My Clemson: Diana Ivankovic

Diana Ivankovic PhD ’95


DIANA-IVANKOVIC

My husband and I were high school sweethearts when we came to the U.S. from Croatia in 1986 to pursue college degrees. In 1989, with a B.S. in biology and postgraduate training at Greenwood Genetic Center, I joined Miren at Clemson to pursue a graduate degree in microbiology. With a 3-year-old (Sven) and another on the way (Andre), we both walked across the stage of Littlejohn in 1995 to receive our Ph.Ds.

Since then, I have worked as a laboratory coordinator and visiting lecturer at Clemson, become a full professor at Anderson University, had two more children, established the Center for Cancer Research and survived breast cancer. I still teach in Clemson’s summer science program and collaborate with Clemson researchers.

Because of my experience with breast cancer, as well as my mother’s, I have a passion for finding a cure. That’s why I counsel newly diagnosed patients. It’s why I served for many years on the board of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It’s why I travel abroad with students, even working with shamans in the Peruvian Amazon, searching for new anti-carcinogenic plant extracts. It’s why I work with students at the Center for Cancer Research, trying to inspire my students and fellow researchers to collaborate, share, work together and aim for the stars.

Ivankovic is a professor of biology and the James Henderson director of the Center for Cancer Research at Anderson University, which recently was the recipient of a grant from Coach Dabo Swinney’s All In Team Foundation in support of its breast cancer research.

Susan Echols ’97, M ’04 and Jason Smith

Smith  Twins

Life-changing to lifesaving

We’ve all experienced moments when we were inspired to make a difference in others’ lives or pass on kindnesses experienced. Few have embraced a life-changing moment as Susan and Jason Smith of Clemson.

In April 2011, the Smiths’ daughter, Emerson Rose, was born at the Medical University of South Carolina with a heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. A mid-pregnancy ultrasound had detected a heart abnormality, so the Smiths made arrangements for her delivery at MUSC, where she could have open heart surgery shortly after birth. The surgery went well, but little Emerson Rose passed away of complications at only 76 days old.

Out of the sadness and pain of this experience, Susan and Jason founded the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation™. They say their faith is helping them turn a devastating loss into a lifesaver. The mission of the foundation is to help babies born with congenital heart defects through supporting research efforts focused on innovative methods of treatment, prevention and diagnosis. It also lends support to parents while they are preparing for and caring for a child with a congenital heart defect. With these combined efforts, they hope to make a difference in the awareness of heart defects.

The foundation is now working on several quality improvement projects at MUSC ranging from a $2,000 project to reduce infection rates to an $80,000 information sharing collaborative with 20 other pediatric heart centers across the U.S. The foundation also has funded pulse oximeter equipment to 17 hospitals across the state to begin screening newborns for potential heart defects.

Probably the most lasting legacy is the Emerson Rose Act, a new S.C. law requiring hospitals to test every newborn for heart defects before they are discharged from the hospital. The Smiths and the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation worked alongside Sen. Thomas Alexander ’78 to help the act receive unanimous approval in the legislature.

“The foundation’s goals continue to be helping babies affected by heart defects in South Carolina and expand to other states. We are beginning to bring children with heart defects to the U.S. from Third World countries to have lifesaving heart surgery,” shares Susan.

The foundation receives funds from golf tournaments, fundraisers and even Dabo’s All In Foundation, an organization started by Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney and his wife, Kathleen.

After Emerson Rose died, the couple decided to go through the adoption process, and then Susan became pregnant. Along with foundation activities, the Smiths stay busy with two baby girls, Rowan Sarah, one year, and Campbell Jane, seven months.

For information on the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation visit www.emersonroseheartfoundation.org.

Alumni writers in ‘State of the Heart’

SOTH Cover1

An abandoned farm near Edgefield. An ancient bald cypress in Congaree National Park. A wildlife “enchantment” spot in Calhoun Falls State Park. Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Clemson’s own Class of ’39 Caboose Garden in the S.C. Botanical Garden.

All are vivid places lodged in the minds of Clemson alumni writers.

They’re among an album of mental snapshots — places, people, history — in a collection by 36 S.C. writers on the places they love. The newly published State of the Heart is edited by author Aïda Rogers with foreword by novelist Pat Conroy.

Clemson wildlife ecology professor J. Drew Lanham ’88, M ’90, PhD ’97 revisits the Edgefield farm of his youth and its decaying beauty, the place where he learned to value and respect the sometimes harsh patterns of nature. He’s author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature published by Milkweed Editions.

Former S.C. Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist John Cely ’69, M ’80 describes his first encounter with the great bald cypress in the Congaree National Park and the park’s hardwood forest he’d thought existed only in history books. He’s a former land-protection director for the Congaree Land Trust and author of Cowassee Basin: the Green Heart of South Carolina.

