Young Alumni Council recognizes its 2020 nominees
The Roaring10 honor is given to individuals who exemplify the University’s core values of honesty, integrity and respect. Each year, 10 outstanding young alumni are recognized by the Young Alumni Council for their impact in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors.
The Roaring10 Class of 2020 were recognized in Fall 2021:
Brittany M. Hall ’11
certified nurse-midwife, Easley, S.C.
Caroline Aneskievich ’10, ’11, M ’15
BMW Group’s talent management specialist for the Americas, Greenville
Josh Tew ’10, M ’14
commercial real estate, Pintail Capital Partners, Greenville
Edwin Sabuhoro Ph.D. ’18
assistant professor in both the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management and the African Studies Program at Penn State University,
State College, Penn.
Dorothy H. Askins ’17
anesthesiology resident at Tulane University, New Orleans
Ansley Cartee Minor ’17
co-owner of Carolina Superstars Baton and Dance, Anderson, S.C.
Rebecca Leigh Stratford ’10
laboratory manager at the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Clarksville, Tenn.
Spencer C. McLeod ’12, M ’14
operations manager for McLeod Farms, McBee, S.C.
Jordan M. Burns ’12
financial adviser and field director at Northwestern Mutual, Greenville
Lauren Harroff Trondsen ’12
Citywise Advisory Services, Sanergy, Ithaca, N.Y.
The Baltimore/D.C. Clemson Club held their 19th Crab Feast on August 7, 2021, hosted by Cindy ’90 and Mark ’91 Derrick and their family. “It was a very memorable day for our Clemson Club members and guests as we appreciated being able to gather again in person to enjoy each other’s company and plenty of crabs!” wrote club president Rachael Wiker ’00.
The Villages Chapter of the Central Florida Clemson Club secured their third-straight first-place trophy for the Funds for Food annual food drive. The chapter raised $12,359.25. “My husband, Riley, would have been proud of our ‘little ole Clemson Club’ beating Ohio State and Penn State and all the others again!” wrote chapter president Amy Huckaby ’79. “Club member Bob Bienvenue and his extremely talented drumline led us around the square and to victory for our first-ever first-place spirit award!”
Tigers from all over the country gathered in Pittsburgh to cheer on Clemson Football and to celebrate Clemson’s first visit to Pittsburgh since the University of Pittsburgh joined the ACC Conference. Upon arrival on Friday evening, members of the Clemson Family gathered at Federal Galley in Pittsburgh’s North Shore for a Welcome to Pittsburgh event.
Prior to the game on Saturday, 400 Tigers set sail with the Clemson Alumni Association, IPTAY and the Gateway Clipper Fleet for the first-ever floating Clemson Family Tailgate. Guests enjoyed a sailing tour of Pittsburgh on The Empress and a Pittsburgh barbecue feast.
Fall gathering kicks off Fall Into Fitness Challenge
The Women’s Alumni Council held their second Orange Shoe Event on the night of September 10, 2021, in the courtyard at the Inn at Patrick Square following its annual Fall Meeting. The council also collected donations for the Paw Pantry, Career Closet and the ClemsonLIFE program. In addition to the Fall Meeting, the council held a blood drive for the Blood Connection during the afternoon. There were 23 donors, and the Blood Connection gave a donation to the WAC Scholarship Endowment for each donor.
At the Orange Shoe Event, attendees enjoyed perusing tables full of silent auction items and milling about the front lawn area of the Inn at Patrick Square, which was transformed into a large tailgate, complete with helmet blow-ups, tents, chairs and outdoor games. The Tiger mascot entertained the crowd, and DJ Sha kept everyone dancing with music throughout the night. Boulevard Catering also provided food and beverages. Proceeds from the silent auction went toward WAC’s scholarship endowment, which awards 10–12 scholarships to Clemson students each year; just under $5,000 was raised.
All attendees were encouraged to wear orange shoes to the event, and styles ranged from sandals to casual sneakers to high heels with orange flames. The event also kicked off WAC’s second Fall Into Fitness Challenge — Orange Shoe edition. This virtual fitness event was started last year during the pandemic. This year, participants are encouraged get active with their family and friends while sporting their orange shoes and sharing on social media.
