Pursuit of Passion: Lindsay Louise McPhail ’09

 

Stepping into the Art Cellar means being greeted with bold primary colors, pretty pastels, trinkets to take home and statement pieces to hang above mantels. It’s not just a place for artists to sell their wares, but also a home for art education and mentorship.

Lindsay Louise McPhail, the Art Cellar’s owner, wanted to be an artist and a teacher. She’s living the dream — just in a different venue than originally planned. These days you’ll find her in the back of the converted restaurant’s old kitchen in downtown Greenville throwing clay or teaching printmaking for ceramics. “I’ve always considered myself an artist,” she said. “I’ve always drawn and painted, and I’m always doing projects at home.”

After graduating from Clemson with a bachelor of fine arts in visual arts and working a few years, McPhail was planning to go through South Carolina’s Program for Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) to go into a traditional K-12 classroom and teach art. But then an underground art gallery in downtown Greenville put up a “For Sale” sign. “I called the owner, and she said her husband was sick, and she could no longer care for him and the business,” she said.

McPhail acted fast. Without any formal business education, she quickly got together a deposit for the business, developed a business plan and dove into an adventure she’d never planned. “It’s hard to describe just how surreal it all feels. I just feel very lucky that I get to do art every day and pursue my passion.”

McPhail’s gallery was on South Main Street for two years before outgrowing the space and moving to North Main Street. Now across from Noma Square, she features more than 50 local artists in gallery space. In addition to offering monthly classes in painting or ceramics, McPhail’s business also houses three other artists-in-residence working in the studio.

The new space also gives artists more visibility than ever before with the new layout and the location, McPhail said.

“As an artist, the main thing you want is visibility, “she said. “Artists want to be working and creating in the studio. They may not have somewhere to display and sell, nor want to do it themselves. We provide that space downtown for them.”

Investigative Ace: Lauren Sausser ’05

 

Returning to The Post and Courier newsroom in Charleston after having a child had Lauren Sausser feeling frazzled. Turns out the breakneck pace of motherhood helped her turn out her best reporting. Sausser was named the 2017 South Carolina Press Association Journalist of the Year for daily newspapers based on her collective work from the past year.

“I constantly had a cold she was bringing in from day care. This was my first child so it was all brand new to me,” she said. “It’s really validating that my peers recognized me. We celebrated with dinner that night, and I went back to work on Monday.”

Sausser got her start in the newsroom as a copy editor at The Tiger her senior year of undergraduate work. “I did it because they paid me $50 a week,” she said. After graduation, she moved home to Spartanburg and worked for The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, then on to Columbia University in New York, where she earned her master’s degree in journalism.

As a health care reporter, Sausser said she’s lucky to still have a very traditional newsroom job when across the country reporters are being asked not only to research, interview, write and report, but also to be social media savvy, as well as shoot video and photography.

“I love talking to people about what they’re passionate about,” she said. “There’s nothing more exciting than going into a lab somewhere and finding a scientist who can explain something in a way my mom can understand it.”

This past year’s reporting took Sausser into some long-term investigative pieces, including one about a woman from Oconee County who convinced people she had a baby she wanted to sell — but there was no baby.

Five months later, Sausser published a piece about heartless encounters with the so-called “mom” who duped many women into wanting this non-existent child. All the while, she was still churning out stories for the daily paper on misuse of funds by the Medical University of South Carolina Board of Trustees and showcasing stories from some of the 136,000 people who fall into the Affordable Care Act’s insurance gap.

“You work on it, you write it and then you go home,” she said. “It’s a nice pace. You put your work to bed when you leave. And who knows what’s going to happen the next day? There’s a big element of surprise in journalism.”

Engineered for Success: Paulette Vernon Evans ’01

Paulette Evans’ work as senior project manager with Cone Health landed her on the 2017 list of the Triad Business Journal’s Forty under 40. Since August 2016, she’s led the development of Reinventing Care, a $160 million project that includes a new women’s and children’s facility for a North Carolina hospital system that serves six counties.

“It’s probably the most complex project the hospital has ever tackled,” said Evans. “We are really changing things up for the entire system. It feels good to know in the end that it will be worth it.”

The project, which is geared toward bringing women and children’s services to the main Cone Health campus in Greensboro, means the hospital will be able to accommodate about 6,200 births a year. The project also includes the Wesley Long Hospital and Operative Services with a new 10-room operating suite and a redesigned behavioral health services area.

“One thing that sticks out to me is what we’ll be able to do with robotics in the operating room,” she said about the project. “It’s a collaboration between what a human being and a machine can do. The new technologies that are being used are going to be amazing.”

