Siblings Nick ’14 and Alyssa ’17 James brought their Tiger Rag 60 feet underwater while scuba diving in Roatan, Honduras, over Christmas 2018.
Q: HOW DID YOU GET INTO MAKING CUSTOM SKATEBOARDS?
A: I got my degree from Clemson in graphic communications, and for one of my projects, I actually chose to design a skateboard. After that, I didn’t touch anything skateboard-related for a few years. I became a prop master at a special rims company and then a fabricator at a custom sign shop. When I was carving out a custom sign one day, I thought it would make a pretty cool grip for a skateboard, so I tried it and made one. People started asking me where I got it from, and I started taking orders. It just grew from there.
Q: IS THERE A LESSON OR MEMORY FROM CLEMSON THAT STICKS WITH YOU?
A: My favorite stuff at Clemson was the printing projects, and that meant you were going to be in lab for, like, your entire life. But it was the fun part. That kind of translated to my career. If you’re going to do something more fun as an occupation, it’s going to be a lot more work because most of the time, passion projects aren’t necessities. Like if someone’s breaker goes out, they have to call an electrician to get a new breaker, but I have to convince someone to buy a skateboard.
Q: HOW MANY SKATEBOARDS DO YOU MAKE IN A DAY?
A: If I’m doing stock orders, I can make six. If I’m working on a custom, it’ll probably just be that one.
Q: HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED WHEN YOU’RE WORKING LONG HOURS?
A: I do get burnt out every once in a while, but then I’ll do a custom for a client, and they’ll request something I’ve never done before. I’ll try it out and figure out new ways to carve, which brings so many new possibilities for other projects. That’s what keeps me inspired. I know the more I do this, the crazier and better stuff I can come up with.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR RECENT GRADS?
A: Be susceptible to change. If you have a really good idea of what you want to do, that’s awesome — kudos to you. But if you’re not 100 percent set in your career path, don’t be afraid to take opportunities you didn’t quite have in mind to begin with. Sometimes, you get into a job or get offered an opportunity, and it completely changes your mindset for where you want your life to go.
Q: FAVORITE SKATEBOARD TRICK?
A: Power slide.
My name is Valerie Joy Wilson, and I am a travel journalist, photographer, host and influencer, as well as the founder of TrustedTravelGirl.com — a guide to globetrotting. As a 2013 Clemson grad, I love to show off my class ring on all of my travels around the world. When I’m not traveling, I’m enjoying everything Los Angeles has to offer. Here’s a curated list of some of my favorite spots around the city:
1 BEVERLY HILLS With some of the best eats in L.A., Beverly Hills has more to offer than just Rodeo Drive. For lunch, Wally’s has outdoor seating, a phenomenal wine menu and incredible charcuterie boards. For cocktails, the brand-new Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria is the place to be with a cocktail menu crafted by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and a rooftop bar boasting panoramic views of Beverly Hills.
2 WEST HOLLYWOOD Here is where you’re more likely to bump into some of the stars; it’s not unusual for me to see A-listers while grocery shopping or heading out to lunch. For breakfast, the Griddle is known for having large stacks of pancakes and “secret French toast,” which used to require a secret password for ordering. Now, anyone can order it (no password required), and it’s a fan favorite, so don’t miss it.
3 THAI TOWN Few cities around the world have Thai food that can rival Thailand, but Los Angeles does. In an unassuming strip mall in the middle of Thai Town is Jitlada, one of the best Thai restaurants anywhere in the world.
PRO TIP: Owner Mama Jazz cooks Southern Thai food, which means the dishes are spicy. If you can’t handle the heat, be sure to let your server know.
4 HOLLYWOOD One of the best places to catch a glimpse of the iconic Hollywood sign is Lake Hollywood Park. It’s the perfect place to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the sunny SoCal weather.
5 MALIBU My favorite spot in Malibu is Paradise Cove, famously featured on the covers of Beach Boys albums. Just above the cove, you can catch a view of the “million-dollar trailer park,” where trailer homes have sold for up to $3.75 million. Stars including Matthew McConaughey and Pamela Anderson have been residents of the park.
AN EVENING WITH THE PRESIDENT
On June 13, 2018, the Baltimore/ Washington, D.C., Clemson Club hosted an evening event at the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. Over 125 alumni gathered along with members of Congress, members of the Board of Visitors and guests from campus for a keynote speech by President Clements. Throughout the evening, guests enjoyed refreshments and heavy hors d’oeuvres, notably the local specialty: Maryland crab cakes.