Brannon Traxler ’04 recalls how her grandfather got his start at Clemson
My maternal grandfather, Gaines Evatt, grew up on his parents’ farm in Central, South Carolina. He was the oldest child and the first to go to college. He started out at what’s now Southern Wesleyan University because the family was part of that church.
As the family story goes, my grandfather was working on the farm one day, and somebody from the church drove by and saw him and asked, “Why aren’t you at Clemson? You’re so smart. Why are you not there?” He said, “Well, we can’t afford it.” The church friend replied, “We’ll see what we can do about that.” They paid for my grandfather’s first semester, confident that he would get a scholarship from there. And he did.
Of course, nobody in the family is alive now who would remember who that friend from church was, but I do know that my grandfather walked the couple of miles to Clemson and back every day. He couldn’t afford textbooks, so he would do all his studying in the library. He would get up early and stay up late to work on the farm. In 1933, he graduated from Clemson A&M College with a math degree.
Two of my great aunts who stayed in Central passed away five years ago; when we were cleaning out their belongings, we found my grandfather’s Clemson class ring, which my mom didn’t even know he had. We also found his graduation ceremony program and a few other things. We have his diploma. He was the first person in our family to go to Clemson, and he helped all his other siblings to go to college and get their degrees. My grandfather was a junior high principal for most of his career, and he ended up getting a master’s degree from Duke some years later. He and my grandmother settled in Spartanburg and raised my mom and her brother.
I wore his ring to the 2017 National Championship game in Tampa, and now, I either wear it on a necklace or on my index finger or thumb at games. It’s become a superstition — a good luck charm.
Brothers Earl, Ben and Ken Wagener have ties to Clemson that run long and deep.
The legacy began over 125 years ago when their maternal grandfather Benjamin Franklin Robertson deboarded at a whistle-stop train station and trekked a mile to the campus of the newly opened Clemson Agricultural College, where he was a member of the first graduating class in 1896.
Their uncle Ben Robertson Jr. ’23 wrote for Clemson’s student newspaper and served as editor-in-chief of the yearbook his senior year before his career as a nationally known journalist and World War II correspondent. His Southern memoir Red Hills and Cotton — An Upcountry Memory about growing up in Upstate South Carolina was first published in 1942 and is still in print today.
Their mother, Hattie Boone Wagener, was a longtime administrative support staff member at Clemson in the College of Engineering and Science for about 25 years.
Earl and Ken Wagener followed in their grandfather’s footsteps, earning Clemson degrees and becoming chemists.
The family’s four-generation Clemson legacy continued when Ken’s son, David, earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2003 and Earl’s daughter, Emily, received her bachelor’s degree in food technology and processing in 2012.
“Clemson has played an important part of our family’s story for a long time,” says Ken Wagener, whose wife, Margaret Monroe Wagener M ’70, is also a Clemson alumna.
The Wageners’ Clemson story includes fire, floods, a single mother’s perseverance and a village’s collective helping hand.
After graduation, Benjamin Franklin Robertson began working as Clemson’s first state chemist.
From his lab on campus, he analyzed soil samples and tested fertilizer from across the state to ensure the proportions of ingredients in bags of fertilizer matched the labels on the bags. He came up with what the nation’s agricultural chemists called the Robertson method to differentiate the various forms of nitrogen in fertilizer, according to a 1973 article in South Carolina magazine chronicling his 50 years at Clemson. He was also named the state toxicologist, which required him to testify in murder trials whether somebody was poisoned to death, the article said. Twice he received death threats.
His agriculture lab evolved into Clemson’s chemistry department.
“He created a couple of chemistry courses, basic undergraduate courses,” Earl Wagener says. “It was clearly the beginning of the chemistry department.”
While he was an accomplished chemist, not all of Robertson’s experiments were successful.
“As we understand it, he set up an experiment, and it went wrong and caught the building on fire,” Earl says, noting details are scarce. He’s not sure his grandfather ever admitted his connection to the fire that occurred in the 1920s.
Following in Their Grandfather’s Footsteps
Earl and Ken Wagener followed in their grandfather’s footsteps, in both their successful chemistry careers and lab mishaps.
This spring, Ken Wagener received the 2021 American Chemical Society Award in Polymer Chemistry for his significant contributions to both industry and academia. Chemical & Engineering News credits Ken, a professor at the University of Florida and director of the Center for Macromolecular Science and Engineering, with pioneering the acyclic diene metathesis polymerization, which launched an entirely new field of synthetic polymer chemistry.
