Every year, the Clemson Alumni Association recognizes outstanding alumni whose personal lives, professional achievements, community service and loyalty to Clemson exemplify the objectives of the University. The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student, and it recognizes those whose devotion to Clemson has increased the value of the University for future generations and whose lives have expressed, through service to community, profession and the public, the finest Clemson traditions.
This year’s honorees have been recognized by their peers professionally for impressive achievements. They have contributed to their communities both publicly and privately, serving on boards and volunteering without expectation of reward or recognition. They have stayed connected with Clemson, giving back in time, talent and resources to benefit current and future students.
These five men reflect those characteristics that define Clemson. They are visionary, bold, competitive, determined and proud. They value family, tradition and loyalty. And they love orange. Here they are, this year’s Distinguished Service Award honorees.
Richard M. Davies ’86
Richard M. Davies grew up in Durban, a coastal city in South Africa, playing soccer and rugby, and briefly competed as a professional cricket player in England. His family moved to the United States in 1982. After making a phone call to Danny Ford, Davies joined Clemson as a kicker for the football team. He played Clemson football from 1982 to 1985, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1986. A third-generation commercial property developer, Davies began his career in banking and loans before joining his father’s development business. Davies then founded and is now CEO of Pavilion Development Company, a real estate development firm based in Charlotte, N.C.
Davies is a member of the Trevillian Cabinet for the College of Business and served as vice-chair on the executive committee of the Will to Lead capital campaign. Davies served on the athletic director’s advisory council and football committee under Terry Don Phillips. He is also president of the All-In Team Foundation founded by Dabo and Kathleen Swinney. He has supported the Tiger Golf Gathering and the new Larry B. Penley Jr. Golf Facility and hosts an annual PGA Championship dinner for Clemson leaders and Charlotte-area alumni.
Davies has served on the board of the Novant Foundation-Presbyterian Medical Center since 2009. He was named to the Forest Hill Church Council of Elders and is the past chair of the church’s finance and risk management committee and governance committee. He is a past chair of the Mecklenburg County board of advisers for Easter Seals, past member of the board of trustees of Charlotte Latin School, and past member of the board of Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte. Davies is currently a member of the board of directors for the Guy Harvey Ocean Research Foundation. Davies founded the Sbonelo Scholarship Foundation that awards scholarships to economically disadvantaged students in South Africa to attend top boarding schools.
John W. Kelly Jr. ’77
Born and raised in the Upstate, John W. Kelly Jr. followed his father’s footsteps to Clemson, where he was involved in Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI), Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the horticulture club while working on his job with a landscape company. Kelly graduated with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture in 1977, then received a fellowship to attend Ohio State University for his master’s degree and Ph.D. in horticulture.
Kelly began his career in 1982 as an assistant professor at Texas A&M University. Three years later he returned to Clemson, rising from professor to chair of the horticulture department as well as director of the Clemson Botanical Garden. He helped the garden become the official South Carolina Botanical Garden and developed its Wren House and geology museum. In 1997, he was named vice president for Public Service and Agriculture (PSA) and, in 2010, became vice president for economic development.
Kelly led initiatives to create, build and fund some of Clemson and PSA’s most extensive projects. He spearheaded and then directed the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI). He then led a team to secure the largest competitive renewable energy grant in U.S. Department of Energy history at the time, which along with public and private grants, built the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center at CURI. During his tenure, he helped obtain several of the largest gifts in Clemson’s history.
Kelly served on Clemson’s Board of Trustees’ University land and capital assets stewardship committee; the president’s administrative council, cabinet and implementation teams; and assisted in outlining Clemson’s clean energy strategy. One of three mission vice presidents, he helped lead the development of two 10-year strategic plans. Kelly secured funding for several endowed chairs and helped form academic partnerships between Clemson and other state schools. He has also hosted many alumni events.
In 2014, Kelly became the seventh president of Florida Atlantic University, which he has led up the rankings to become the top performing university in the state in 2016, according to state accountability rankings. Nationally, he served on the boards of the administrative heads section of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the American Distance Education Consortium.
Ronald D. Lee ’76
Ronald Lee was born and raised in Aiken. His father, a former Marine, had gone to Clemson, and Lee always knew it was where he wanted to attend college. At Clemson, Lee was a member of several science clubs, played intramural sports, worked at Harcombe Dining Hall and never missed a Clemson home football or basketball game. Lee graduated with honors in microbiology in 1976, then earned a master’s degree in environmental science and engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill. After several years as an engineer, he enrolled in dental school, earning a Doctor of Dental Medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 1988. He served as class president all four years at MUSC, where he earned three prestigious awards for scholarship and leadership. Having practiced dentistry in Aiken for 28 years, Lee was named a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, a title given to only 7 percent of practicing dentists nationwide.