Director of Erskine’s Quality Enhancement Program and writing center, Shane Bradley M ’07 remembers a no-frills camping trip with his four-year-old daughter in Calhoun Falls State Park, an experience that opened his eyes to nature’s enchantment and began a priceless family tradition. He’s author of Mourning Light and The Power and the Glory.

Award-winning novelist, poet, biographer and historian William Baldwin ’66, M ’68 recounts a project on the history of the great Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, a conflicted effort as significant for its failures as for its successes. Among his many works is Unpainted South, in collaboration with photographer Seldon B. Hill, a tribute to South Carolina’s rural past.

Former Clemson World editor Liz Newall ’70 revisits the S.C. Botanical Garden at Clemson, a living preserve illustrated by nature and cultivated by countless faithful gardeners — where each visitor finds a bit of his or her own personal history. She’s author of Why Sarah Ran Away with the Veterinarian and other fiction and nonfiction.

Clemson legends Frank Howard and Ben Robertson also make cameo appearances. State of the Heart is available through bookstores and online at www.sc.edu/uscpress.

Helen Turner Hill ’85

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Charleston’s goodwill ambassador

Two weeks after Helen Turner Hill became executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Hurricane Hugo hit north of Charleston. How could anyone imagine a bigger challenge to a new position?

Twenty-four years later, Hill has proven she was more than up for the challenge. Under her leadership, Charleston is world renowned with back-to-back No. 1 rankings from readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine as the nation’s best tourist destination and, last year, best-in-the-world.

The Charleston native earned her degree in parks, recreation and tourism management and returned home to put her education to work. She was concierge at Wild Dunes Resort before moving to the Charleston CVB to sell ads for the visitors’ guide and later was sales manager for meetings and conventions. Her hard work and natural fit to developing tourism moved her into the executive director position.

When Hill came to Clemson, she wanted to join her father, the late Robert M. Turner ’61, working for his mortgage company.

“In my second semester at Clemson, I knew accounting wasn’t my thing, and I thought about doing something else,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘What else could I major in and transfer all of my credits?’ I looked around, and tourism was it.”

Hill says that working with the College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis guides their purchase of advertising and marketing programs to help contribute to economic development. Statistics have shown that 4.83 million visitors brought in $3.58 billion to the Charleston-area economy in 2012. That’s about one-fourth of all tourism dollars in South Carolina.

“It’s the history that makes us special,” Hill said. “There is not another place like this in the United States of America. This is not Anywhere, USA.

James D. “Jim” Martin ’86

Martin

A relationship with the land

“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

For Jim Martin, Charleston Parks Conservancy program director and James Island farmer, no saying could be more apropos.

“I’ve always known I wanted to garden. Even as a tiny child, my parents always let me have a little garden plot of whatever I wanted. And I knew I wanted to study horticulture at Clemson when I was in the tenth grade,” Martin said.

Martin has spent his entire working life acting on his childhood impulse to make things grow. He has worked in public horticulture throughout South Carolina for more than 25 years. At Riverbanks Zoo, he played a pivotal role in conceptualizing and developing the zoo’s 90-acre botanical garden. He was instrumental in master plan development for the Mepkin Abbey Botanical Garden. He has also been vice-president of horticulture for Brookgreen Gardens on Pawleys Island.

In 2007, S.C. businesswoman Darla Moore invited Martin to help launch the nonprofit Charleston Parks Conservancy, which partners with the City of Charleston and local communities to renovate and maintain the city’s parks and greenspaces through its Charleston Park Angels program.

“The Park Angels program is founded on the concept that if you give people the opportunity to help with their parks and greenspaces, they will make it happen,” Martin said. The group is currently filling bare patches of dirt with lush plantings and replacing decades-old playground equipment with the latest and safest at 27 sites.

But Martin’s life wouldn’t be complete if he didn’t also grow vegetables as he did when he was a child, so in 2012, he started a small boutique farm on Johns Island where he leases 1.25 acres through Lowcountry Local First’s incubator farm program. Martin sells his seasonal vegetables and herbs to local restaurants by focusing on what each restaurant’s specific needs might be and what he as a small farmer can grow for them. Martin says that the evolving “foodie culture” in Charleston has resulted in the understanding that buying fresh, locally grown, high-quality produce results in a better product.

“I’ve had a great career. I love what I’m doing. And what I did at Clemson helped get me here,” Martin said.

Matthew E. Szymanski ’01

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ReSpace

Orange is a defining color for most Clemson Tigers. Matthew Szymanski, however, also identifies with green. Szymanski, a design major, left Clemson with a desire to actively make a difference in his community.