Earl Wagener led one of Clemson University’s most successful startup companies.
They are both members of the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineering and Science, the only set of brothers to do so.
While their grandfather helped advance chemistry at Clemson, he doesn’t get any credit for influencing his grandsons’ career choices.
For Earl, that credit goes to D.W. Daniel High School chemistry teacher Mabel Richardson: “She was the guiding light for me. She was funny. She was brilliant. She just loved chemistry, and I picked up on her love for it. I found that I really enjoyed it.”
Earl earned his Bachelor of Science in 1962 and his Ph.D. in 1967, although there was a moment of doubt during commencement whether he’d actually get his hood from Dean Howard Hunter.
Years earlier, Earl Wagener’s lab on the fourth floor of Brackett Hall flooded when a condenser broke. Eventually, the water made it down to Hunter’s office on the first floor.
The following day, when Earl arrived on campus, the other professors from the fourth floor tried to get his attention and warn him to leave before the dean spotted him. It was too late. Hunter saw Earl and said, “I’d like you to come into my office.”
When they got there, all the dean’s photos and awards that had been hanging on the wall of his office were on the floor and floating in two inches of water.
Fast forward to commencement.
“Everybody knew the story,” Earl says. “So, he put the hood over my head and then looked over at the audience and pulled it back. When he did put the hood over me, everybody was clapping and cheering. He and I had an interesting relationship.”
After receiving his Ph.D., Earl spent 25 years developing new products at Dow Chemical and 10 years as vice president of research and development at Stepan, a specialty chemical products maker.
In 2001, Earl Wagener returned to Clemson and became CEO of Tetramer Technologies, a company started by a group of University professors. The Pendleton, South Carolina, company researches, develops and manufactures advanced materials and specialty chemicals.
Earl says most of the company’s employees are Clemson graduates and many hold Ph.D.’s, something that he finds especially gratifying.
“When I graduated with a Ph.D. in the 1960s, I struggled to find a job in South Carolina,” he says. He landed a job with Milliken but was laid off when the company downsized just three weeks later. To get his next job, he had to move to Midland, Michigan.
“At Tetramer, we have hired around 20 Ph.D.-level scientists, so we’ve created jobs for Ph.D.’s. in Upstate, South Carolina. That’s a particular point of pride for me,” Earl explained. While there, he co-taught a class designed to help graduate and undergraduate science and engineering students successfully enter industry.
Earl says he tried to talk his youngest brother out of pursuing a chemistry career.
“I ran into a professor named Harvey Hobson in physical chemistry,” he says. “Ken was considering chemistry at the time. I strongly told him to find another career. I told him, ‘Physical chemistry is very hard, and you will not pass it.’ You can tell how smart he was. He ignored me entirely.”
There was a time when Ken, who is six years younger than Earl, actually thought chemistry wasn’t the career for him because he wasn’t an outstanding student. Organic chemistry changed that.
“I found something I liked — and I still like it,” Ken says.
The middle Wagener brother, Ben, says Ken owes his career in chemistry partly to him.
“When I was taking chemistry at Daniel High School, I set up a lab in the attic of our home, and I had Ken and another person be the students,” Ben says. “I set up experiments I learned from my chemistry class. I gave them a test and posted their grades right outside the door. There’s no doubt Earl had a lot of influence, but I can say that I helped start Ken on his career in chemistry.”
After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Florida, Ken Wagener went to work for Dutch company Akzo Nobel’s American Enka Company plant in Asheville, North Carolina. He served as technical director of Membrana, Inc., an internal startup company that created the blood oxygenator used in heart-lung machines.
While he worked for American Enka Company, he taught organic and polymer chemistry as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville and discovered he enjoyed it. He returned to the University of Florida and has been on the faculty since 1986.
Ken Wagener had a similar experience to his brother’s with a fourth-floor laboratory and a flood.
One morning, he saw a fire truck in front of the building. “That was somewhat concerning,” he sayds. He took the elevator to the fourth floor. When he got out, he saw firefighters coming out of his lab.
“That was concerning for sure.”
Water from a condenser in his lab had made its way to the first floor, which housed a Northeastern computer system for the state of Florida, “and we were about to put it out of business.”