The Atlanta Clemson Club welcomed Rashard Hall ’11, director of career and professional development for Clemson Football, to its fall speaker series on Sept. 21, 2018. Hall and fellow football alumnus Patrick Godfrey ’17 shared details about the PAW (Passionate About Winning) Journey program, which is focused on cultivating leadership in student-athletes through life skills and professional
Three Clemson students in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area arrived at the Twin Cities Clemson Club student sendoff on July 29, 2018, where they met and mingled with alumni who were there to support them as they headed to Tigertown. Guests enjoyed a potluck picnic at the home of host Heather Huck ’99. “The Twin Cities Clemson Club officially formed in 2016, and it has been awesome to see the enthusiasm for Clemson grow in the ‘Bold North,’” said club member Tyler Morey ’10.
The Smoky Mountain Clemson Club hosted its fourth annual football season kickoff tailgate at the Saratoga Pavilion of Anchor Park in Farragut, Tennessee, on Aug. 26, 2018. Alumni spent time catching up and feasting on a barbecue dinner from the Holy Smokin BBQ food truck.
On Sept. 12, 2018, the Richmond Clemson Club participated in the Alumni Charity Challenge, a food drive that supports the Central Virginia Food Bank. The event, held at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, brings alumni chapters from all over Virginia together to fight food insecurity in the state. The Richmond Clemson Club collected 1,462 pounds of the total 107,696 pounds collected at the event.
Are you looking to get involved with a local Clemson Club? Go to alumni.clemson.edu and click on “Join a Club” to find contact info, or contact Stewart Summers at email@example.com.
The Alumni Association, IPTAY and Annual Giving collaborated to bring Clemson to Texas on Sept. 4-8, 2018. Nearly 1,000 alumni participated in four “CU in the City” events, hosted by the Clemson Clubs of Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas; the events raised funds for the Tigers in Texas Scholarship Endowment, which provides scholarships for Texas-based students attending Clemson.
On Sept. 7, 2018, the Friday before the Texas A&M football game in College Station, more than 400 alumni gathered at a “Welcome to the City” event. ESPN reporters spoke with club leaders and recorded several Clemson traditions, including the $2 bill and the cadence count. Many of the alumni later attended Midnight Yell Practice — a Texas A&M tradition where students practice cheers before the game.
On game day, Texas A&M Association of Former Students President Porter Garner and Clemson President James P. Clements stopped by the Clemson Family tailgate hosted by the Alumni Association and IPTAY to welcome the 850 alumni who attended.
Imagine leaving an online review without having to write a single word. Thanks to Sullivan, there’s an app for that.
A 1990 PSYCHOLOGY GRADUATE and clinical psychologist, Brian Sullivan is also the co-founder of Vizbii Inc., a technological communication company headquartered in Charleston. Vizbii is home to Morphii, a platform that’s changing the game for measuring emotion in the professional world.
With more than 20 years of experience teaching and working in the counseling center at the College of Charleston as well as in private practice, Sullivan watched as his patients struggled to describe their feelings using traditional scales and typical Q&A formats, sparking the original idea for the Morphii project.
“What I quickly found was that the traditional method, especially when the answer format is a scale with some numbers on it, is too far removed from their actual experience,” Sullivan explains.
His patented solution is a collection of morphing cartoon faces called “morphiis” that are embedded in an analytics database platform. His co-founder, and now wife, Corey Sullivan, animated the idea and then developed several prototypes to perfect the application.
To combat the drawbacks of scales and questionnaires, morphiis are equipped with a sliding scale. Each morphii represents a different emotion — happiness, anger, disgust or surprise — and the scale is used to adjust the intensity of the morphii’s expression. This feature helps the participant account for a much larger range of emotions than the traditional numerical scale.
Morphii can be used in business or health care settings and is incorporated into mobile- and web-based applications to easily capture and measure emotions.
“It’s like an emotional Intel chip inside a computer,” Sullivan says.
Recently, Vizbii has helped big-name brands like Verizon, JetBlue and Capital One incorporate Morphii into development projects. Other clients include a preschool on Daniel Island that uses the application to assess teacher and employee engagement as well as parent satisfaction and a physician in North Carolina who is integrating Morphii into his practice to identify patients who may be on a pathway to opioid addiction.
