Giving Back to Clemson, and to Horses

John Blackburn '69

Architecture may be a traditional Clemson degree, but John Blackburn ’69 is far from a traditional architect. He created his own career in equine facility design — designing horse farms and stables that take into account the health of the horse, the demands of the site and the needs of the owner.

Blackburn started his own firm in the D.C. area and has built a successful career, designing more than 250 unique facilities worldwide. He is passionate about using the landscape to influence the building design by studying scientific principles, weather patterns and other natural factors. Because of his design methods, he has developed a special connection with landscape architects, though landscape architecture was not offered while he was a student.

At the peak of his career, Blackburn was motivated to give back to his alma mater, specifically the architecture department. “I’m very proud of the program and what it’s done since I went here,” John said. “It was a good program then, but it’s incredible now. They have a great facility, they have a great staff, they have a great program, and I wanted to see if I could contribute to that.”

Since his career had provided him with skills that many architects might never learn in a traditional field, he reached out to Clemson with the intent of passing along his knowledge. However, Blackburn wanted to work directly with students, influencing and expanding how they thought about their field of study.

He began by giving lectures to equine management students and went on to lead an exercise that brought together students in architecture, landscape architecture and equine management. Under his guidance, the students used the Clemson Equine Center as a case study, examining its design and functionality. The architecture and landscape architecture students acted as consultants for the equine management students, who played the client role, and they worked together to recommend improvements.

Now that the case study has been completed, Blackburn’s vision is to see the students’ work come to fruition. That way, the students will have something tangible on campus that shows their efforts, and Clemson will benefit from having a first-class equine center. “I hope to see it become reality,” he said. “I want to see the students experience a real project and look back over the years as they move on in their careers and say, ‘This is something I contributed to and made successful.’”

When asked why giving back to Clemson was a good idea, John responded immediately by saying, “Because Clemson is a good idea.” Plus, he wants to give back to horses as well. “Horses have fed me for 35 years,” he said. “It’s time for me to feed the horses.”

Keeping the pipeline filled with diverse talent

Duke Energy continues to support two Clemson summer programs for middle school girls and incoming college freshmen interested in the STEM fields.

Duke Energy is continuing to support two Clemson summer programs — one for middle school girls and one for incoming University freshmen — with an $85,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation. Both programs are aimed at increasing diversity in the pipeline that carries talent from the classroom to the workplace.

Project WISE is designed to educate middle school girls about opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, at a time of life when peer pressure tends to drive them away. The PEER and WISE Experience offers 50 incoming freshmen a head start on academics and campus life. Both programs, which are based in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, are designed for students from groups who are underrepresented in STEM fields, including women and minorities.

“We know that quality education programs like these are critical to creating the high-tech, diverse workforce we need for the 21st century,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president. “Partnering with great institutions like Clemson University helps our communities continue to grow and produce skilled workers who bring new ideas and innovations to our lives.”

About 60 middle school girls attended Project WISE this past summer. This year’s program targeted Title I schools in the Pee Dee, a region where Duke Energy is working to have great impact. Girls attended mini-courses in a range of topics from electrical engineering to computer science, taught by Clemson faculty and staff. Ten undergraduate Clemson students lived in residence halls with the Project WISE girls.

Serita Acker, director of PEER and WISE, said that since Project WISE started in 1997, many of the program’s alumni have come to Clemson, majoring in STEM disciplines. “All of the research shows that middle school is when you start thinking about what you want to do,” Acker said. “What makes us unique is we have all these young women in our college who serve as role models. Students can see what they could be like in the future.”

The PEER and WISE Experience, based on two previous summer programs aimed at helping ease students’ transition to college, had its inaugural three-week session in July. While living on campus, students studied college calculus, physics and chemistry and learned about research, graduate school and success strategies, such as time management. They also met alumni, providing them role models to emulate.

