Full Circle of Leadership

The Snelsire, Sawyer, Robinson Clemson Career Workshop Gala was held last October to recognize individuals whose efforts helped the program become the success it is today and to provide an update on a $1 million fundraising goal.

Since 1977, the Career Workshop has introduced academically talented, underrepresented high school students to Clemson through a summer residential program. The program’s original goals were to increase the number of students of color at Clemson in general as well as students of color majoring in science, technology, engineering and math. The workshop provides college preparation, networking and residential campus experiences. 

During the past 45 years, the program has expanded its scope, serving students from 14 states and more than 100 high schools. Since 2016, nearly 30 percent of Career Workshop participants have enrolled at Clemson. Last fall, the largest group of alumni in the program’s history entered Clemson as first-year students. There are currently 39 Career Workshop alumni on scholarship at Clemson, and the grade point average of the college students is 3.2.

Not surprisingly, two of the leaders driving the continued success of this initiative are Career Workshop alumni, and the other credits Clemson for helping launch his career. 

Tony Mathis ’86 has served the University in many capacities, currently as chair of the Clemson University Foundation, where he leads efforts to promote the welfare and future development of the University. 

Mathis is president and CEO of GE Edison Work, which develops advanced aerospace technologies and innovations. His passion for students has led him to spearhead collaboration and student opportunities between Clemson and GE, including naming a GE classroom at the Watt Family Innovation Center. His support of the Career Workshop is high on his list of priorities. 

“Clemson was a defining moment for me,” Mathis says. “Even before I attended the University where I met my wife and lifelong friends, I participated in the Clemson Career Workshop summer engineering program as a high school sophomore. That experience left its mark and led me to a career in engineering, first with the Air Force as a flight test engineer and later with GE Aviation, where I continued pursuing my passion for aerospace engineering.” 

Ernest Haynes ’97 credits his Clemson experience with helping him land his first professional job at Sonoco. He recently celebrated 25 years with that company, where he now serves as president of Sonoco Metal Packaging. At this year’s Career Workshop Gala, Haynes and Sonoco were recognized with the Corporate Champion Award. Haynes also serves Clemson on the Clemson University Foundation Board and as a Career Workshop Advisory Board member.

Aubrey Harrell ’89 participated in the Career Workshop in 1983 and 1984 and later served as the inaugural chair of the Snelsire, Sawyer, Robinson Clemson Career Workshop Advisory Board when it was renamed in 2019. After earning his accounting degree from Clemson, he progressed to a successful career in the Atlanta office of KPMG, a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services, where he serves as an audit partner. 

During his remarks at this year’s gala, President Clements said that Clemson is ranked among the top leaders in the country in inclusive excellence because of programs like the Snelsire, Sawyer, Robinson Clemson Career Workshop. “Clemson recently received the 2022 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine for the sixth consecutive year,” he said. “And we were named a Diversity Champion, placing Clemson among the top tier of all institutions receiving these awards.”

At the gala, Harrell shared an update on the current fundraising efforts, including the matching “Road to a Million” campaign, which has so far raised a total of $850,000 toward the $1 million goal. “This evening, we pause to celebrate the achievement of our initial pledge target of $250,000 as we are already forging ahead to our current goal to establish a $1 million endowment,” he said. “Because of your very generous support, the workshop will have a lasting impact on the lives of current students and future Tigers for generations to come.”

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