Chuck Graham ’71 on the Temple Mount in Israel waving his Tiger Rag in front of the Dome of the Rock.
“Follow your dream. Know what you want to do, and pursue it” were the simple words of advice from dentist Ronnie D. Lee ’76 for Clemson students at the third annual “Tigers on Call” event on Sept. 22.
Lee has been practicing dentistry in Aiken for nearly 30 years. He joined a cast of approximately 50 health care providers, many of whom were alumni from fields such as medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and physical therapy, in offering wisdom to current students interested in pursuing many of the same specialties.
A panel discussion, seminars, round-table sessions and informal conversations with providers gave students an opportunity to learn more about specific specialties and talk to health professionals about their lives and careers.
Hazel Grace Hudson, a senior with a double major in food science/human nutrition and anthropology, said the round table session was her favorite part of the event. “When you’re shadowing, you normally only ask questions about medicine, about what’s going on in front of you, but this offers an opportunity to talk to physicians, to network and to ask questions about life in general,” Hudson says. “It can help me learn, so hopefully I don’t have as many failures in the future because I will have learned from theirs.”
For physician Lisa Carroll ’04, participating in Tigers on Call gave her a chance to provide an experience for students that she would like to have had herself. “When I was in these students’ shoes, I had no idea what to do,” says Carroll. “I just kept going through the motions of what I thought I wanted, without actually knowing.”
A physician in the family residency program at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, Carroll chose her profession by sifting through library books. “I remember one summer, when I was at Clemson I went to the library, and I looked up books in all the different health professions, checking them off the shelves — one on being a physician’s assistant, one on being a nurse practitioner, one on being a medical doctor — to find out what those careers looked like, because I just didn’t know,” Carroll says. “But it’s changed a lot since then. I doubt any students here today did that.”
No one is more surprised than Suzanne Cupps that she has ended up becoming a chef. She didn’t grow up watching “Iron Chef” or “Chopped” or “Top Chef,” dreaming of being head chef at a high-profile restaurant.
“It wasn’t something I dreamed of doing or something that had even crossed my mind,” says Cupps, who took over last April as executive chef at Untitled, a contemporary American restaurant located on the first floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Cupps is the only female executive chef with Union Square Hospitality Group, which operates Untitled and 14 other New York restaurants. Her name and title is blind-embossed on the bottom left of the menu, an understated claim that fits her calm, understated demeanor. She hasn’t gotten where she is by being loud and overbearing, but by being precise and detailed and thorough.
And she’s gotten there by being a mentor and a teacher, which is somewhat humorous given that was her original career goal. A math major at Clemson, Cupps was dreading student teaching her senior year enough to know that wasn’t the right direction. So she moved to New York and eventually landed at the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel, working in human resources. When they needed extra help in the steak house, she pitched in and discovered a love of food preparation.
She didn’t know the difference between cilantro and parsley and had never held a knife properly, but she forged ahead and began classes at the Institute of Culinary Education. A lover of precision (a part of her math background, she says), she would take potatoes home every night and practice slicing and dicing until she got them perfect.
A series of kitchen jobs followed, and she landed at Gramercy Tavern (also part of Union Square Hospitality Group), learning from chef Michael Anthony. She moved to Untitled as chef de cuisine before taking the reins as executive chef.
She loves sourcing local seasonal ingredients and creating plates that are works of art. And she loves teaching, though in a very different type classroom than she initially envisioned. “My style is very much teaching,” she says, “and it’s funny that I didn’t become a math teacher, but I teach all day in the kitchen.
“I show cooks how to get better.”
For the past 24 years, the Clemson family has come together to build 25 Habitat for Humanity houses. Since my freshman year, I have seen students, faculty and alumni dedicate their time and resources to give a local family the homecoming of a lifetime. To me the Habitat for Humanity Homecoming Build embodies what it means to carry a Clemson education into the larger world.
During my first year at Clemson many mentors opened my eyes to the inequalities present in our society. With the guidance of two Habitat advisers, Chris Heavner and Cindy Sanders, I began to work on Habitat houses as far away as Detroit, Michigan.
