A Life Well Lived
The Chandler L. Burns Tower is a testament to a gifted young man and a loving grandson. Billy and Ann Powers made sure his name will always be remembered at Clemson.
By Miranda Risser ’17
As students, faculty, staff and alumni make their way back to Clemson this fall, the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business will be a striking addition to campus. The dual-tower, five-story structure stands across from Sikes Hall in the heart of campus. One of those towers bears the name of Chandler L. Burns ’15.
The namesake is Billy Powers’ grandson, who passed away in 2016 after a short battle with MRSA. Billy and Ann’s decision to name the tower after him came from the desire to indelibly link Chandler’s memory with Clemson’s campus.
As a child, Chandler was creative and thoughtful. His brother, Jordan, remembers that they were complete opposites growing up. While Jordan was interested in sports, Chandler had an artistic streak. And his knack for building was demonstrated early on. “The one thing we had in common was Legos,” Jordan says. “I’d follow instructions, but he’d always want to make things on his own — even when it came to Legos.”
Chandler dreamed of one day studying architecture at Clemson, and throughout high school, he worked hard to maintain good grades and keep his spot on the golf team. His mother, Penny, witnessed his drive firsthand. He would practice even in the dead of winter to prepare for golf in the spring. After playing for only two years, Chandler placed in the top five at the state championship during his junior year.
Chandler grew up near Billy and Ann in Florence, his life in part shaped by Ann’s warmth and kindness and Billy’s strong work ethic. Starting in high school, he spent his summers working for them at Powers Construction. During a family trip to Hilton Head during Chandler’s junior year of high school, his grandfather asked him to look over some plans for a future project. Billy began to see characteristics in Chandler that drew the two together: curiosity, sincerity and a willingness to work hard toward a goal.
After high school and a year of technical college, Chandler transferred to Clemson in 2012. The day he moved in, his father, Marc, handed him an index card with four simple handwritten words: “Clemson, Christ, Conviction, Commitment.” Marc remembers telling Chandler, “I want you to remember your four C’s, like taking Vitamin C.”
“He kept his faith, he kept his character, and he was determined to do well in life.”
Over the next three years, Chandler tackled his coursework and made friends easily through golf and connections from Florence. He grew closer to a friend from high school named Lydia Nolan, whom he would later marry. Every home football game meant a family tailgate, and Chandler never missed one. On May 8, 2015, Chandler graduated from Clemson with a degree in construction science and management.
After graduation, Chandler began to work for Billy and Ann at Powers Construction. Being the owner’s grandson didn’t grant him special privileges; if anything, expectations were higher.
Paul Seward, a close friend of Billy and Ann, said that not many people on the jobsites knew Chandler was Billy’s grandson. “He wanted to earn his own stripes,” said Seward. “He would get to work before everybody else. He wanted to work harder than anybody else. That excited Billy.”
Chandler’s widow, Lydia, remembers the pride he took in his work: “There was one project they had built in red clay. There was a bunch of red clay on the bottom of the apartment building, and everyone was like, ‘It’s fine, it will wash off eventually.’… [Chandler] got up Saturday morning and power-washed all day long because he wanted it to be perfect. He just wanted to be sure that he was going to make his grandad proud.”
Billy began to see that Chandler had the work ethic and the discipline in his life to be successful. As that relationship evolved, and Chandler began to prove himself, Billy started bringing him into the office on Fridays, setting him on the path to take over Powers Construction in the future.
After Chandler’s passing, Billy and Ann were heartbroken. “It was one of the hardest things Billy and Ann ever went through,” says Pat Wiggins, a close friend and colleague of Billy and Ann.
After Chandler’s death, Marc was cleaning out his car and found a worn index card in the glove box. Marc read the four words that he had written years ago. He also noticed a smudge of red clay.
“I was so proud of him as a father because Chandler had kept those four C’s in front of him all the time,” Marc says. “And that clay that was on the card had to have come from one of the projects he was working on with [his grandfather]. At some time, he must have just picked it up and looked at it. … He kept his faith, he kept his character, and he was determined to do well in life.”