Three Named Honorary Alumni

Deshaun Watson, Beth Clements, Kathleen Swinney, Dabo Swinney, Wil Brasington, Sandy Edge

Deshaun Watson, Beth Clements, Kathleen Swinney, Dabo Swinney, Wil Brasington, Sandy Edge

There are people associated with Clemson whose lives and personalities seem to be imbued with all things Clemson. Three of those people were named honorary alumni this spring.

Football Head Coach Dabo Swinney and his wife, Kathleen Bassett Swinney, received the recognition at the 2017 All In Ball, an event presented by Swinney’s All In Team Foundation. A University of Alabama graduate, William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney began his career on the Clemson football coaching staff in 2003 and was named interim head coach in 2008, eventually taking on the role permanently at the end of that season.
Kathleen Swinney, also a graduate of the University of Alabama and a former schoolteacher, has focused her attention on using her high-profile platform as the first lady of Clemson football to better the lives of others.
The Swinneys were recognized for their impact in the community and the All In Team Foundation, whose mission is “to raise awareness of critical education and health issues in order to change the lives of people across the state of South Carolina.”

Danny Greg, Mickey Harder and Sandy Edge

Danny Greg, Mickey Harder and Sandy Edge

Lillian U. “Mickey” Harder, who retired as director of the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts in June, was named an honorary alumna at the annual Clemson Pops Concert held at Patrick Square.
Harder came to Clemson in 1972 and has devoted her time to nurturing performing arts, serving as music faculty prior to becoming director of the Brooks Center in 1996. She and her husband established an endowment to create the Lilian and Robert Utsey Chamber Music Series at Clemson University, the only endowed chamber music series of its kind in South Carolina.
Harder holds degrees from Coker College and Converse College and has continued her studies at Boston University, the University of Georgia, Amherst College and the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, France. She previously received the Clemson Outstanding Faculty Woman Award given by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the Thomas Green Clemson Award and the Elizabeth O’Neil Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts.
Honorary alumni are selected by the Alumni Association Honors and Awards Committee on the basis of outstanding service, lifelong devotion, and loyalty to Clemson or the Alumni Association.

Performing arts programs inspire imaginations

Robert Allen ’08 has achieved something that many people only dream of — he’s made it to Broadway. You won’t see him under the spotlight, though. He is a sound engineer, working on various Broadway and off-Broadway productions, sometimes traveling with touring companies, to make the performers on stage sound amazing for their audiences.
Allen graduated in performing arts with a concentration in audio technology, but he had been attending programs at Clemson’s Brooks Center for the Performing Arts for years before enrolling at Clemson.
Allen was one of the thousands of children who file into the seats at the Brooks Center every year to enjoy performances of classical music, children’s plays, dance and more, made possible by the Bill and Donna Eskridge Tri-ART Series.
“I think Tri-ART’s primary influence would have to be the creation of a ‘comfort zone’ with the performing arts,” said Allen. “If it weren’t for my early exposure to theater, I may have shied away from studying at the Brooks Center and pursuing a career in the arts.”
That’s the kind of impact Bill and Donna Eskridge wanted to have when they decided to endow the Tri-ART program. The couple were introduced to the Brooks Center shortly after retiring to Lake Keowee in 1993. After learning about the Tri-ART program and its funding needs, they decided to support it by creating an endowment. They have also decided to include the program in their estate plans, to ensure that it will continue to inspire children for generations.
“It’s probably the best investment we’ve ever made,” Bill said. “I have a framed quote at home that says, ‘A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove … but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.’ That’s the significance of the Tri-ART program, and why we wanted to support it.”
Each year, the Brooks Center hosts 18 Tri-ART programs, with an annual attendance of about 13,000 children. Children are able to attend the programs for $2, and some programs are free.
“There is nowhere else in this country where children can see events of this quality for just $2,” said Lillian “Mickey” Harder, director of the Brooks Center. “We are enriching the lives of thousands of children, and Bill and Donna Eskridge have made that happen.”