At DesignSpec, an architecture firm based out of Chapel Hill, Szymanski works on projects ranging from architecture to interior design, with an emphasis on sustainability and a modern design aesthetic. Additionally, Szymanski encourages the use of sustainable design while serving as board member of the Triangle American Institute of Architects and director of the Young Architects Forum & Emerging Professionals group. Szymanski’s leadership within the design industry allows him to make his voice heard about the environmental implications inherent to every design project. But now, he’s redefining the way we think about design with one word: ReSpace.

Szymanski, looking for a new way to raise awareness about reusing materials in design projects, joined forces with like-minded industry professionals to found ReSpace LLC. The organization’s goal is reflected by their largest effort, the ReSpace Design Competition, respace.org. This competition requires designers to develop project designs to be built with salvaged materials. Once the top design is selected, volunteers build it in just a 48-hour period. Szymanski hopes the event will help students, architects and builders realize the importance of reusing materials whenever possible. “We cannot sit back and watch vast quantities of materials that still hold value be carted off to the landfill without a second thought,” said Szymanski.

The 2012 ReSpace Design Competition received submissions from across the globe — Europe, Australia, North America and South America. “The purpose of this competition is to serve as a catalyst for excellent design with salvage materials,” Szymanski said. By getting designers directly involved in the process of sustainable small space design, ReSpace will be able to make a larger impact in the overall sustainability conversation.

“That’s what I love about the competition,” he said. “One by one, we are getting people to take up the cause and do something.”Szymanski credits his Clemson roots for inspiring his actions.

“Clemson taught me the importance of caring about your local community while taking responsibility for wider, global causes,” he said.

My Clemson: Mac Segars ’10

Passion for global health

My friends say that going to Clemson was one of the best decisions of their lives. For me, attending Clemson wasn’t much of a decision; the education and scholarships offered by Clemson made it an unbeatable option. I couldn’t sit still when I found out I’d been accepted; I’ve had a lifetime of love for Clemson and couldn’t wait to be a Tiger.

Though I studied math, Clemson helped me explore another passion of mine: global health. I took a discussion-based course on infectious disease and worked with faculty to complete a senior research paper on the prevention of influenza transmission.

Most importantly, though, Clemson’s Honor College allowed me to spend a summer building houses in an impoverished community in India. That experience exposed me to the material needs of developing nations as well as establishing my ability to assimilate in their cultures. It gave me the passion and confidence to join the Peace Corps after graduation.

My two years with the Peace Corps in Mozambique has been a challenge. I arrive to my community via canoe (mind the hippos!) and have a six-hour hitchhiking journey just to check my mail. I teach 11th grade math in Portuguese, a language that I saw for the first time only 10 weeks before classes started. Aside from teaching, I’ve helped coordinate a provincial science fair and a national women’s empowerment organization. I’m also finalizing plans to develop a sustainable school meal program at a nearby primary school.

The passion I developed for global health at Clemson has only grown as I’ve experienced the reality of health care access in rural Mozambique. It’s a reality that still shakes me every day. Though I work primarily as a teacher, I also volunteer at my community’s health center. HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are all very common, but nothing has affected me more than witnessing infants with severe malnutrition. If they weren’t cradled in my arms, it would be hard to imagine children whose parents are too poor to feed them.

My work at the health center has inspired me to return to medical school and study to become a pediatrician. I hope to split my time between working with America’s urban poor and the most health care-deprived populations in the world via Doctors Without Borders. It’s a future that I can’t wait to start and one that I owe, at least in part, to Clemson.

Though I studied math, Clemson helped me explore another passion of mine: global health. I took a discussion-based course on infectious disease and worked with faculty to complete a senior research paper on the prevention of influenza transmission. Most importantly, though, Clemson’s Honors College allowed me to spend a summer building houses in an impoverished community in India. That experience exposed me to the material needs of developing nations as well as establishing my ability to assimilate in their cultures. It gave me the passion and confidence to join the Peace Corps after graduation.

View a video about Mac’s experiences in Mozambique:

My Clemson: James Barker ’70

There’s one story that seems to always rise to the surface in conversations with Jim Barker’s fellow alumni, especially his DKA fraternity brothers. There may be a few details that differ in the accounts, but the basic story is always the same. J. Allen Carroll ’69, M ’71, fellow DKA and Barker’s roommate for a semester or two in the frat house, tells it this way:

“As a pole vaulter on the track team, Jim had to find time to practice. The pole vault pit was behind the frat house. One morning we looked out and saw Jim asleep in the pit where he had collapsed following a late night practice session.”

According to others, including Chair of the Board of Trustees David Wilkins (also a fellow DKA), Barker awoke, “covered in dew, having slept in the pole vaulting pit the entire night. Since the gym was closed at that early hour, Jim struggled to get his pole up the stairs and into the fraternity house, having to finally lay it down in the hall.”