While the experiences in Detroit were impactful, my life was transformed by the needs I discovered within the Clemson community. As a freshman I became friends with a person experiencing homelessness, and it surprised me that someone I interacted with on a daily basis would be experiencing such difficulties. I found that homelessness could be present in any community, including Clemson. Thankfully, one house at a time, Clemson volunteers work for a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
The community that forms around the Homecoming House is truly a Clemson family. It is an acknowledgement that with an education comes a responsibility to care for those in need. Next year will be the 25th year of the Homecoming Build — the 25th year that students are empowered to look beyond the boundaries of campus and share their talents with a greater Clemson family.
John Skardon is a problem solver. It’s why he earned a degree in engineering from Clemson. It’s why he returned for a Ph.D. in policy studies after decades leading manufacturing companies and various startups. And it’s what he teaches his students at Cal State University where he is a lecturer.
Skardon saw a problem in his home city of Monterey, California, where nearly 80 years of expanding agriculture had contaminated wells and ground water with nitrates, primarily from the constant use of fertilizer. This issue isn’t exclusive to California, as the resulting unsightly algae slicks cause ecological and economic impacts across the world. Many farmers are now required to clean up runoff but don’t have an affordable way to do so. When told there was no solution to remove these nitrates, Skardon just saw an opportunity for problem-solving with students.
“Removing nitrates is not a science problem because it’s done all the time in aquariums and fish farms,” explains Skardon. “The real issue is doing it in an agricultural environment without labs and in some cases without power.” He looked to large-scale denitrifying filters in water and waste treatment systems along the Mississippi River. The challenge was clear: take big technology and scale it down.
Skardon and his team of students built five small biofilm reactors, but Skardon tempered his expectations. Drastically downsizing technology usually results in reduced effectiveness. “The last one worked so well we were stunned,” Skardon says. “The reactor was 90 percent as efficient as a large-scale reactor, which is amazing. So we said, ‘We think we’re done.’”
The research was moved into practical application through Skardon’s business, Tailwater Systems, where he’s now demonstrating what he studied in his doctoral program — the role of institutions in perpetuating or solving problems through innovation. The company is providing an affordable, scalable solution for farmers dealing with fertilizer runoff.
“When I realized how big the problem was, I said, ‘This is a great, terrible problem to work on!’” Skardon says, laughing. “I guess there aren’t many people who get so excited about a ‘terrible’ problem to solve, but that’s just me.”
Henry Hoffmeyer’s father died when he was 11, leaving his mother to care for five children under age 14 while operating a small dairy in Darlington.
And all of them attended college. “She did a great job raising us,” he said. “I don’t understand how she could afford to send me to Clemson, but she did.” Hoffmeyer and his late wife Polly of Mills River, N.C., wanted to help other single-parent families afford college. They created an endowment for the School of Nursing to support tuition costs for students from Henderson County, N.C., with preference given to students from single-parent families.
“Not many students from Henderson County come to the School of Nursing because of the out-of-state tuition,” Hoffmeyer said. “So I decided I would try to encourage some students to come to Clemson by helping them and giving them scholarships.”
It wasn’t difficult for the Hoffmeyers to choose Clemson as a beneficiary of their generosity. His Clemson roots run deep — even to the University’s first days. Hoffmeyer’s grandfather was a member of Clemson’s first freshman class in 1893, and every subsequent generation has had a member attend Clemson. His father, Henry G.G. Hoffmeyer, graduated in 1919; his uncle, Herman F.L. Hoffmeyer, graduated in 1921; he graduated in 1956; his daughter, Suzanne Hoffmeyer O’Donnell, graduated in 1985; and his granddaughter, Elizabeth O’Donnell, began studies this year.
The Hoffmeyers’ interest in nursing came through relationships with family members. Hoffmeyer’s sister graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina. His granddaughter is also interested in a nursing career, which brought Clemson’s nursing program to his attention.“When I look at the need for nurses, there will be a great shortage of nurses in the future,” he said. “I just want to help get more students involved in nursing, because there is a great need for that.”
Hoffmeyer worked in management positions with Southern Bell for almost 40 years, retiring in 1993. The Hoffmeyers have three daughters and seven grandchildren. “I’ve been blessed in my life, and I’d like to give back,” Henry said. “This is a small way I can help nursing students from North Carolina attend Clemson, because I think it is a wonderful institution.”
