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Explore the world with your Clemson family

Wayne and Shirley Bennett hosted this group of 21 for the Clemson Alumni Danube Cruise this past year. Their enthusiasm is infectious as they talk about the cities they explored, the things they learned, the people they enjoyed and the comforts of cruising down the Danube River through eight countries and 12 cities. A particular highlight was having a Clemson expert along to share tidbits about the history and culture of the areas in which they were traveling.
Alumni trips offer unequaled access, educational value and the knowledge of Clemson experts to enrich your experience. You can relax, explore and immerse yourself in dream destinations without having to worry about making arrangements and reservations.
Has the travel bug bitten you? Trips this year include Alaska, the Swiss Alps, the Pacific Northwest and Nashville. Contact Randy Boatwright at brandol@clemson.edu for more information.

The 2015 Clemson Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award

DSA-Clemson Rings

DSA 2015 pms 165xEvery spring, Clemson recognizes a select number of extraordinary alumni. And this year is no different. Five men have been nominated and selected by their peers using three areas of evaluation: enhancing Clemson’s value for future generations, serving both in the professional and public realm, and serving as a model for present and future students through personal accomplishments.

These are no ordinary alumni. And because of that, they have been designated as recipients of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award.

Glenn
Gerald M. Glenn ’64 

When Gerald Glenn was still a student in civil engineering at Clemson, he was offered a position with Daniel Construction, which merged with Fluor. An integral part of the team that designed the structure of Fluor Daniel, he rose to group president and later became the chair, president and CEO of Chicago Bridge & Iron, one of the world’s largest construction companies. After early retirement in 1994, he started his own consulting company, The Glenn Group.

Glenn serves on the board of directors of Houston’s CHI-St. Luke’s Hospital and United Way. He stays involved with Clemson, recruiting students from The Woodlands area and supporting the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, named in his honor.

A member of the Clemson University Foundation Board, he is a founding partner of the Barker Scholars Endowment and a major supporter of IPTAY.

PullmanNorman F. Pulliam Sr. ’64 

Personal discipline and the mentorship of one of his closest friends, Dean Walter Cox, helped Normal Pulliam achieve his degree in industrial management. A job at Owens Corning Fiberglass and an MBA from Harvard Business School followed. After a position at Sonoco Products, Pulliam founded Pulliam Investment Company and Pulliam Enterprises, as well as First National Bank of the South in Spartanburg.

Pulliam has served on the board of commissioners of the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind, and has been president of the Spartanburg Boys’ Home and currently serves on the board of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

A faithful Clemson supporter, Pulliam provided the endowment and initial funding for Clemson’s Master’s of Real Estate Development, is the namesake of the Norman F. Pulliam Founders Award and was responsible for the development of the Walter T. Cox Scholarship.

MortonGregg F. Morton ’78  

Gregg Morton believes Clemson prepared him for life — it taught him discipline and to always be prepared. After graduating in administrative management in 1978, he worked his way up at Southern Bell to become president of AT&T Southeastern region, managing state governmental and external affairs.

Morton has served on and chaired the executive committee and legislative task force of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education and the National Advisory Board of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville.

A mentor for students in the College of Business and Behavioral Sciences, Morton is a past member of the Clemson University Foundation Board. He has supported Clemson Athletics both financially and by mentoring football players through the new Tigerhood Program. He has secured more than $1 million in gifts and contributions from AT&T for the University, including donations for the AT&T Auditorium at the CU-ICAR campus.

MickelCharles C. Mickel ’79 

Charles Mickel credits his Clemson education for his success — from graduating with a degree in industrial management to earning an MBA from the University of South Carolina to his professional career.

After serving as vice president for U.S. Shelter Corporation, which
was acquired by Insignia Financial Group, Mickel founded Capital Deployment LLC, which manages commercial real estate and private equity investments.

Mickel volunteers with the Daniel-Mickel Foundation, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all people in the Greenville community. President of the Museum Association board and of the 2014-2015 Artisphere festival, he serves on the Christ Church Episcopal School Board of Visitors and with the Community Foundation of Greenville.