Barker’s DKA pledge master, Steve Hutchinson ’68, says, “When Barker was out there on the track by himself pole vaulting, I thought, ‘He can’t clear 8 feet, much less 18 feet.’ But he did it over and over and over. That was just how dogmatic he was. He would knock the bar down, then would get up and re-set the bar. And do it over and over again. At night, no less!”

Click here or on the image below to travel through President Barker’s journey at Clemson.

Fellow DKA J. Allen Carroll ’69, M ’71, tells this story: “As a pole vaulter on the track team, Jim had to find time to practice. The pole vault pit was behind the frat house. One morning we looked out and saw Jim asleep in the pit where he had collapsed following a late night practice session.” According to others, including Chair of the Board of Trustees David Wilkins (also a fellow DKA), Barker awoke, “covered in dew, having slept in the pole vaulting pit the entire night. Since the gym was closed at that early hour, Jim struggled to get his pole up the stairs and into the fraternity house, having to finally lay it down in the hall.”

Fellow DKA J. Allen Carroll ’69, M ’71, tells this story: “As a pole vaulter on the track team, Jim had to find time to practice. The pole vault pit was behind the frat house. One morning we looked out and saw Jim asleep in the pit where he had collapsed following a late night practice session.” According to others, including Chair of the Board of Trustees David Wilkins (also a fellow DKA), Barker awoke, “covered in dew, having slept in the pole vaulting pit the entire night. Since the gym was closed at that early hour, Jim struggled to get his pole up the stairs and into the fraternity house, having to finally lay it down in the hall.”


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Debbie Dunning ’75

“I’ve been here so long I rocked on the porch with Thomas,” I’ve often quipped when asked about my tenure here at Clemson. In all honesty, I can’t lay claim to ever stepping on this hallowed ground before the summer of 1971, when my mother and I motored up from the Lowcountry to attend Orientation before the start of my freshman year. But Clemson “took,” and I stayed on to enjoy a 38-year career as an editor for publications such as Clemson World and for commemorative projects such as the University’s Centennial Celebration, the Thomas Green Clemson biography and both volumes of The High Seminary. It was while working on these special projects that I came to best know Thomas and Anna Clemson and could imagine rocking on the porch of Fort Hill, gazing out at the wondrous “high seminary of learning” that has been carefully and caringly built on their homeplace.

Now, as I prepare to pass my role in the telling of Clemson’s history to the next generation, I represent Clemson folks everywhere when I say, “Rock on, Thomas, rock on.”

Debbie Dunning ’75
Manager of Editorial Services
Clemson Creative Services

J. Dean Norton ’77

Working for George Washington

Experiencing a sense of place that transcends time, Dean Norton has spent the last 44 years sustaining George Washington’s greatest horticultural legacy — Mount Vernon Estate’s landscape design and grounds.

Norton, an Alexandria, Va., native, worked on the estate grounds while in high school. He worked with a Clemson student who talked about Clemson nonstop — his first introduction to the University. Wanting to attend an out-of-state school, he stopped by campus on his way to Myrtle Beach one summer. In Norton’s words, “I was hooked.”

After graduating from Clemson, the horticulture major began his career at Mount Vernon as the first boxwood gardener and was quickly promoted to director of horticulture and gardens. As the longest-serving horticulturist at Mount Vernon, Norton oversees a staff of 23 people responsible for the gardens, grounds, greenhouse and livestock. The estate is designed to look exactly as it did when Washington died in 1799. Documents, diaries, letters and new archaeological findings occasionally surface containing new information about the gardens and grounds. Norton and his team are then challenged to research and interpret the new finds in order to keep the state’s plantings accurate.

In demand to speak and lecture internationally on heritage horticulture and gardening, Norton has received numerous awards for his work and has been a guest on many network television and radio programs. The Clemson Historical Properties Committee invited him to evaluate the landscapes of the University’s historical properties; he hosted a Clemson Alumni cleanup event at Mount Vernon; and hosted University historian Jerry Reel for a talk on the connection between George Washington and Thomas Green Clemson.

Norton recalls his time at Clemson as “indescribably perfect.” In addition to a great education, he lists his experiences as a trumpeter in the Tiger Band, enjoying sporting events and embracing the Clemson spirit as some of his best memories.

“Simply put, I am one of the most blessed folks I know. I have worked at an institution and in a job that I have loved for 44 years. The degree I received from Clemson allowed me to be where I am today,” Norton said. “I am not only thrilled and honored to tell people that I work for George Washington, but I am also thrilled and honored to tell people that I received my degree from Clemson University.”