Tackling an analytical career as an engineer was natural for Evans. Her father was an electrician and her mother taught math for 30 years. “In school science and math were my favorite subjects — all day, every day,” said Evans.

In 10th grade when a career assessment pegged her as being a future engineer or a litigator, the research she compiled gave her an answer of combining her parents’ passions to become an electrical engineer. A full scholarship to Clemson for the class valedictorian solidified her choice of becoming a Tiger over a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.

Evans said looking back at her childhood, she has her parents to thank for the time they spent sharing the daily ins-and-outs of their own careers to set her up for success. “All the things I did growing up, all the conversations we had, they just stuck,” she said. “My dad would come home and debrief with us.

I spent a lot of time with him helping him with cars, and problem solving and trying to understand why things happen the way they happen. It just all pointed in the direction I needed to go.”

Long Live Longleaf Pines: Ryan Bean ’04

Ryan Bean has his sights set on turning three acres of land at Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education Center in Northeast Columbia into an educational opportunity for South Carolina landowners.

Restoration of longleaf pine trees is important for enhancing the South Carolina landscape, according to Bean, a Clemson Extension and Forestry Natural Resources agent. “At one time, South Carolina had 7.6 million acres of longleaf pines,” he said. “That figure has decreased, and today the state has just 569,646 acres.”

The Sandhill REC plot once was home to pecan trees used for research. Knowing the pecan tree research was no longer ongoing, Bean proposed a new plan for the site. “This is a great piece of land, perfect for a forestry education site,” Bean said. “It will be a place where landowners can come and see firsthand how different planting techniques work. They can use this information when planting trees on their own properties.”

The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered more than 90 million acres across the Southeast, Bean said. Today there is only a fraction of that left due to land clearing, mostly for agriculture. Bean said the longleaf pine ecosystem is home to about 100 bird species, 36 mammal species, and 170 species of reptiles and amphibians. In addition, 29 species associated with longleaf pine forests, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened or endangered.

“There is a huge push to restore this ecosystem,” said Bean.

Bean said he loves working outside and helping people achieve their goals, noting he’d “go crazy” if he had to sit at a desk or in a cubicle for a job.

“I field many questions regarding tree planting and proper care for timber stands,” he said. “It will be nice for forestry and natural resource agents to be able to show landowners and others their options for planting and management practices using this demonstration site.”
Bean also will use the demonstration plot to collect data and reference information specifically for South Carolina.

“Our goal as Clemson Extension agents is to bring information and education to the people of South Carolina,” Bean said. “This demonstration plot will be an excellent way to collect local data, as well as educate people about the proper way to plant and maintain longleaf pine trees here in South Carolina.”

Privilege to Command: John “Jay” Raymond ’84

Making sure your GPS keeps the most up-to-date information for your drive is one of the small responsibilities of the satellites in the sky that Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond oversees from his headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

“It’s really hard for the average American to understand just how reliant their life is on space. Space capabilities like GPS and communication satellites fuel our American way of life,” he said.

Raymond took command of Air Force Space Command in October 2016 after the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment and promotion to four-star general. Prior to his current position, Raymond served as deputy chief of staff for operations of the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The career military officer said he has prepared his whole life for this role. From growing up in a military family with service dating back to 1865 to attending Clemson’s ROTC program under the leadership of Col. Lew Jordan, Raymond said he knew he wanted a career in the military. “I love belonging to something bigger than myself and having the privilege of serving my country,” he said. “That was instilled in me at a young age.

Raymond’s command provides critical space capabilities for all of America’s joint military forces and the nation. His team operates eleven satellite constellations which enable global communications, deliver satellite imagery, ensure precision navigation and weather data, provide missile warning and guide precision weapons the United States employs.

“A vast majority of those weapons are GPS-guided,” Raymond said.

Commanding 40,000 space and cyberspace professionals in 134 locations doesn’t come easily. “I set high standards, and hold myself and the airmen I am privileged to lead, accountable to meet those standards. I come to work every day focused on removing any potential roadblocks that may interfere with mission success.”

While there isn’t an Apollo-type mission right now, it is an extremely exciting and critical time to be in the space business. The command works with industry and commercial partners to create an innovative satellite sector, which continues to expand the use of space-based technologies. Raymond said with space becoming a more congested and contested environment, working together with all nations ensures that “we protect the critical space domain so everyone can receive the benefits that it provides.”

