Empowering First-Generation Clemson Students

John ’72 and Laurie Gutshaw believe in the power of education. Long before they met, John and Laurie both relished the educational opportunities afforded to them, eventually using that education to build substantive careers and lives. The couple, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is putting their collective power behind Clemson University through the establishment of the Kenneth John Gutshaw Jr., ’72 and Laurie B. Gutshaw Annual FIRST Grant-In-Aid Endowment — providing support for first-generation college students at Clemson.

John Gutshaw is a West Virginia native who spent his formative years in Long Island. “When it was time for me to look at colleges, I was interested in going to a Southern school because I frankly didn’t like cold weather,” recalled John. “When I visited Clemson, I fell in love with the campus, the area and its beauty.”

John received his bachelor’s degree in economics and his master’s in city and regional planning. After graduation, his career took him back to New York, where he teamed with Jim Wadley, who had recently founded a firm specializing in analyzing and accessing site selections for companies. Their company grew and eventually merged with a real estate corporation. Today, the firm of Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting is an international consulting firm.

Meanwhile, Laurie Buchanan was pursuing a successful career as a journalist. Her path took her into the inner-world of Washington politics where she held communications positions for notable members of Congress. She also worked for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit and a global engineering consulting firm, AECOM Technology, from which she retired in 2017.

John and Laurie now enjoy a busy semi-retirement life in Florida. Their skills are still in high demand, but they carefully select what causes and organizations to allocate their energy toward and are always exploring ways to support what they are passionate about, like Clemson’s FIRST program.

The Gutshaws recently had an opportunity to meet the first group of Clemson students to benefit from their generosity and look forward to seeing what path those students take.

“Laurie and I believe one of the best gifts you can give to any young person is a college education,” said John. “College prepares you for a future career, helps you understand learning experiences and establishes enduring friendships. In the absence of having children, we decided this endowment was the best avenue — providing others with this gift — and opening the door for a first-generation college graduate makes this even more special to us.”

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