Erwins’ continuing investment benefits students

Students will benefit from scholarships, additional experienced faculty and new state-of-the-art classroom space thanks to the continuing investment of Joe Erwin ’79 and his wife, Gretchen.
The co-founders of Greenville-based advertising and marketing firm Erwin Penland gave two new gifts totaling $1.08 million to benefit the University’s Erwin Center for the Study of Advertising and Communication, $800,000 to further the center’s programming and $208,000 to establish the Eugene and Valerie Getchell Scholarship Endowment. Named for Gretchen Erwin’s parents, the endowment allows Clemson to offer two need-based scholarships each year to students studying in the Erwin Center, beginning this year.
The gifts are part of Clemson’s Will to Lead campaign. The Erwin Center was created in December 2012 when the Erwins gave a lead gift of $1.05 million.

Call Me MISTER receives $1.3 million

William Buster, director of the Kellogg Foundation’s Mississippi and New Orleans programs

William Buster, director of the Kellogg Foundation’s Mississippi and New Orleans programs

Clemson’s Call Me MISTER program has received $1.3 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., to collaborate with Jackson State University to increase the number of African-American male teachers in Mississippi K-8 classrooms. The three organizations gathered on campus to commemorate the collaboration and grant.
Clemson established the now nationally recognized Call Me MISTER program in 2000 to increase the number of African-American males teaching in South Carolina K-12 schools. MISTER stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models. After more than a decade, there is a 75 percent increase in the number of African-American male teachers in South Carolina’s public elementary schools.
The program has expanded to 17 colleges in South Carolina. Nearly 100 students are enrolled in the program in six additional states: Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia.
“The demonstrated success of the Call Me MISTER collaborative model in South Carolina, which has resulted in a significant increase in African-American male teachers in our state, provided confidence that the same result was possible in Mississippi,” Roy Jones, director of Call Me MISTER said. “We simply exported our nearly 15 years of successful experience in recruiting, retaining and developing pre-service teachers to Jackson State, which has a long tradition and history in producing African-American educators.”

Chi Zeta celebrates 40 years, endows scholarship

This spring, the alumni brothers of the Chi Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity returned to Clemson to celebrate the chapter’s anniversary. Forty years ago, a group of students chartered the first black Greek-lettered organization on campus. Since then, 122 brothers have been initiated, and more than 90 of those returned for the reunion.
Chi Zeta took a leadership role during the 50th anniversary of the ending of segregation at Clemson. The “50 for 50” campaign was designed to celebrate 50 years of integration at Clemson by creating 50 diversity endowments, with a goal of fully funding the endowments within five years. Chi Zeta saw this as an opportunity to create its own endowment to provide financial support for deserving undergraduate students now and for years to come. Chi Zeta met its commitment within four months and awarded the first scholarship in the fall of 2013.
To mark its 40th anniversary as a campus organization, the alumni brothers of Chi Zeta raised another $25,000, which doubles the endowment to $50,000. With these additional donations, the brothers of Chi Zeta, in conjunction with Mrs. Veronica Clinkscales and the Clinkscales family, were able to establish the Dr. William C. Clinkscales Sr. ’74 Diversity Scholarship Endowment honoring her late husband, one of the founding brothers of the fraternity.

Freeman Hall expanding

Freeman Hall expanding

Freeman Hall renderingFreeman Hall is expanding to make room for rapid growth in the industrial engineering department. The $10-million addition will include new offices, conference rooms and a 108-seat auditorium, and will include additional room for a fast-growing online Master of Engineering in industrial engineering with an emphasis on supply chain and logistics that has been supported by Fluor Corporation. The program now has about 120 students and is expected to grow to 160. Growth in the industrial engineering department underscores the power of philanthropy and the importance of Clemson’s long partnership with Fluor. Fluor contributed $1.5 million in 2013 to create the Fluor-Clemson International Capital Projects Supply Chain Partnership to help with the online program’s expansion.

One Clemson event supports scholarships

ONE CLEMSON MAINC.J. Spiller ’09 was one of the more than two dozen legendary Clemson athletes who were in attendance at the One Clemson Main Event, held in April at the ONE Building in downtown Greenville to support athletic and academic scholarships. Auctioned items included a personal “C.J. Spiller Experience” at a Buffalo Bills game and golf with PGA Tour players Charles Warren and Ben Martin. Proceeds benefit the One Clemson scholarship initiative, a part of the Will to Lead campaign.