Acker said Duke Energy has long been key to the success of PEER and WISE and thanked the company for its latest contribution. “It not only plants the seed of STEM, it plants the seed of what the future can be when you get a college education,” she said. “Together, we are keeping the pipeline filled with diverse talent.”

Scholarship from Annexstad family helps members of Clemson family

When Xavier Smith learned he was Tigertown bound in 2016, he had dual feelings of joy and apprehension. How would the cost of his college education be covered?

When he learned he would be a recipient of the Annexstad Family Foundation’s Leaders for Tomorrow scholarship, Smith was both surprised and overjoyed. “I called my entire family,” Smith said, “and they got excited, too.”

His freshman year was one filled with Clemson moments, beginning the very first day. “My roommate is one of my friends from high school, and we spent the day walking around campus meeting new people. Without the Annexstad Family Foundation Scholarship, I wouldn’t be here right now having these moments,” he said.

In addition to campus activities, the scholarship is guiding the biochemistry major along the path to achieving his dreams of going into the medical field. Smith is currently considering both neurology and pharmacy and is thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Like Al and Cathy Annexstad, Smith isn’t letting his past hardships stop him from achieving his goals, and it’s important that those who face similar situations do the same.

“We are delighted that Clemson has chosen to partner with us,” noted co-founder Al Annexstad. “Young people like Xavier represent a huge reservoir of future leaders for the country. We wish him well.”

Washington serves as classroom for economics students

 

Clemson University economics students gather in front of the flags where cabinet members are sworn in.

Economics students gather in front of the flags where cabinet members are sworn in.

What better way to grasp an understanding of economic policy than to rub shoulders with those who influence it at the highest levels of government? That was the mindset of the family of the late John Harris ’74 when they created an endowment that allows for senior economics majors to visit economic policymakers in Washington, D.C., each spring.

Fourteen College of Business students from the John E. Walker Department of Economics recently returned from the nation’s capital, where they met with high-level economists in government and think tanks as part of the Senior Seminar in Economics.

“The course is built around policy discussions and the economic policies of the current administration,” said Raymond “Skip” Sauer, an economics professor who accompanied students on the trip. “Students spent two days in Washington and met with some very influential policymakers, including some Clemson alums.”

Students met and asked questions of Mark Calabria, chief economist for Vice President Mike Pence in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. In addition, the students visited the Federal Communications Commission where they met Craig Stroup, a senior economist at the FCC and a ’96 Ph.D. graduate of Clemson.

Lani Czarniecki, deputy assistant to the vice president for external affairs, gave Clemson economics students lessons on the VP’s flag and other historical artifacts.

Lani Czarniecki, deputy assistant to the vice president for external affairs, gave Clemson economics students lessons on the VP’s flag and other historical artifacts.

David Spearman said the trip to Washington gave him better insights into the day-to-day responsibilities of an economist. “You learn so much in class, but it’s not obvious what it’s going to look like when you apply it in a real-world setting,” he said. “It was also helpful getting advice from people working in the profession’s highest levels about things like what hard and soft skills they found beneficial in helping them succeed.”

The group also visited the Brookings Institution and had a meeting with Will Ensor ’15 who studied economics at Clemson and is a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute think tank. While at AEI, students attended a discussion, “Improving Economic Opportunity in America,” featuring renowned Stanford University economist Raj Chetty and Jason Furman, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Obama administration.

“It’s fitting that the endowment John Harris’ family created would provide Clemson students with such a rich learning opportunity,” Sauer said. “John began his career in Washington as an analyst with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a self-sustaining government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets. He subsequently became deeply involved in South Carolina real estate investment and management. His own experience helped him perceive the opportunity for students to visit Washington and engage in policy discussions as a potential game-changer for their careers. This gift to generations of students is a great tribute to him and a life filled with major achievements.”