Mickel was the president of the Clemson Real Estate Foundation, served on the Board of Visitors and the Clemson University Foundation Board, and was integral in the development of the CU-ICAR project in Greenville.


ConradRobert J. “Bobby” 
Conrad Jr. ’80 

A member of the 1980 basketball team that advanced to the Elite 8, Bobby Conrad graduated with a degree in history. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia, then carved out a legal career that took him from South Carolina to Washington, D.C.

Conrad was selected by Attorney General Janet Reno as chief of her Campaign Financing Task Force in 2000. That year he became the first lawyer to question under oath in the same week a seated U.S. president and vice president (Clinton and Gore). In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated him as U.S. Attorney for Western North Carolina, and in 2005, he was confirmed by the Senate to a position as U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of North Carolina.

Conrad is an adjunct professor at Wake Forest School of Law, a trustee at Belmont Abbey College and on the faculty of the Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia.

A member of Clemson’s Athletic Hall of Fame and Letterwinners Association board of directors, Conrad serves as a mentor for pre-law students.

Video profiles of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award recipients

Clemson’s alumni network ranks first

Clemson has the best alumni network among the nation’s Best Value colleges and universities, according to The Princeton Review. In its new book, Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What It Takes to Get In — 2015 Edition, The Princeton Review ranks Clemson’s alumni network No. 1. Clemson ranked in three of the six categories which include public and private schools.
Clemson’s ranking was based on data and student surveys about the activities and visibility of alumni and the percentage of alumni who recommend Clemson to prospective students. Clemson also was ranked 19th in internship opportunities and 25th in Colleges That Pay You Back — Without Aid.
Widely known for its test prep and academic tutoring services as well as its dozens of categories of college rankings, The Princeton Review developed a unique “Return-on-Education” (ROE) rating to winnow its list of colleges for this book. ROE measures 40 weighted data points ranging from academics, cost, financial aid and student debt to statistics on graduation rates, alumni salaries and job satisfaction.

CADENCE COUNT: Clemson Hits the Top 20

This fall, Clemson broke into celebration mode when the U.S.News & World Report rankings hit the street. Sitting beside Clemson University’s name on the listing of national public universities was a #20.

The audacious idea that Clemson could rank among the top national universities in the nation was first articulated by President Emeritus Jim Barker in a 10-year plan he set forth in 2000. At that time, Clemson was tied for 38th. It was a bold goal, and it took a bit longer than 10 years.

So what does it mean to be top 20? For alumni, it means that your degree keeps gaining value each year, as public recognition of a Clemson education grows. There are both quantitative and qualitative factors that go into the rankings. Here are just a few of the pieces of that puzzle.

#8

Up & Coming Universities

One of 11

Recognized for Writing Across Disciplines program

#4

Alumni Giving

#31

Best Undergraduate Engineering Program

#50

Best Undergraduate Business Program

#10

Average ACT Score (28)

#21

Average Math SAT Score (637)

#18

Average Critical Reading SAT Score (609)

#20

Percentage of Incoming Freshmen who Ranked in top 10% of High School Class (56%)

57.2%

Fall 2013 Acceptance Rate

91%

Average Freshman Retention Rate

51%

Classes with Fewer than 20 Students

82%

6-year Graduation Rate

17:1

Student-Faculty Ratio

My Clemson: Kate Blackmon ’81

Kate Blackmon '81

The technical knowledge I gained in my first undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Clemson, combined with more human-centered history and English literature classes there, has enabled me to take on a wide variety of challenges in managing human and technical systems. Currently this is as senior proctor of the University of Oxford, a post that dates back to the 1100s.

Two colleges elect proctors each year, and a third elects an assessor. We uphold the University’s statutes and regulations, attend key committees, oversee all examinations, attend official university ceremonies and investigate student complaints and discipline. (But we can no longer hang students for misconduct!) The proctors and assessor are visible because we wear subfusc (academic dress) every day, as well a velvet-sleeved gown, ermine stole and hard-shell mortarboard on official occasions such as degree days (graduations, held in Latin) or the Queen’s Garden Party.