Backstage Pass


The curtain rises on a production of “Mamma Mia” to a packed house at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts. Three hours later, the three-song finale of “Mamma Mia!,” “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” has even the most staid patrons standing and singing along to the music of ABBA, silly grins plastered on their faces.
It was a production befitting the 20th anniversary of the Brooks Center. The acting was superb, the music almost magical. And the technical support for the production came off without a hitch. So much so, that it was an invisible part of the production. Just like it’s meant to be.
But that’s where you find, as Paul Harvey used to say, the “rest of the story.”

Putting it together

Clemson was the first stop on a series of one- and two-night shows for the cast and crew, led by executive producer Stephen Gabriel of Work Light Productions. But they didn’t just come to Clemson for the production itself. They spent the previous ten days “teching” the show — putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, as Gabriel says. It’s the time to make sure the light, sound and scenic details get ironed out and to figure out how the set will break down and set up in the cities they’ll travel to during their 10-month national tour.
This is Gabriel’s seventh time to bring a production to Clemson. The relationship began eight years ago when he met Mickey Harder, director of the Brooks Center, in New York at a meeting of the Association of Arts Presenters. Harder was on the hunt for theatrical bookings; Gabriel was looking for a venue to tech a family musical.
Gabriel offered a challenge: Could Harder provide eight of Clemson’s very best students to work with them from 8 a.m. until midnight for 10 days, free use of the theatre and lodging at a local motel for the crew in exchange for two productions at the Brooks Center?
Harder’s response? “We can do it.”
She laughs, thinking back. “I had no more idea if we could do it or not. Have you had those moments in your life when you knew that this is not going to come again? I knew this was a golden opportunity for what we are trying to do at Clemson, so I decided — I’m going to tell him ‘yes.’ And then I’m going to go back and tell these kids they’re going to have to work their buns off.”
That year, and six times since, Gabriel has “teched” his productions at the Brooks Center. And Clemson’s performing arts students have been right in the midst of it. [pullquote align=’left’ font=’chunk’ color=’#86898C’]For 10 very intense days — from 8 a.m. until midnight — students work in the costuming shop, problem-solve with the sound crew, set up and adjust lights, work on the set and learn what it takes to re-work a Broadway show for smaller venues and constant travel. It’s a chance to learn from professionals and find out what it takes to translate the knowledge they’ve learned into skills of the trade.[/pullquote]
What the students get out of these two weeks is more than just hands-on experience. Harder and David Hartmann, chair of the performing arts department, set up Q&A sessions with members of the company so that all the majors, not just those working with the show, can get answers to questions like, “What’s it like to travel with a show?” and “What does it do to relationships?” or “What do you look for in a technician?”
It gives students a chance, says Hartmann, to actually talk to the producer, designer and technicians, to help them make career decisions and answer the basic question: “Do I really want to go on the road?”
Joshua Carter, a senior from the Chicago area, spent the 10 days as a production assistant assigned to the resident director (Martha Banta) and the choreographer (Ryan Sander). “It was my job,” he says, “to make sure that they had everything they needed while here in Clemson.” That involved everything from arranging meals to coffee runs to serving as a tour guide and problem-solver. What it also involved, he says, was “direct access to these two amazing individuals. I could observe their process and really see how they worked. They were incredibly nice and approachable and encouraged me to ask questions.”

Alumni on the road

Almost 20 graduates of the program have gone on to work for Work Light Productions, a result of contacts made through this collaboration. Gabriel begins to tick off names: “Our head audio on this tour, Jeff Human, is a graduate. Our associate production supervisor, Mike East, is a graduate. This past year on the tour of ‘American Idiot,’ the head carpenter, Eric Stewart, was from Clemson. We have put so many grads on our tour, and our production supervisor has brought even more to Spoleto.”
Human, a 2007 graduate, knows the reality of being on the road. Based in Chicago, he travels the world and averages less than a week a month at home. For this production, he gets the opportunity to travel with his fiancé, also a member of the crew, but that doesn’t always happen. He and East were members of that first group of students who “worked their buns off” when Gabriel brought his first production, “Broadway Junior on Tour,” to Clemson.
Both cite the contacts they made as they talk about their professional journeys. Human interned with Work Light in 2005-06, then went on to work for Technical Theater Solutions (TTS) in Charleston, which partners with Work Light to manage the technical part of the production and also handles the technical aspects for Spoleto. East’s story is similar: He worked on the light board in Work Light’s first production at Clemson, then worked Spoleto in the summer with TTS. While he was in graduate school, he got a job offer from TTS and headed back to Charleston, where he is now vice president of operations. And that job brought him full circle: back to this production of “Mamma Mia,” overseeing the technical crew and the Clemson students.