Alumnus pledges $1.2 million to support Clemson architecture, other programs

William H. “Bill” Pelham ’77, M ’81 has pledged gifts totaling $1.2 million through the Jean T. and Heyward G. Pelham Foundation to support the School of Architecture, the Clemson Architectural Foundation (CAF) and other initiatives.

These gifts bring the Pelham family’s total donations to Clemson to more than $2.8 million since 2007. The philanthropic Pelham Foundation was established in 2006 by Bill Pelham’s parents, Jean and Heyward Pelham. The Pelhams were strong advocates and supporters of education and the arts and very active in the Greenville community.

“Bill Pelham and his family have been tremendous supporters of Clemson’s academic mission for many years, and we are very appreciative of this latest generous gift,” said Clemson President Clements. “Bill has a passion for both the importance of study abroad programs and for further strengthening Clemson’s outstanding architecture program, and this gift reflects both of these important University priorities.”

The donation includes annual unrestricted gifts and endowments. The unrestricted gifts provide flexibility so that college leadership can be more nimble and responsive. The endowments will provide for lasting funding.

“We wanted some funds to be available now for immediate impact and the rest to be available every year, forever,” said Pelham.

“Bill Pelham and his family have been tremendous supporters of Clemson’s academic mission for many years, and we are very appreciative of this latest generous gift.”

Bill Pelham graduated from Clemson in 1977 with a B.A. in pre-architecture and in 1981 with a master’s in architecture. In 1978, he spent a semester studying in Genoa, Italy, at Clemson’s Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Study, an experience that has informed his worldview and inspired his charitable giving.

“By giving our students a global reach that prepares them to provide design leadership in a flat world, to be global practitioners and regional experts, to understand the unique opportunities of place and the wealth derived from cultural differences, Bill’s gift is truly transformational,” said Kate Schwennsen, director of the School of Architecture.

“Bill Pelham has served as a visionary force for excellence in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities,” said Dean Richard Goodstein. “While his focus is very much on the School of Architecture and the CAF, Bill has supported the college in many ways, most recently during Clemson’s Will to Lead capital campaign. We are truly grateful to Bill, his wife, Laura, and the Pelham family for their leadership and generosity to Clemson.”

Barnes Center dedicated

Members of the Barnes family cut the ribbon for the Barnes Center.

Members of the Barnes family cut the ribbon for the Barnes Center.

In May, Clemson held a ribbon cutting for the “new” Barnes Center, a spot where students can hang out with friends, relax and attend late-night programming on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The historic Barnes Center began as the Clemson College Experimental Barn or Sheep Barn. It is the oldest surviving and relatively intact structure associated with the original Clemson College Agricultural Department and was built in approximately 1904. In 2014, the Barnes family made a gift to Clemson, allowing the Sheep Barn to be transformed into the Barnes Center.

See more photos:
Barnes Center Ribbon Cutting

Hambrights dedicate time and treasure to teaching leadership skills

When Kate Gasparro ’14 thinks about her success, she goes back to the first conversation she had with fellow alumnus Bob Hambright ’70.

Gasparro was applying for a leadership award that bears Hambright’s name when he impressed upon her the importance of self-examination, a lesson she took to heart. She went on to win the Norris Medal, the highest honor for an undergraduate at Clemson, and is now a Ph.D. student at Stanford University.

“He’s not just a friend,” she said. “He’s a mentor. The Hambrights have been a constant part of my life. I hope as an alumnus, if I can be as successful as Bob and Susan Hambright, I can come back and be as helpful as they are.”

The relationships the Hambrights have formed with Gasparro and other students illustrate how their hands-on approach has already left its mark as they prepare to have an even deeper impact.

The Blowing Rock, North Carolina, couple recently announced a $249,000 Give Day contribution that comes on top of their previous contribution of $251,000. The two contributions together allow Clemson to create the Hambright Distinguished Professorship in Engineering Leadership.

“If we’re going to make the world a better place, the way to do it is to create more and better leaders,” Bob said. “We want to identify kids who have that potential — identify them early on and help them accelerate their development as leaders.”

