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My Clemson: Daniel Licata ’09

When I transferred to Clemson in the fall of 2006, I was looking for a better “college experience.” The university I had left behind was low on school spirit; they didn’t even have a football team.

Clemson did not provide me with an experience; it transformed my life. I found a new family in those “Hills.” The color orange was no longer something to add to my wardrobe, it became my wardrobe. And while the “Hills” were certainly special, “The Hill” was sacred.

In the long history of Clemson, approximately 50 other students have had the same perspective I did when I first stepped to the top of The Hill on Labor Day Monday in 2007. With limited vision, gasping for air and fighting off heat exhaustion, I stood in front of the Death Valley faithful, ready to lead our team on to the field. The “C-L-E-M-S-O-N” chant that overcame the stadium, physically shaking my helmet, will forever be engrained in my mind. As the cannon sounded, I knew my life would never be the same. During the 2007-08 school year, I prowled the sidelines during a 23-21 victory in Columbia and an ACC Tournament in Charlotte that had our team in the championship game.

After graduating summa cum laude in the spring of 2009, I returned to my home state of New Jersey to begin a career in education. I love exploring the subject of social studies with my high school students, but if you were to ask any of my students where my true passion lies, they would all answer, “Clemson!” My students know that the Tiger does push-ups after every score, that Friday is always solid orange, and that my mood on a Monday in the fall is largely dependent on the Saturday that precedes it.

Daniel Licata is a social studies teacher at Palmyra High School in Palmyra, New Jersey. He recently won the teacher of the year award and led the varsity baseball program to their second consecutive division championship, the first time for the school since the 1930s.

William S. Gaillard Jr. ’40

WWII Soldier

Gaillard_William-graveHistory and travel enthusiast, Rhonda Bailey Antonetti ’87 (NURS) of Charleston wanted to take Tiger Paw flags to place on the Clemson alumni WWII soldiers’ graves in the American Cemetery in Normandy, France. Little did she know the amazing, serendipitous venture this gesture would uncover. She was able to place only one flag on her visit, and she snapped a picture of the marker. When asked about her trip by a co-worker, Antonetti showed her pictures. This co-worker, Staci Gaillard, was surprised to see the name on the marker was a name familiar to her — one shared by her father-in-law, husband and son. The soldier was William S. Gaillard Jr. ’40, her husband’s great-uncle. The present generation of the family had not known much about his death and service. Antonetti assisted the family in researching information. On Clemson’s Military Heritage Day, his nephew, William S. Gaillard II; great-nephew, William S. Gaillard III ’03 (MKTG); William III’s wife, Staci Gaillard; and Antonetti visited his stone at the Scroll of Honor Memorial. Staci and William have a son, William S. Gailliard IV.

Gaillard_family

 

Celeste “Clete” Boykin ’79

Lifetime of Achievement

Clete Boykin graduated from Clemson with a degree in horticulture, so when she began working as a lobbyist for DuPont 21 years ago, her focus was on agricultural issues. Since then, her portfolio has broadened to include trade secrets, defense, transportation, chemical plant security, immigration and education.

The job and the issues demand flexibility and adaptability. “No two days are the same,” she says. “I start out the day saying, ‘I’m going to do ABC today.’ I end up doing D and Z. And you meet some of the most interesting people with different backgrounds.”

This past summer at the Washington Government Relations Group’s Annual Tin Cup Awards Dinner, Boykin received the Reginald “Reg” Gilliam Lifetime Achievement Award from the non-partisan volunteer association founded to enrich the careers and leadership abilities of African-American government relations professionals.

Her job may not be nine to five, but she still finds time every summer to get together with a group of 10 to 12 other Clemson alums who lived together on the fourth floor of Benet Hall. They call themselves the “Benet Babes.”

“After all these years,” Boykin says, “I still consider them my best friends.”
She’s a proud Tiger Band alum, and can still be seen sporting her Tiger Band jacket when the weather gets chilly.

Chris Bandy ’92

Spreading the Small Town Gospel

The American South and cotton have a troubled relationship. But thanks to Chris Bandy and his homegrown apparel brand, Southern Fried Cotton, things are changing.

When Bandy first entered Clemson as a textiles major, he hoped to have the same job that his dad had in the pulp and paper industry. Instead, he jumped straight into sales after graduating in 1992 instead of heading to N.C. State like he once planned.

