s associate dean for undergraduate studies, said the lab’s goal is to help fix the “leaky pipeline” between school and industry. The drip tends to start in middle school, when the difficulty level rises and students start taking separate classes. That’s when some students start to peel away from the high-level math and science that are foundational to engineering.

This initiative comes at a time when demand for engineers continues to increase as government and industry work to meet the needs of a growing global population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of engineering is expected to grow as much as 10 percent in the coming decade.

The Explore Mobile Lab will be making its way to 159 middle schools across the state beginning this fall.

News & Notes

STARS logoSilver star for sustainability efforts

Clemson has earned a STARS Silver rating for its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

First Forward logoFirst-generation success

Clemson has been recognized as a First Forward Institution by NASPA’s Center for First-Generation Student Success. This designation recognizes universities that have shown a commitment to the success of their first-generation student populations. About 14 percent of Clemson’s undergraduates are first-generation college students, and Clemson’s FIRST Generation Success Program provides these students with a support system as well as tools for success.

Digitizing history

Clemson’s Board of Trustees recently approved a new Ph.D. program in digital history — the nation’s first.

Find out more.

New cybersecurity offerings in Charleston area

In response to growth in Charleston’s technology industry, two Clemson faculty members are relocating to the Charleston area for a year. Engineering professors Harlan Russell and Kelly Caine will take the lead in creating new cybersecurity initiatives at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in North Charleston.

Applying big data to decision-making

Clemson is introducing a new master’s degree for working professionals interested in focusing on analyzing and applying big data to strategic decision-making.

Find out more about the online Master of Science in data science and analytics.

New scholarships available for transfer students

Students who transfer to Clemson from South Carolina technical colleges are now eligible for scholarships as part of a program backed by nearly $5 million from the National Science Foundation. The plan calls for more than 300 transfer students who plan to pursue bachelor’s degrees in engineering or computing to receive $3 million in need-based scholarships over the five-year life of the grant. The rest of the funding will pay for programs to support those transfer students as well as follow-up research on results.

More information at

Graduate calls on Clemson for help on massive set

Jesus Christ Superstar setMike East’s Charleston-based company, TTS Studios, was contracted to create the Jesus Christ Superstar set for the musical’s 50th anniversary U.S. tour, beginning in September. Plans called for another company to build the set for the earlier London production. At almost the 11th hour, the producers asked East to build the set for the London performances — by late May, at least three months earlier than planned.
The new timeline created a challenge: The large spaces in Charleston that could be used to construct a theater set were occupied with productions for the city’s annual Spoleto Festival.
A 2007 performing arts alumnus, East called his former colleagues at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts on the spur of the moment. Luckily, the Brooks Center was not being used during the last two weeks of May. Six Clemson students and two performing arts professors worked with six employees from TTS Studios to build the 32-foot-high set, one of the largest projects in the three-year history of the company.
The structure, designed by veteran set designers Tom Scutt and David Arsenault and which East describes as “post-apocalyptic,” has the appearance of an industrial steel grid — with a fallen steel cross in the center of the stage. The beams are actually aluminum covered by plywood.
On May 30, East’s massive set was disassembled and loaded into four tractor-trailers, driven to the Port of Charleston and shipped to London to be reassembled at the famed Barbican Centre.
The purpose of completely building the set only to disassemble it before it was shipped to London was “to make sure it’s going to work, that it’s safe,” East said. “It’s an abnormally high set.”
The set will return to the United States in the fall for a two-year national tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar” that journeys to major cities such as Philadelphia, Cleveland and Miami, and also swings by Greenville’s Peace Center for a week of performances in August 2020.