Getting a foot in the door

It’s not an easy thing for these students to participate in this two-week merging of the professional with the academic, as Hartmann describes it. They’re responsible for contacting their other professors across campus, making provisions for getting notes, taking tests and keeping up with academic work that doesn’t stop just because they have this opportunity.
But the tradeoffs are tremendous, says Hartmann. “It has led to jobs,” he says, music to every parent’s ear. Hartmann describes the intense two-week experience as a professional internship, where the students get a sense of what it takes to work in the world of theater.
Gabriel explains it this way: “You learn at a certain curve when you’re in school, and then you learn exponentially in the first few months when you’re applying it professionally. [pullquote align=’right’ font=’chunk’ color=’#86898C’]The value to the students here is they get two weeks of the real world. Everything they’ve been learning — this is how it is applied. Hopefully, they walk away with an understanding of the level that they have to perform at and the speed of it.”[/pullquote]
But the students get more than just two weeks of experience; they get connections that are crucial to their future. “You have to have knowledge, but you have to have connections to get a foot in the door,” says Harder.

Youth and enthusiasm … and opportunity

That snap decision on Harder’s part eight years ago began a successful partnership. What Gabriel didn’t know was that the performing arts program at Clemson was very young, having just graduated its first class of 12. What Harder didn’t realize was that Gabriel was in the midst of forming his company for the first time.
Both have grown and changed. Gabriel’s company has transitioned to taking Broadway musicals on the road; Clemson’s performing arts program, with concentrations in music, audio technology and theatre, has sent 134 graduates out into the world and currently enrolls 97.
Taking a Broadway show on the road is hard work, and it takes a lot of hands. With this particular production, it’s college students who round out the crew in preparing and teching the show. But for Gabriel, that’s not a compromise.
“We’ve found that the level of the training these students get makes it so that we don’t miss a beat,” he says. His experience with Clemson students has also taught him that “young and enthusiastic makes up for what might be lacking in experience.” He recalls a time during the production of “Frog and Toad,” when an audio problem had them all stumped. “This young, kind of geeky looking guy walked up and said, ‘If you do this, that and the other, it will work.’”
That young guy was Robert Allen ’08, who after a one-year internship with the Brooks Center, went on the road with Gabriel and Work Light Productions as part of the crew for “Avenue Q.” He’s recently finished up touring the U.S. and Canada for a year, running video for the show “American Idiot.” Now, Gabriel says, Allen “walks in the room and he’s very commanding. He knows how to solve problems.”
“We learned early on,” says Gabriel, “that you can find some young, very talented people, and if you give them opportunity, most of them rise to the occasion.”

From a Student Perspective

Mamma Mia
Kelsey Bailey
Year: Senior (graduating May 2014)
Hometown: Chamblee, Georgia
Major: Production Studies in Performing Arts: Theatre
“When I was a senior in high school, I had the experience to come see “Avenue Q” in its second national tour while it was in “tech” at the Brooks Center. Since my cousin, Mike East, was a recent graduate from the Production Studies program at Clemson and working as a part of Technical Theatre Solutions, I was able to get a backstage view of what a show of that magnitude looked like. Meeting members of the crew and seeing how all the technical elements fit together reinforced how much I wanted to go into technical theatre.
Mama MiaAfter the performance, I stood and watched the beginning of the “load out” from the front of the stage. Itching to be up there doing the same thing, I knew I wanted to work on a production like this. Clemson was the only place I could find where I could experience working with a national tour while I was still in school. I didn’t need to look at any other universities after that show; I knew Clemson would be the perfect fit for me.
While working with “Mamma Mia,” I was on the props crew. I spent most days organizing, cleaning, repairing, inventorying and maintaining the props. During rehearsals and shows I was backstage as an assistant to the show’s head of props. I was in charge of tracking props and making sure actors got them in time.
Being able to work on props crew for this show reinforced my love for what I do. I learned to come up with creative and out-of-the-box solutions for problems and saw how professionals had done things as well. Just being a part of the internship gave me the confidence to see myself touring when I graduate.
A lot of us refer to this internship as a two-week job interview, because you have to bring your best to work all day every day, but for me they are the best two weeks of my year.”