Ben Rook ’68, M ’74, the owner of Design Strategies in Greenville, has spent his career working on many different solutions to one question: “How can we make that happen?”
He and his wife, Becca, make things happen in many arenas: education, architecture, business and community-centered philanthropy. At Clemson, their latest gift of $100,000 will provide opportunities for architecture students by funding an endowment created in the name of mentor and friend George C. Means Jr.
Means established a health-focused studio in the School of Architecture at Clemson that has grown into today’s Architecture + Health graduate program. As the program celebrates its 50th anniversary, the Architecture + Health studio will officially carry the name of George C. Means Jr.
Ben said that when he first came to Clemson from Newberry, South Carolina, he had no idea what architecture really was. “I knew I liked making art, and I liked building treehouses,” he said, adding that Means had a gift for molding young people into “what they would be, even when they didn’t know what they could be.”
Ben graduated in 1968 and earned his master’s degree in 1974. In between degrees, he met his wife while working in Charlotte. After a long courtship, they married, with George Means as best man.
For a few years, Ben taught full time at Clemson and was an assistant campus planner. Becca educated younger students in Anderson and earned a master’s degree in education at Clemson. Ben’s career led them to Greenville, then to Charlotte and back to Greenville.
Ben wants people to remember that Means was a man with big ideas and an unparalleled devotion to students. Through the many lives he shaped over the years, Means’ influence traveled far beyond the studio that now bears his name.
The Rooks said they want their gift to the Means endowment to help keep Clemson a place where extraordinary teachers can deliver extra care and individual attention to each student. “That is what makes Clemson great,” Ben said.