May Farms is an earthy plot of 65 acres nestled in the backroads of northeast Greenville complete with small groves of growing fruits, a three-acre lake and around 40 buzzing beehives. “This is my sand pile,” chuckles Buddy May.
May, owner and operator of May Farms and a 1962 industrial management graduate, spent most of his career in textiles management. When it came time to retire, a friend from church gifted May with his first beehive in 2003. Since then, he has been harvesting and selling the honey gathered from his hives along with homemade propolis salve. Propolis is a wax-like material made with resins from tree trunks, limbs and bark and used by bees to patch small holes in the comb. May touts its excellent medicinal qualities when used to heal wounds and cuts. Honey also boasts significant health benefits, and according to May, allergies can be virtually cleared by eating honey produced in local flora regions. “The honey has pollen in it, and that’s where it is beneficial for an allergy. So, you can say local, but the best thing to say is if it’s similar to the plants in your area,” he explains.
At 83 years old, May is a double master beekeeper and master craftsman beekeeper, holding certifications from the Eastern Apiculture Society (EAS) and the S.C. Beekeepers Association. May is the first person in South Carolina to receive the EAS master beekeeper title as well as the first to achieve master craftsman status from South Carolina. The tests and requirements for these accomplishments are extensive. For example, May studied three years for his EAS master beekeeper test, which is given over three days and consists of a written, practical, laboratory and oral sections. “I studied anything and everything and for years because any question about beekeeping — and there must be a blue bazillion of them — is fair game.”
Caring for bees is just as important to May as keeping them. On the road to becoming a master craftsman beekeeper, he investigated the ways oxalic acid could improve the conditions of the hive, specifically how the acid could address nosema disease, which affects the gut of the bee, and the varroa destructor, a devastating mite. After compiling his findings into a research paper, May published “Continuous Treatment of Bee Colonies with Oxalic Acid” in the American Bee Journal in October 2017.
Concern for these honey-producing insects stems from deep-seated admiration and respect. “The bee is blessed with a lot of things that I could talk to you for hours and days about. It’s the vastness of the bee itself that caught my interest.” May muses about the bee’s amazing and equally puzzling abilities. In order to produce honey, bees reduce nectar (which is about 90 percent water) to 18.6 percent moisture. That process never ceases to impress him: “How do they know when it’s 18.6? No one’s given me an answer for that, but I think it’s the antennae because the antennae can pick up moisture level.” According to May, the queen bee can lay more than 1500 eggs a day. “The mysterious part about that is that she can decide whether it’s going to be a female or a male,” he says. “It’s mind-boggling.”
His desire to know more about the bee inspires him to educate others and hopefully shed light on the bee’s current, disturbing situation. Increasing amounts of mites and viruses along with decreasing amounts of agricultural land and the misuse of insecticides have resulted in a reduction in the number of feral bees. “They can’t be treated in trees, so they die,” he says. “The feral bees are just about gone. If we ever get to the point where we have to pollinate, we’re going to have a whole lot less to eat.”
As the current vice president (and soon-to-be president) of the Eastern Apiculture Society, May is working on scheduling its first conference in South Carolina in 2019. Having lived in the Carolinas most of his life and with two sons and two grandsons as Clemson alumni, May is excited to show South Carolina off to the beekeeping community.
When asked about his motivation behind becoming an expert beekeeper in retirement, May credits the support of his late wife of 55 years, Pat Pressley, and adds with a smile, “I didn’t have anything else to do.”
Marc Bryant specializes in fire, smoke and destruction — as far as animation goes, at least. Bryant, who earned both an undergraduate and graduate degree at Clemson, is living the dream as a member of Disney’s effects department, creating and animating film at Walt Disney Animation Studios in California.
Wielding his background in Clemson’s computer science and digital production arts (DPA) programs and his previous experience in live-action visual effects, Marc Bryant eagerly transitioned into animation when he accepted the opportunity to work for Disney Animation in 2013. As an effects animator, Bryant works on the animation for things like water, electricity, smoke, magic and fire, and he relishes the different challenges that each project presents. “You might be animating magical storms in one movie and blowing up a city in the next. There’s always some new challenge to keep you engaged.”