Morphii’s usefulness across a range of industries has Sullivan excited for the future of his smiling — and frowning — faces.
Check out Sullivan’s TEDx talk on the power of emotion: https://youtu.be/MxOZBPTyABY
As the executive director of Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Burdette is motivated by his passions for history and the military.
PATRIOTS POINT Naval and Maritime Museum is home to the USS Yorktown, known affectionately as the Fighting Lady. The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, decommissioned in 1970, earned 11 battle stars in the Pacific offensive of World War II and five more in the Vietnam War.
In 1968, the Yorktown recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and their capsule in waters south of Hawaii. Now, moored in Charleston Harbor, the ship falls under the watch of Robert McPherson “Mac” Burdette.
“It’s almost a feeling of destiny,” Burdette says. “This is where I was supposed to end up because I do have a passion for [the military]. Frankly, everybody who works here does. No doubt Clemson prepared me for what I do today.”
Burdette was a history major at Clemson when his studies were disrupted by the Vietnam War. He enlisted: “The wisest thing to do was enlist because you assumed you were going to be drafted. Enlisting meant getting a commission, and that was the smartest move.”
After serving in active duty as a second lieutenant in the Army, Burdette entered the Army Reserve, where he achieved the rank of colonel after 30 years of service, including a year in the Persian Gulf War.
Outside of the Army Reserve, Burdette spent much of his career as the city manager for Mount Pleasant, helping it grow and develop for almost three decades. In 2010, he was considering retirement when the executive director opportunity at Patriots Point came into view. Burdette couldn’t resist.
Along with the USS Yorktown, Patriots Point hosts the USS Laffey, a destroyer, and the USS Clamagore, a submarine, as well as a Vietnam War exhibit and a Medal of Honor museum. Each year, the museum sees more than 300,000 visitors and hosts 24,000 overnight campers. The site also has an economic impact of more than $29 million on the area, according to a 2014 College of Charleston study.
Burdette’s goal for the museum is to help younger generations of Americans understand the sacrifice and courage of veterans. “I like to think we’re a lot more than a museum,” he says. “It’s more about gaining perspective on what war is all about. As difficult as it is, there are times when men and women are called to preserve the values we hold dear as Americans.”
Vanessa Ellerbe Wyche ’85, M ’87 remembers studying hard at Clemson and the way campus leaders mentored her, especially when one chemistry professor encouraged her to trust herself when she was struggling: “I remember telling him that I wasn’t quite understanding something. He told me that I just needed to step back, take a break, and it was going to come to me. And it did.”
Now, after a career with NASA spanning nearly three decades, she’s leading the way as the deputy director of Johnson Space Center in Houston, becoming the first African-American to serve in the position when she started in August 2018. Working alongside director Mark Geyer, Wyche is responsible for 10,000 civil service and contract employees at Johnson Space Center and White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
As an early-morning anchor, Sullivan has been nationally recognized for her dedication to viewers.
WHITNEY SULLIVAN begins her day as Columbia sleeps. She usually settles into her desk at WLTX News 19’s headquarters around 1 a.m. The office, a utilitarian mishmash of brick and steel on Garners Ferry Road, is never truly quiet.
In the digital age, news is not only constant but also constantly documented, and Sullivan knows this dynamic better than most. As an anchor in the 4:30 a.m. slot, she must pull double duty keeping her viewers informed and keeping them from crawling back into bed. But the early hour creates a bond.
“If you get up at 4:30, we’re family,” she says. “Those are my people, those who have to get their day started a little earlier than everyone else.”
Sullivan’s embrace of her viewers is an extension of her approach to journalism. In her role as an anchor, reporter and producer, she favors a community-focused approach acting as a mouthpiece for unsung local heroes and a watchdog for local concerns.
Sometimes that community-conscious approach means traveling outside of the state. Sullivan’s coverage of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, which was nominated for an Emmy, helped Columbia viewers empathize and express grief in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.
“I’m proud of that show because not only did we do that within hours of finding out about it, but I feel like we really presented the facts,” she says. “We worked toward healing. We really got to hear from everybody, about how they felt about that, in our community. Even though it happened in Orlando, there were people hurting in the Midlands from what happened miles and miles away. We were able to tap into that and give a voice to the people and let them express how they were feeling.”
The twin desires to inform and give voice to the local community animate Sullivan’s work.
“I get to be a voice for the people in the community that I love,” Sullivan says. “It’s something that I fall more in love with every day.”