John DesJardins, a member of the bioengineering faculty, will hold the professorship and continue the work he began with the Hambrights in 2014. Their contribution gives DesJardins an endowed professorship, one of the most esteemed positions on the faculty.
DesJardins thanked the Hambrights and said they are passionate about leadership.

“They are committed to the idea that all Clemson students should have the opportunity to become better leaders during their time at Clemson, and that we have a duty to provide for them the opportunities to grow as leaders in their disciplines,” he said. “Their commitment to this goal is inspiring, and I am honored to be a part of that process.”

DesJardins is charged with creating awareness of leadership’s importance and identifying and accelerating the development of tomorrow’s leaders. He oversees the Robert B. ’70 and Susan B. Hambright Annual Leadership Program in Engineering. Eight engineering students received awards in 2016, and the program goes into its sixth year in the fall. Each student receives $3,000 for leadership-related programs and a $1,000 merit award.

Gasparro, one of the early awardees, used some of her funds to attend a Dale Carnegie program in New York City. She has remained in touch with the Hambrights while working toward her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering and a master’s in international policy.
Bob received a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson in 1970 and an MBA from Winthrop University in 1974. One day during his career, it dawned on him it was a good idea to hire people smarter than he was, he said. As a leader, his job was to create an environment where people could work together toward a compelling vision. “If we could tap the collective wisdom of the group, nobody could stop us,” Bob said. “That was just an aha moment for me. From then on, I just wanted to learn as much as I could about leadership.”

Bob retired in 2010 as chief executive officer of the Southeast division of Balfour Beatty Construction Co. The company set up an endowment for the Hambrights focused on creating more and better leaders. “We wanted to be part of the process,” Bob said. “I think that’s the only way you can get the impact you want. It’s been a lot of fun.”

One hiccup in the beginning was that students had trouble spending the money because their schedules were already jam packed. That’s when the Hambrights began working with DesJardins, who helped organize the leadership program and held the forerunner to the endowed professorship, the Hambright Professorship.

Susan Hambright said that DesJardins understands the couple’s vision. “He can see in students that kernel of leadership ability, that light that some kids have, and they just don’t know what to do with it,” she said. “Hopefully, with what we’re doing, he can grow more leaders than before.”

Analytics leader is Watt Center founding innovation partner

Emily Baranello, vice president for education practice at SAS, spoke during the announcement of the SAS Clemson partnership.

Emily Baranello, vice president for education practice at SAS, spoke during the announcement of the SAS Clemson partnership.

 

Clemson’s research goals and thousands of students and professors have gained a powerful ally — analytics leader SAS. Through a new educational partnership, SAS and Clemson will provide research, software, services and funding to the Watt Family Innovation Center.

Thanks to the new partnership, professors, students and researchers can access and apply advanced SAS Analytics, business intelligence, cybersecurity and data management software toward that mission. SAS also provides teaching materials, onsite faculty and staff training and helps develop analytical programs.

Professors will be able to easily integrate SAS software into coursework, giving students hands-on experience with this highly marketable skill. In fact, a study of 54 million employee profiles on PayScale.com identified “Knowledge of SAS” as the No. 1 career skill that translates into salary bumps.

The Watt Center promotes student engagement, interactive learning and partnership with industry and government. SAS was recognized in March as the sixth Founding Innovation Partner for the Watt Center, joining Comporium Inc., Haworth Inc., Philips Lighting, Scientific Research Corporation and SCRA.

“The Watt Family Innovation Center is a unique educational facility that quickly has become invaluable to our students and faculty and one of the most innovative in the nation,” said President Clements. “This partnership with SAS, a leader in innovative software solutions, will allow us to better serve our University community, and we are very appreciative of their generous support of Clemson’s mission.”