Throughout his work, Bryant often relies on the strong technical foundation he acquired as a graduate student in Clemson’s DPA program. Along with the necessary technical coursework, the diversity and customization of the program’s curriculum allowed Bryant to pursue valuable creative courses, like photography, that he believes have served him well in the imaginative aspects of animation work.
Those skills helped Bryant play an integral part in the development of one of Disney Animation’s most recent projects, “Moana,” a colorful tale surrounding an ancient Polynesian heroine on a seafaring mission to save her island village. As the effects lead for Te Kā, the movie’s angry, volcanic antagonist, Bryant researched volcanoes and lava types as well as lava and smoke movement in order to perfect Te Kā’s fiery temper. Working with a character as heavily featured and complex as Te Kā compelled Bryant and the rest of the department to build an FX rig with many different elements, like pyroclastic plumes and lava, in order to easily simulate her movements.
“We needed a solution that would allow us to iterate quickly and to closely collaborate with multiple departments,” he explains. The effects department decided to take a layered approach to constructing Te Kā by using a mixture of pre-simulated elements and custom per-shot simulations to modify the character’s movements quickly and effectively.
“Layout would start this process by placing pre-simmed elements, allowing the directors to evaluate the framing and timing of volcanic events at a very early stage. Animation could also adjust these elements to suit their purposes as they worked on Te Kā’s character performance,” explains Bryant.
Then the effects department layered in the “hero” FX, which consists of custom sims that react to the character’s movements. Bryant describes these hero rigs as “modular, with basic components, such as smoke, fire and lava, saved into individual Houdini galleries.” Breaking down the rig allowed research and development artists to simultaneously work on its different parts. “The individual galleries would then be assembled at shot time, providing the artist with a solid starting point for their custom simulations,” informs Bryant. Disney’s effects department uses Houdini as their animation application software, which provided the built-in solvers for Te Kā’s fire and pyroclastic smoke simulations. Animating the more liquid lava required a combination of Houdini’s FLIP solver and Disney Animation’s Splash solver, which was developed for the breathtaking water in “Moana.”
After all of the work put into “Moana,” Bryant is on to the next project, specifically focused on improving tools for Disney Animation’s upcoming sequel “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.” As his work with Disney Animation continues, Bryant is soaking up every magical moment: “It’s the best job I’ve had. Walt Disney Animation Studios provides a fantastic environment and the chance to collaborate with people who created the classics from my childhood. It’s pretty humbling.”
If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might catch Gerald Glenn ’64 in a certain blue blazer — the one lined in orange that has a Tiger paw embroidered on the inside. And if you’re lucky, you just might catch him laughing and asking, “Can you tell Clemson is close to my heart?”
Glenn’s time in civil engineering at Clemson paved the way for a successful career, during which he worked as a director of Fluor Corporation and as a group president of its primary subsidiary, Fluor Daniel Inc. He then went on to become chairman, president and CEO of Chicago Bridge and Iron, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies.
In addition to giving extensively to the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences Leadership Circle, the Fluor Daniel Engineering Innovation Center and the Barker Scholars Endowment, he and his wife Candi provided the naming gift for the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering in 2011.
“We did that so kids could have the opportunity to do something maybe they couldn’t afford to do or that wasn’t available to them,” he said.“While this gift goes to athletics, we think it is still a part of the whole process of education,” Gerald Glenn said. “You learn about being on a team and being a team player, and that’ll serve you well in your following life.”
However, the Glenns view education as much more than academics. They see education as a wholistic experience that includes all the opportunities the University has to offer, and one of those primary opportunities is athletics.
As Clemson’s ninth Athletic Cornerstone Partner, the Glenns have joined a special group of donors to athletics with a $2.5 million gift. The Athletic Cornerstone Partners are a bold and visionary group of leaders who have given transformational funding to propel Clemson forward, laying a foundation that will impact students for generations.
For Gerald and Candi Glenn, both academics and athletics at Clemson are worthy of investment. “An education is something that cannot be taken away from you, no matter what happens,” Candi Glenn said. The Glenns’ dedication to Clemson over the years has proven that Clemson truly is close to their hearts — blue blazer or no blue blazer.
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.”