After my year as senior proctor, I will return to my “normal” life, where I am an associate professor of operations management at Oxford’s Said Business School, and a fellow and tutor in management studies at Merton College, which is celebrating the 750th anniversary of its founding this year.

Lifelong Tigers

Yandle named Honorary Alumnus

 

Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the College of Business and Behavioral Science and Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of economics, was named an Honorary Alumnus in May by the Alumni Association.

Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the College of Business and Behavioral Science and Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of economics, was named an Honorary Alumnus in May by the Alumni Association.

Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the College of Business and Behavioral Science and Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of economics, was named an Honorary Alumnus in May by the Alumni Association.

“I join the ranks of my favorite people: my former students and others who came to Clemson,” he said. “Having the opportunity — the privilege — of being in the classroom at Clemson is the high point in my professional life.”

An economics professor from 1969 until his retirement in 2000, Yandle returned as dean of CBBS from 2004 to 2007. Honorary alumni are selected by the Alumni Council for outstanding service, lifelong devotion and loyalty to the University or the Alumni Association.

Clemson Day at the Statehouse

Clemson Day at StatehouseClemson at the State HouseClemson boards, alumni, students and supporters turned Columbia orange May 13. Events included an update on current legislation and the impact of state funding on Clemson, as well as the impact Clemson has on the state of South Carolina. Attendees heard an update on the state of Clemson from President Clements, then walked over to the statehouse where the Smith-Lever Act (which authorized the Cooperative Extension Service) was read and the Lever family was recognized. The Senate and House both declared May 13, 2014, as Clemson Day in South Carolina.

At the evening social, Trustee David Wilkins and President Clements addressed the group and thanked them for making “a significant statement” with their attendance.

Alumni Association names new board members

Pictured, front: Sandy Edge, Ron Taylor. Back: Josh Bell, Bud Hicklin, Mark Derrick.

Pictured, front: Sandy Edge, Ron Taylor. Back: Josh Bell, Bud Hicklin, Mark Derrick.

The Alumni Association board of directors elected five new members who took office July 1:

JOSH BELL ’08 of Charleston is executive director of Teach for America-South Carolina. He has been a member of the Clemson Alumni National Council (as student government representative), the Alumni Association Council and the committee to restructure the alumni board and council. At Clemson, he was student body president, Sigma Nu fraternity president and treasurer, vice president of Blue Key Honor Society and Tiger Brotherhood.

MARY KATHRYN DEMPSEY ’08 (not pictured) of Charleston is a fundraising consultant for Blackbaud. She is a former president of the Clemson Young Alumni Council and helped establish the inaugural Roaring 10 award in 2012. At Clemson, she was the Student Alumni Council vice president, secretary of the Blue Key Honor Society and a member of the Mortar Board Order of Athena.

MARK DERRICK ’91 of Gaithersburg, Md., is the regional director, government and transportation sector, at Xerox. As a founding member of the D.C./Baltimore regional campaign, Derrick helped raise $15.3 million for Clemson. He also has hosted the annual Crab Feast of the Clemson Club of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and served as a member of the Clemson Alumni Council since 2008.

SANDY EDGE ’72 (president-elect) of Clemson is a retired Air Force colonel and director of the College of Business and Behavioral Science Advising Center. He has served as president of both the Clemson Rotary Club and the Clemson Corps and as a member of the Clemson Alumni Council. As a student, Edge was a member of the Air Force ROTC, Arnold Air Society and Alpha Zeta Honorary Society.

BUD HICKLIN III ’85 of Clemson is a radiologist at Mountainview Medical Imaging. He has been president and vice president of the Oconee County Medical Association, a member of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and a member of the Clemson Alumni National Council. At Clemson, he was a member of the Clemson Escort Service and Tiger Brotherhood.

