Gen. John “Jay” Raymond ’84*
IT’S NOT OFTEN A CLEMSON CLUB has the opportunity to honor a four-star general, much less a member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
On October 16, 2022, the Baltimore/ Washington, D.C., Clemson Club was able to do just that, hosting Gen. John “Jay” Raymond ’84 as part of the club’s Military Heritage Reception. Just two weeks before his retirement, Raymond spoke about Space Force and his role as chief of Space Operations.
Beyond telling the story of how the space domain has evolved, and the challenges of overseeing a service that includes approximately 16,000 space professionals worldwide and providing resilient, defendable and affordable space capabilities for the nation, it was important to Raymond to make it clear where his journey began.
“Clemson set the foundation for my 38 years of service,” he said. “It began there in ROTC.”
In 1982, when Raymond was an ROTC cadet at Clemson, the Air Force Space command was established within the Air Force. Its first commander visited Clemson and gave a speech. “I remember, as a cadet, listening to that speech,” Raymond said. “It was a brand-new command. And then 35 years later,” he mused, “I had the opportunity to command it as well.”
A group of local junior ROTC students and one current Clemson Air Force ROTC student had traveled to the Clemson Club event, and Raymond spoke directly to them: “If I can do it, you can do it.”
He also passed along his lessons for leadership, the first being advice he received from Col. Lew Jordan, his ROTC professor of aerospace studies at Clemson. “After I graduated, I was at his house, and he pulled me aside. ‘Hey, you’re good enough to do good,’ he told me.” Those words have stuck with Raymond throughout his career.
His second bit of advice also has roots in his Clemson experience: “Never pass up an opportunity to lead.” He illustrated with a story from when he helped plan and promote two different events: a “rock-a-thon” for charity and the annual tradition of running the football from Clemson to either Columbia, South Carolina, or Athens, Georgia.
“You can practice your leadership while you’re in school,” he said, “before national security really demands that you get it right.”
His third piece of advice? “Whatever you do — if you take nothing else out of this — be a good person.”
In his retirement, which Raymond calls bittersweet (more sweet than bitter), he plans to continue mentoring ROTC students: “I remember as if it were yesterday, the handful of times that I got to interact with general officers when I was at Clemson. There was a two-star general named Clifton Wright. He came to speak, and I got an opportunity to escort him in. I’ll never forget that.”
And the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., club won’t soon forget Raymond’s words. Neither will the ROTC cadets who attended.
The club, which has 400 dues-paying members, encompasses Baltimore, northern Virginia and D.C. “There are more than 4,000 alumni and parents in the area,” said retired Brig. Gen. Carlos Hill ’86, a club board member and event organizer, “with almost 10 percent of those actively engaged.”
The event was a privilege, said Hill, “to highlight and honor the highest-ranking military officer ever to graduate from Clemson.”