Lab accidents aside, Ken has accumulated his fair share of awards and accolades. While the recognition is nice, he says, helping students matters to him the most.
“Awards for academics are just a way of doing business,” he says. “The awards help get students jobs and increase the visibility for a group of people, so they’re good to get. It’s fun to get the award, but they fade pretty quickly. The thing that I’m most happy with my work down here is that every person who has gone through our research group has a job. Some have retired, but they all got jobs.”
At chemistry conferences, Earl Wagener says he’s often introduced as Ken’s brother.
“I know where I am in the pecking order,” Earl sayds.
It Takes a Village
Ben Wagener is the only of the three who did not pursue a career in chemistry and did not attend Clemson. Instead, he entered the ministry, thanks mainly to Clemson First Baptist Church pastor Charles Arrington. Arrington was a father figure to Ben after the Wageners moved back to Clemson and the family home on Sloan Street after the death of Fred Wagener, Hattie’s husband and the Wagener boys’ father. Hattie, known as “Boonie,” never remarried. She took a job as an administrative assistant at Clemson, making $2,200 a year.
“We lived in the family home on Sloan Street, so we didn’t have to worry about that, but Mom struggled to raise a family on that amount of money,” Earl Wagener says. “All of us got jobs in the town. The whole concept of it takes a village is so true. Ben, Ken and I all got jobs. I worked in the cotton fields, in various places. We became aware as we grew up that people were taking care of Boonie’s boys.”
The Wagener brothers started the Hattie B. Wagener Endowed Memorial Administrative Award in memory of their mother and to recognize the invaluable contributions administrative assistants make to the College of Science and the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
“Mom always said, ‘This guy has a Ph.D., and he’s the dumbest guy I’ve ever seen in my life. I tell you, if we didn’t know how to run the University, the University would go nowhere,’” Earl continues. “And that’s right. We wanted to raise awareness of how much real work the admins do.”
Hattie Wagener left administrative work to teach, first at the preschool Head Start program and then at T.L. Hanna and Westside high schools in Anderson, South Carolina, teaching secretarial science.
The Value of Education
“I believe the only real education is continuing education,” says Ben Wagener, who attended Furman and eventually earned a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary.
He says his career choice compliments and doesn’t conflict with that of his brothers.
“Science and religion are very compatible, although it seems to many people that they are at odds with each other. We lose on both sides if we deny one or the other,” he says.
That doesn’t stop the teasing, though.
“They tease me I’m the black sheep of the family because there are so many scientists and chemists,” Ben says. “One day, Earl asked me teasingly, ‘How can you work for someone you can’t see?’ That’s a good question. My comment to that is that God is beyond our grasp but within our reach.”
He says that while the brothers take their work seriously, they like to have fun, too, and the banter between them makes that obvious.
“We enjoy being brothers. We’ve stayed close since the 1950s. Before the pandemic hit, the three of us would get together in Asheville, North Carolina, for a weekend every year, just the three brothers, because we have so much fun together,” Ken Wagener says.
While the brothers’ close relationship hasn’t changed over the years, they realize that’s not true of the Clemson in which they grew up.
“The town and the University were much smaller,” Ken says. “It was a great educational environment and living environment. Everyone knew everyone, and as a result, we had a really good life growing up and getting an education in Clemson. That’s been a part of me forever.”
Ben Wagener sums up Clemson’s effect on his family:
“Clemson, both the University and the town, is a huge, wonderful gift for each one of us.”
The Alumni Association has selected Jeffrey Busch of Roswell, Georgia, to receive the 2020 Frank Kellers III Volunteer of the Year Award. Busch and his wife, Susan, are the parents of Austin ’15 and Garrett ’16 Busch, and although he is not a Clemson graduate himself, Busch has shown unwavering dedication to Clemson as a leader, volunteer and significant supporter for more than a decade.
Busch is a founding member and former president of ONE Clemson, a group of former Clemson athletes and supporters that raises funds to support student-athlete professional enrichment and the Black Girls Golf program. During his term as president, the organization raised more than $300,000. Busch currently volunteers with the Tiger Ties mentoring program and Clemson Football’s P.A.W. Journey. He is a member of IPTAY and the Atlanta Clemson Club and continues to volunteer with ONE Clemson.