Lee is active in the Aiken County Clemson Club and, as a member of the Clemson Board of Visitors, he has hosted new student receptions in Aiken. In 2010, the S.C. General Assembly elected Lee to the Clemson Board of Trustees, where he serves on the committees for educational policy, finance and facilities, and student affairs. He served on the presidential search committee that recommended James Clements, and he currently is serving his sixth year as trustee liaison to Clemson’s Board of Visitors.
For 45 years, Lee has been an active member, past deacon and volunteer at Millbrook Baptist Church and has served as a medical missionary to Honduras. He has served on the board of Dollars for Scholars, a college scholarship program for local students. In 2015, he was named one of six trustees for the Sage Valley Golf Club Foundation, which hosts the world’s premier international junior golf tournament.
Perry Sprawls Jr. ’56, M ’61, Ph.D. ’68
Born on a farm in Barnwell County that had been in his family since 1812, Perry Sprawls Jr. grew up working in agriculture and learning the new technology of electricity. These dual interests led to Clemson, where Sprawls paid for college with money saved from raising 4-H cows and working at the campus YMCA. He was active in cadet duties, the Baptist Student Union and the YMCA council and cabinet.
Sprawls earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial physics in 1956 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps. After serving and working at Bell Labs, he returned to Clemson for the new nuclear science program, earning a master’s degree in 1961 and then earning Clemson’s first doctorate in bioengineering in 1968.
Sprawls found the opportunity to apply nuclear physics to medicine as a professor in the radiology department at Emory University. After 45 years, he retired in 2005 and became a distinguished professor emeritus. His career in medical physics includes serving as director of Medical Physics in Radiology at Emory; co-director of the College of Medical Physics at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy; director for Medical Imaging Continuing Education for the American Association of Physics in Medicine; and co-editor of Medical Physics International.
His passion for expanding medical education on a global basis led to establishing the Sprawls Educational Foundation, which provides textbooks, online resources and collaborative teaching methods to improve global medical education. He led the establishment of the Emory University-Xi’an Cooperative Program in Radiology in China. Sprawls has taught in 14 countries and had post-graduate students working in more than 70 countries.
Sprawls helped the class of 1956 select the Class of 1956 Academic Success Center as their 50-year anniversary project. The center opened in 2012 and contains a suite of rooms dedicated to his parents, Neva and Perry Sprawls Sr.
Sprawls has served as a deacon and leader in the Baptist church and on the board of directors for the Asheville Lyric Opera. With an ongoing interest in preserving rural South Carolina history and heritage, one of his current projects is hosting the Barnwell County Virtual Museum.
James H. Stovall ’51
Honored as a “native son” by the Elberton, Georgia, Chamber of Commerce, James H. Stovall has always been a servant leader. At Clemson, Stovall joined the Baptist Student Union council, YMCA cabinet, Blue Key and the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was president of Tiger Brotherhood. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1951.
After serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Korea and Fort Benning, Georgia, Stovall worked for Lockheed Air, then earned a master’s degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in environmental engineering. His distinguished career included positions at International Paper, J.E. Sirrine, Sirrine Environmental Consultants and Waste Management. He retired as senior vice president of Rust Environment and Infrastructure Inc. Stovall has earned numerous awards as a pioneer of air pollution control and environmental engineering, including being named a Fellow of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry.
Stovall supports the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel and has served on the Golden Tiger Reunion Class’ finance committee. An avid supporter of Clemson’s military traditions, Stovall joined the Clemson Corps; was on the committee that created Military Heritage Plaza; chaired the committee responsible for Basketball Military Appreciation Day; has organized the ROTC Seniors’ Recognition Dinner; and contributes to a scholarship for Army and Air Force ROTC.
Stovall was a Boy Scout troop leader and district commissioner for Upstate South Carolina. He volunteered at the Greenville Salvation Army for many years, including as chairman of the advisory board and capital campaign leader. Stovall is a lifetime trustee at Anderson University, where he has served as chairman of the board of trustees, vice chairman of the presidential search committee, and a member of the committees that built Anderson University’s Thrift Library and student center. Additionally, Stovall has led dozens of church mission trips, served as a deacon in several Baptist churches, and served on the executive committee of the S.C. Baptist Convention.