Some 26 years later, he’s a co-owner of TigerTown Graphics — a Clemson tradition started by his partners, John Earle and Chuck Rice, in 1988, when Bandy was a freshman at Clemson. The three are also the proud co-creators of Southern Fried Cotton, a Southern-themed apparel brand that has grown from one store in Greenville in 2012 to a second store in Clemson and more recently, 200 retailers selling their t-shirts throughout the Southeast.

“I remember hand-combing cotton and learning those properties involved in making cotton softer. It has been very interesting being in the apparel industry as all the new blends change the T-shirt world, and some of the softest shirts are made,” said Bandy.

The sign in the back of the store is of a John Cougar Mellancamp quote: “I was born in a small town and I can breathe in a small town.” For Bandy, that’s what these Southern-themed T-shirts are about — “roots, being homegrown and small towns.”

That “small town” feel that his shirts evoke come from his heart. He and his wife Maggie, who he met while in college, have raised their two sons JT and Carter in Clemson. He helps coach local rec teams and volunteers at his church. Southern Fried Cotton is about sharing that feeling of belonging — the sensation of someone memorizing your coffee order — with people who have had to move on from their own hometowns.

“Almost 10 years after returning to Clemson to live, I still don’t take it for granted. I’m not getting special treatment; that’s just part of living in a small community,” said Bandy.

DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins

S.M.O.O.O.T.H. operator

Former Clemson football standout and now starting wide receiver with the NFL’s Houston Texans, DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins has always been a smooth operator on the football field. But he can be just as smooth off the field.

Hopkins teamed up with his mother, Sandra Greenlee, and founded S.M.O.O.O.T.H Inc. — Speaking Mentally, Outwardly Opening Opportunities Toward Healing — an organization devoted to helping women and children heal from domestic violence situations. Greenlee, a victim herself, along with Hopkins, wanted to help end the cycle of domestic violence through education and empowering women and children. Hopkins has stood by her side and shared his perspective as a child who witnessed a bad situation, lived through it and is now successful.

With the help of sponsors, they have been able to provide children with school supplies as well as food, secure educational speakers, and set up booths promoting self-defense, anti-bullying and higher-education opportunities.

“This is an important issue, and if we can do anything about it to help people get around it, then we want to,” Hopkins says. “So we want to show people you don’t have to have a lot of money to overcome this. It’s something my mom went through, and she wants to reach out to people and help them.”

Hopkins also serves as an ambassador and spokesman for the Houston Food Bank and Souper Bowl of Caring. He hopes to raise awareness about hunger and help bring about hunger relief throughout the Houston community through volunteer activities, appearances and nutrition education.

Matthew C. Reinhart ’94

“Pop-up” Engineer

Take a biology major, mix in a portion of art training and a large serving of creativity, and what do you get? A pop-up engineer!

That’s the combination that resulted in a successful career for author, illustrator and paper engineer, Matthew Reinhart.

Reinhart began his Clemson experience with intentions of becoming a physician, but he had always enjoyed art and took art classes to build up his portfolio. After graduation, he realized that medicine was not his true calling and took off to New York City.

Reinhart attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, majoring in industrial design, with a concentration in toy design. His focus soon shifted to becoming a paper engineer. More precisely, a pop-up engineer.

Cutting, folding and taping small pieces of paper to make model after model to create dancing princesses, open-jawed dinosaurs and flying super heroes became his passion.

Reinhart apprenticed with renowned pop-up bookmaker Robert Sabuda, and soon they were collaborating. Reinhart made his first big breaks into the pop-up world with The Pop-Up Book Of Phobias, Animal Popposites and The Ark. Many book collaborations with Sabuda followed, including a trilogy of New York Times best-selling Encyclopedia Prehistorica and the series Encyclopedia Mythologica. He co-authored Mommy? with the ever-popular Maurice Sendak, and Brava Strega Nona with famous writer and illustrator, Tomie DePaola.

Reinhart’s solo pop-up books include The Jungle Book, Cinderella: A Pop-Up Fairy Tale, The Pop-Up Book of Nursery Rhymes, and STAR WARS: Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy, DC Super Heroes Transformers: The Ultimate Pop-Up Universe and Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros.

He continues to work and live in New York City, cutting, taping and folding paper into pop-up masterpieces.