“It’s my highest privilege to command,” Raymond said. “I’m privileged to serve alongside a great team making sure we defend and protect our space assets, which are absolutely critical to our American way of life.”

Goodbye Guy: Berlyn Kessler “B.K.” Sutton ’50

After 67 years in the women’s shoe business, B.K. Sutton said goodbye to his family storefront on Orchard Park Road in Greenville this past spring.

With more than 6,500 pair of shoes to part with, the Suttons saw hundreds of customers filtering into Sutton’s Shoes from March to May to say how much they were going to miss Sutton and his son Robert “Bob” Sutton ’79.

“We’ve had some hug us; we’ve had a few cry with us,” he said. “We have three generations of customers.”

B.K. Sutton said the decline of customers in the last 10 years, especially since the recession of 2008, ultimately drove the decision to close up the last storefront of three the family has operated since 1950. The family opened three Greenville locations, including the Pleasantburg Shopping Center and Haywood Mall, which remained open into the 1990s.

But B.K.’s looking forward to a full-time retirement with more golf and traveling. “My son is 61 years old. I’m 88 years old. It’s time,” he said.

B.K., a textile manufacturing major, began at Clemson in 1946. “There’s no other place I’d ever thought about going,” he said with a wide grin.

While working his first job at the Judson Plant in Greenville, he was called into active duty in the Korean War. “It wasn’t a shock. We all sort of expected it,” he said.

While B.K. was making headway in a military career, his father O.W. had aspirations of opening a department store. Sutton’s father worked at the Belk store in downtown Greenville in fashion merchandising. Opening an entire department store wasn’t in the cards in 1950, so O.W. and his wife Clara moved forward with one specialty — women’s shoes.

“It was in Lewis Plaza off Augusta Road. It was unheard of at that time to have anything off Main Street whether that was here or in Atlanta,” said B.K. “We priced shoes from $8 to $30. People were standing in line for our merchandise.”

After four years in the Korean War, Sutton remained in the reserves, but took his service-oriented heart back to the shoe store to help his father build their generations of legacy. Bob joined the store after completing his degree at Clemson.

“I hate to see the Sutton name leaving the big community, but I’ve really enjoyed my civilian life,” he said.

My Clemson: Ashley Stumpff Jones ’07

Clemson Family means going to Texas for a conference the same day as the national championship game and having the San Antonio Clemson Club welcome a stranger with open arms, high fives, cheers and hugs as we watched the Tigers beat ’Bama.

It means having Clemson Kappa Delta sisters donate money to help care for my family as my 21-month-old daughter was dying, and years later give again to support other families through Love Not Lost.

It means moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and finding immediate friends. It means visiting my in-laws at Hartwell Lake and seeing Tiger paws and hearing “Go Tigers!” everywhere.

It means love. It means support. It means unity. The Clemson Family is one of great character and pride. And I am honored to be a part of it.


Ashley Stumpff Jones is the founder and executive director of Love Not Lost, a nonprofit that photographs families facing a terminal diagnosis to help them preserve memories. She started Love Not Lost after losing her daughter Skylar to Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Branding life’s moments: Melissa “Lisa” Holladay ’89

Clemson Alumna Lisa Holladay

As global brand leader and vice president for The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Lisa Holladay says her job isn’t to sell you a room, but to provide guests an experience. “The ‘Why?’ we exist as a company isn’t to sell hotel rooms or to sell beds, but it’s to create memories,” she said.

Landing at the Ritz-Carlton from Clemson wasn’t a straight line for Holladay. As an education major, Holladay had plans of entering the classroom. Even though she loved teaching high school seniors, student teaching revealed she didn’t want to move into the classroom. Next was graduate school at Georgetown University to pursue an English degree, but a study abroad program in England revealed to Holladay that she loved travel. Her path eventually led to a public relations firm in Washington, D.C., then to a non-profit. A half dozen jobs later she was in San Francisco and found her niche with Mercedes-Benz.

“I grew up there,” she said about staying with the company for over a decade. “I loved it. I knew I wanted to be passionate about something, but I didn’t know what it was. That’s when I went to work for Mercedes-Benz and did everything from PR to marketing to advertising.”

Her last move with Mercedes took her to New Jersey and New York where she was national manager for experiential marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, and where she finally found her “Why?” — her love of brand management.

“My job is to make people fall so in love with our brands that they are loyal beyond reason,” she said.

When the opportunity came open from Marriott to interview for the Ritz-Carlton, Holladay said she studied like there was no tomorrow.