“The Watt Center brings together students, faculty and industry in a hothouse for learning and research,” said SAS CEO Jim Goodnight. “With data and analytics at the heart of innovation today, that means Clemson can generate more of the talent in high demand worldwide.”

One family. Twenty-four hours. Infinite impact.

 

The second annual Give Day at Clemson more than doubled the results of the first one. Donors gave $2,107,270 in support of scholarships, teaching and facilities during the 24-hour Give Day 2017 on April 6. Last year, 3,082 donors gave $907,603 on the first Give Day.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Clemson family in support of our second Give Day initiative,” said Brian O’Rourke, vice president for development and alumni
relations. “Our students, faculty and staff will benefit now and for years to come from the more than 3,000 individuals and corporations who united to move Clemson forward in a spectacular way.“

Gifts came from 3,265 donors. Fifty-one percent gave online; others donated at campus locations and by phone. Volunteers thanked many on social media who used the hashtag #ClemsonGiveDay.

The average online gift was $134.97, but several alumni donors pledged large “challenge gifts” that could be collected only when milestones were reached during the day:

  • Vic and Susie Parker of Brookhaven, Georgia, made a $25,000 gift and designated it for the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel — given when the number of donations reached 500.
  • Ed and Kelly Rose of Daniel Island gave $50,000 for the Dean’s Excellence Fund of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences — given when the number of donations topped 1,000.
  • The Fort Hill Clemson Club gave $60,000 for the Fort Hill Clemson Club Endowment for scholarships — given when donations totaled 1,500.
  • Pat Harman of Burlington, North Carolina, gave $400,000 to the J. Pat Harman and Phoebe Harman Unrestricted Endowment for Excellence — given when the number of donations reached 2,000.

Clemson alumni employees of GE pledged a gift of $100,000 to the Watt Family Innovation Center and corporate partner Dräxlmaier gave $50,000 to support graduate fellowships in automotive engineering.

“We are so grateful to everyone who demonstrated their Clemson spirit by participating in Give Day,” O’Rourke said. “These gifts will make a difference for Clemson today, tomorrow and forever.”

Next year’s Give Day is scheduled for Wednesday, April 4. Mark your calendar now and plan to contribute.

Esko gift-in-kind enhances student experience

Clemson University student Mengmeng Zhao, a third-year doctoral student in packaging science from Tianjin, China, uses a computerized sample cutting table in the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics that was funded by Esko Inc., Oct. 24, 2016.

Clemson University student Mengmeng Zhao, a third-year doctoral student in packaging science from Tianjin, China, uses a computerized sample cutting table in the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics that was funded by Esko Inc., Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo by Ken Scar)

Clemson students will work with cutting-edge design equipment, software and tools for years to come, thanks to Esko, a global supplier of integrated solutions for the packaging, labels, sign and display industries.

The company has given Clemson’s Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics equipment, maintenance and software valued at $26,703,750 over a five-year period.

“Esko has been a great partner with the Sonoco Institute for nearly a decade, and this latest gift will be instrumental in Clemson’s ongoing efforts to remain at the leading edge of research into packaging technologies,” said President Clements. “Esko’s equipment and software allow our packaging design students to leave Clemson proficient in industry-standard tools and technologies.” The Sonoco Institute is the only university program in the country with a multidisciplinary approach to packaging as a core competency.

Esko has been a partner of the institute since 2008, and the curriculum is built around the company’s equipment and software. “Esko values the Clemson relationship largely because of the amount of value the printing and packaging industry places on Clemson as a resource for talent and innovation,” said Larry Moore, Esko’s vice president of partner programs in North America.

The partnership has greatly benefited Clemson students and consequently the manufacturing industry, said Chip Tonkin, director of the Sonoco Institute and Clemson’s graphic communications department chair. “Our Esko relationship is a world-class example of an industry-academic partnership that leverages real-world tools and relevant challenges to engage and inspire our students in ways that feed the talent pipeline that our entire manufacturing industry desperately needs,” said Tonkin.