The Alumni Association has announced a new board of directors, as of July 1, 2021, with the additions of Asa Briggs ’02, Shavonne Brown ’05, Benjamin Moody ’16, Kayley Seawright ’14, M ’19 and Jaletta Smith ’05. Click on the links to read more about these new membres.
Alumni Board of Directors
Gregg Morton ’78 President
Jeff Duckworth ’88 President Elect
Mike Dowling ’93 Immediate Past President
Mark Richardson ’83 Trustee
Ann Hunter ’80, M ’82 Foundation
Bob Riggins IPTAY
Ray Anderson ’74 Board of Visitors
Asa Briggs ’02
Shavonne Brown ‘05
Lori Anne Carr ’90, M ’92
Michael Clark ’90
Deborah Conklin ’92
Katie Cornwell ’07
Richard Doane ’10
Sarah Gustafson ’05
Bill Linton ’83
Benjamin Moody ’16
Melanie Pniewski ’03
Kayley Seawright ’14, M ’19
Brad Smith ’82, ’83, ’85
Greg Smith ’84
Jaletta Smith ‘05
Wil Brasington ’00 Alumni Association Executive Director (ex officio)
Brian O’Rourke ’83, M ’85 Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations (ex officio)
The end of last season marked my 291st consecutive home, away and neutral-site Clemson Football game. The first game of the streak dates back to Tommy West’s final game versus South Carolina in 1998. The last away game I missed was at Duke in 1996, when one of my college roommates got married in Morganton, N.C.
If everything continues to go as planned, the Louisville game should be my 300th consecutive game. There were three games last year that I had to “pandemically attend” due to the severity of the attendance restrictions at some of the away venues. (“Pandemic attendance” means traveling to the venue and sticking my hand through the gate, after kickoff, while taking a selfie.) This was the roughest part of last season, but it led me to the brightest part of last season — and that was meeting Bryson Carter.
You may be familiar with his story, which was told by Madison Williams ’18 in her short film “136.” Carter is blind and had a consecutive game streak of 136 at the time of the 2017 documentary. I met him briefly at the Wake Forest game outside the gate, and thankfully, we got to spend the whole Virginia Tech game together outside the stadium. I watched the game on the stadium’s scoreboard and gave him updates.
Bryson is a remarkable man, and I already look forward to continuing to reconnect with him at future games. Our consecutive game streaks stand 99 games apart. He’s at 192, and I’m at 291.
When Megan Barnes ’01 was moving to New Orleans from Singapore for her job in the federal government, she didn’t know a soul. After a quick search of the Alumni Association’s website, she found the New Orleans Clemson Club, along with the contact information of the club’s then-president, Miles Thomas ’00.
Thomas chartered the club when he transferred his law practice to New Orleans from South Carolina in 2007. “The first [Clemson] game rolled around, and I didn’t have anybody to watch the games with,” Thomas says.
Barnes wrote Thomas an email from Singapore: “I’m very interested in meeting some fellow Tigers as I don’t know anyone in New Orleans! I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully meeting you and some other Clemson grads soon.” Thomas immediately invited her to the next watch party at the local watering hole Fat Harry’s on St. Charles Avenue.
After a couple of meetings, they became friends. “Miles started eating all of my food whenever I ordered at the bar,” Barnes laughs.
Barnes stayed in New Orleans for four years before she moved to Bogotá, Colombia. But she and Thomas kept in touch. When Thomas found out there was a Gamecock fan in Barnes’ office, he had the Alumni Association send her a box full of Clemson swag.
Eventually, Barnes had the opportunity to move to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and just like in New Orleans, she started attending the Grand Strand Clemson Club and connecting with fellow alumni. One of those connections introduced her to her future husband, Cory Johnson, a lifelong Clemson fan.
“I wanted Miles to like Cory because Miles has been like a brother to me,” Barnes says. She introduced Johnson to Thomas at a Clemson Football game at the top of the Hill, and when the couple got engaged, Barnes asked Thomas to officiate their wedding.
The result was a ceremony filled with laughter. “I threatened to do the Cadence Count in the middle of it,” Thomas laughs.
Now, Thomas is a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, but he’s still heavily involved with the New Orleans Clemson Club, something he considers a success evidenced by his relationship with Barnes: “Everything worked the way that I wanted it to because a person who was coming from the other side of the world, literally, found me by email. And Clemson made us friends.”