“It’s travel, food, wine, spa, luxury … I really, really wanted that job and thought, ‘They’re never going to hire me because I have no hospitality background,’” she said.

Being an outsider was her “in.” “They wanted to extend the brand as more than just a hotel company,” she said.

Now as a global brand leader for luxury brands, Holladay wants to have guests explore the city and the hotels, while providing relevant, contemporary luxury that aligns with core brand values.

“There’s a reason my two longest career stints have been with brands that have heritage,” she said. “I should have known when I was at Clemson that I was a brand person because even then I was enamored with the Tiger paw on everything, the football team running down the hill and the story of Clemson.”

— Julia Sellers

Accelerated path: James ’16 and Anna Bernhardt ’15 Hodan

Clemson alumni James and Anna Hodan

Over the past five years, James and Anna Hodan moved five times, purchased a home, became landlords and adopted two dogs. Clearly familiar with change, the couple didn’t hesitate to shift their careers when opportunities opened up, and they enrolled in Clemson’s accelerated nursing program.
As the health care industry continues to fluctuate, many professionals are pivoting their career paths to better suit new demands. James and Anna are two of these professionals. While they found success in their respective careers in prosthetics and health care marketing, they wanted to play more direct roles in patient care and remove themselves from the administrative duties that have increased in recent years. Anna enrolled in the accelerated nursing program in August 2014; James followed suit in August 2015.
“The prosthetics field is transitioning away from patient care to require practitioners to spend a majority of their time on insurance paperwork,” James said. “This is not where I feel my strengths lie. Nursing allows me to get back to what I know best, which is focusing on providing excellent patient care.”

Anna is similarly familiar with the administrative side of health care, yet finds it an asset in her nursing career. “I feel that because of my background [in administration], I have an appreciation for what the administrative staff has to go through in order to ensure the department runs smoothly and efficiently,” she said.
With close ties to local hospitals and a rigorous curriculum that combines classroom experience with hands-on clinical work, James and Anna felt that Clemson’s nursing program was the perfect spot for them. Clemson’s program allows professionals like James and Anna to divert their career path to nursing, a facet of health care that is grounded in hands-on patient interaction. Clemson’s reputation as one of 35 programs recognized by the National League for Nursing as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education helped solidify the decision.
When Anna graduated in 2015, she began work as an emergency room nurse at Spartanburg Regional Hospital. After graduation in December 2016, James took a job at Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville, N.C., in the ICU.
For Anna, a new mindset was the best takeaway. “The professors and the program challenge you to think beyond the classroom. Now that I am working in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment, I value the ability to think critically to help my patients.” After two years of intensely scheduled lives and graduation, the Hodans are excited to settle into their new normal.

— Courtney Meola ’17

Comfort Zone: James Comfort ’08

Clemson alumna James ComfortGrowing up the third of four boys, hand-me-downs were a natural part of life for James Comfort. “We just never really went out shopping too often,” he said. “There were always plenty of clothes around.”

Comfort said finding clothes got really difficult just out of college when he had to start looking for professional clothing. Big and tall stores offered the length he liked, but the 2X and up sizing didn’t fit his athletic frame. “There wasn’t just a ‘tall’ store,” he said.

But a few years ago when the 6-foot-5-inch tall and lean Comfort found a shirt that fit — really fit — with long sleeves and a slim torso, he wanted more. He set out to bring that fit to fellow tall men so they wouldn’t be left looking like they were wading in a pool of fabric two sizes too wide. After working his day job at an IT consulting firm out of Philadelphia, Comfort would come home and work on designs. Leveraging what he knew of business and his background working part-time in a T-shirt shop in college, Comfort was able to use the overseas market to his advantage.

After finding the high quality fabrics he loved through shows in New York, Comfort used an overseas producer to make his designs become an inventory of polos and laid-back plaids so men had options for work and play.

“One of the ‘un-successes’ came during one of the first productions,” Comfort said about the trial and error of doing production in China. “They changed out the collar type on me, and it wasn’t the quality I’d set out to provide.” Comfort used friends and family to try his product and get the word out, even shipping product to family in Germany to sell at markets frequented by soldiers. Comfort’s shirts were also placed in a store in his hometown of Morris, Illinois, this past winter.

“Fortunately it’s not too big yet,” said Comfort of his mostly online sales model. “It’s manageable, I want to make sure that I do it slowly so I’m able to adapt and grow as needed.”

Currently bins throughout his home and basement are filled with product, and he spends his evenings filling orders from his dining room table. “It’s a good feeling when you get something you really like,” he said.

— Julia Sellers