New Members to Serve as Order of the Oak Ambassadors

The Order of the Oak supports the University with the gifts of wisdom and guidance

Many years ago, under the shade of a large oak tree on the grounds of Fort Hill, our University began with a small meeting of the original seven trustees in whom Thomas Green Clemson entrusted the fulfillment of his vision for the establishment of a high seminary of learning. Inspired by that seminal moment, in January 2021, the Clemson University Foundation established a group of trusted advocates called the Order of the Oak. 

Order of the Oak ambassadors provide wisdom, guidance and momentum as the University moves forward. They are chosen based on their leadership, experience, loyalty and generosity to the University, and their ability to inspire others. They adhere to the University’s fundraising goals to steer their mission and strategy and work closely with the Clemson University Foundation and the division of Advancement. 

Recently, five new Order of the Oak ambassadors were named: Johnny and Kristen Evans, Bill and Laura Pelham, Brook and Pam Smith, Bob and Pat Jordan, and Ken and Layne Smith.

They join the founding cohort of Order of the Oak ambassadors: Gerald and Candi Glenn, Brent and Blair Beason, Phil and Mary Bradley, Dan and Nancy Garrison, Bob and Susan Hambright, Allen and Suzie Martin, Albert and Gayle McAlister, Mitch and Carla Norville, Bart and Marion Proctor, Bob and Kaye Stanzione, Sharon and Ric Struthers, Emily and Jack Wallace, Amy and Rob Yoder, and Mark and Karen Phillips.

These leaders are ready to meet the changes and challenges of the future direction of our University, fulfilling our founder’s vision and upholding our land-grant mission. “It is an honor and privilege to serve as a founding ambassador of the Order of the Oak,” says Gerald Glenn, chair. “We are proud to work with University leadership to move Clemson forward.”


Endowing New Opportunities

Architect’s gift opens doors for underrepresented graduate students

Architect Thomas Phifer calls his experience at Clemson — and at the Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Studies in Genoa, Italy — “the beginning of everything for me.” 

Phifer earned his bachelor’s degree in 1975 and master’s degree in 1977.

One of the leading architects of our time, Phifer has completed numerous projects, including an expansion of the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland; an expansion of the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York; the United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah; the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina; the Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University in Houston, Texas; an outdoor performance pavilion in Austin, Texas; and numerous houses in the Hudson Valley of New York State. He was a lead design architect for Lee III at Clemson, which Architectural Digest called “one of the best in new university architecture around the world.” Ongoing projects include the Museum of Modern Art and TR Warszawa Theatre in Warsaw and the Cine Colombia headquarters in Bogotá. It’s an impressive list.

Equally impressive are the accolades. Phifer received the prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture from the American Academy in Rome in 1995. A fellow of the American Institute of Architects, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, in 2004, and the President’s award, in 2016, from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In 2019, he received the National Design Award in Architectural Design from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. In 2022, Phifer was inducted as a lifetime member into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. And these are but a few of the many recognitions that have been bestowed upon him.


“I want to honor the state of South Carolina where I was born and raised … by elevating the presence of a more diverse community.”


Now an endowed fellowship for graduate architecture students from historically underserved and underrepresented communities bears his name at Clemson. The Thomas Phifer Fellowship supports two years of tuition in the School of Architecture for two graduate students from underserved and underrepresented communities to increase access and broaden a more diverse pathway within the architecture profession in South Carolina. 

“By opening new opportunities to underserved and underrepresented communities, we strengthen the diversity of voices in our lives,” said Phifer, “offering the promise of a more inclusive, open and welcoming architecture. My hope is that others will join me in supporting this fellowship fund that provides an education that is open to all people.”

In addition, Phifer is establishing an annual yearlong preceptorship in his New York studio for a School of Architecture graduate student in their second year of study.

“Thomas Phifer is a point of pride as an alumnus,” said School of Architecture director James Stevens. “This gift is essential in supporting our underrepresented students, who might otherwise not be able to pursue architecture as a career. Not only does it commit to supporting them financially, but it also commits to mentoring and training selected students in Thomas’ studio — a priceless contribution to our students, institution and profession.” 

The School of Architecture has an important historical role in the University’s progress toward greater diversity. Harvey Gantt, Clemson’s first African American graduate, is a School of Architecture alumnus who graduated with honors in 1965. Ray Huff, recently retired director of the Clemson Design Center in Charleston, was one of the first African American students to follow in Gantt’s footsteps, and he has spearheaded efforts to increase the diversity of the School of Architecture’s student body. 

“This fellowship will provide an unprecedented opportunity for students of color to pursue architecture as a vocation, enabling their voices, instincts and unique vantage to become purposeful and heralded in the canon of architecture,” Huff said.

“I want to honor the state of South Carolina where I was born and raised, a place that means so much to me, by elevating the presence of a more diverse community. The School of Architecture was the beginning of everything for me. That transformative experience so many years ago is still alive in me today, and I would like to pass along this inclusive ethos to the next generation. 

“If we all learn this way, then we will teach this way,” said Phifer. 

Inspired to Give Back

Crystal Pee honors her grandparents to bridge the gap of access

Crystal M. Pee ’18 is a firm believer in honoring the blessings of life. When she got her first job out of graduate school as a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, she didn’t hesitate to return that blessing by giving back. 

She recently pledged a gift to her alma mater to establish the Major and Mazie Booth Diversity Scholarship Endowment at Clemson University, in loving memory of her grandparents. Although Pee never had the opportunity to meet her grandfather, his story was instrumental in her pursuit of an engineering degree. He was a self-taught “engineer,” with a pretty keen business mind thrown in for good measure. In the 1950s, he physically built a house for his family that still stands today. He designed and constructed an irrigation system for his family farm. He performed cost analysis to figure out how to pay for materials and labor, as well as track all his drawings and calculations in a notebook. He did all these things without the benefit of a formal education. 


“The scholarships and fellowships that I received helped me out so much as a student, I could not wait to do it for others when I got the opportunity.”


Pee feels the only difference between herself and her grandfather was access to resources and the opportunity to attain a college education. She established the endowment in his name in order to bridge the gap of access and provide opportunity for minoritized students who have the desire to complete a degree program at Clemson.

There is no lack of inspiration within the Pee family. Pee’s parents have dedicated themselves to a life of service and ministry. She was empowered from a young age to be anything she wanted to be. With her family’s encouragement, and her accomplished grandfather as inspiration, she chose chemical engineering at Clemson, where she excelled.  

Pee says, “I started this scholarship at the University I love to honor my maternal grandparents and the people in my life who have been a blessing to me. The scholarships and fellowships that I received helped me out so much as a student, I could not wait to do it for others when I got the opportunity. The Major and Mazie Booth Diversity Scholarship Endowment is my way of giving back to Clemson and providing access and opportunity to those who want to pursue a degree at Clemson University.”