RON TAYLOR ’65 of Midland, Mich., is the former director of marketing and sales for Dow Chemical, where he spearheaded an initiative to raise funds from employees and retirees to benefit students and faculty in the Clemson College of Engineering and Science. He created two endowments: the Dow Chemical Engineering Alumni Endowment, which has surpassed $250,000 in value, and the Dow Chemical Alumni Endowment, which is approaching $100,000 in value. As a student, he was inducted into Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society.

With 23 members, the board of directors is the governing body for the Alumni Association. Primary responsibilities include general oversight of the programs and initiatives of the association, financial audit and review, creation of governing policies and strategic planning.

Call for nominations
We need your help in selecting outstanding alumni for the Alumni Association board of directors. We’re looking for candidates with exceptional judgment, a strong work ethic, leadership qualities and the vision to advance the goals and objectives of the Alumni Association. Deadline for nominations is Dec. 1. To nominate a candidate, go to cualumni.clemson.edu/boardnominations.

 

D.C./Baltimore Club Holds Six Degrees of Clemson event

Clemson Club of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Clemson Club of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

High above the Washington, D.C., skyline with stunning views of the Washington Monument, Capitol Dome and Ellipse, members of the Clemson Club of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., enjoyed mingling at Six Degrees of Clemson, the professional networking series designed by the club to bring alumni, parents and students together. Held in the spring and fall each year, the series promotes opportunities for guests to meet with top-level industry leaders, network with fellow Tigers and strengthen their skill sets for navigating the professional world.
Hosted by Stephen Burch ’06 at his PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC office in downtown D.C., the May event highlighted four alumni: Brian Sykes ’99, Michael Newman ’78, Stephen Burch ’06 and Angie Howard ’69; and two parents: Glenn Roland and Gregg Blanchard. According to Elizabeth Jackson ’06, the “Six Degrees of Clemson” refers to the degrees of the six speakers as well as the “small world” feel in D.C. when fellow Tigers gather.

More than 30 members of the club’s regional board of directors also met in May for their spring meeting, hosted by Stephen ’06 and Kristin David ’06 Burch. IPTAY CEO Davis Babb highlighted current athletic initiatives and funding opportunities to shape the future of Clemson athletics. Board members John Lynn ’85 and Todd Ray ’90 shared their vision for a brand-new Clemson/ D.C. Internship and Housing Opportunities Program, a two-part initiative with an immediate focus on matching alumni and parents with students seeking internships and a long-term goal of establishing a central building in D.C. to serve as Clemson’s hub for intern housing, classroom and event space.

Visit clemsonclub.org to learn about D.C. and Baltimore regional events.

Tigers celebrate Reunion Weekend

Class of 1964

Class of 1964

The Class of 1964 celebrated their 50th anniversary reunion, and 64 members of the class were inducted as Golden Tigers during Reunion Weekend in May. The class also presented a gift of $1.046 million to the University, bringing the total of gifts by class members over the last 50 years to almost $16 million.

Two members of the Class of 1939, Ralph Boys (standing) and Tee Senn (pictured at right), were presented with Diamond Tiger medallions by Alumni Association president Ann Hunter.

Ralph Boys (standing) and Tee Senn  (right), with Alumni Association president Ann Hunter.

The reunion gift will be divided between an endowment for scholarships and support for the Class of 1956 Academic Success Center. According to Class of 1964 Golden Anniversary Project committee chair Walter Cox, “The Class of 1964 wanted to make a difference in student lives.”

During the weekend, reunion guests heard Professor Jerry Reel speak about life in 1964 and enjoyed entertainment by the Jungaleers. Individual classes gathered for reunion dinners Friday night.

Two members of the Class of 1939, Ralph Boys (standing) and Tee Senn (pictured at right), were presented with Diamond Tiger medallions by Alumni Association president Ann Hunter.

Students choose Madray as Alumni Master Teacher

Students chose accounting senior lecturer J. Russell Madray ’86, M ’88 as this year’s Alumni Master Teacher

J. Russell Madray ’86, M ’88

Students chose accounting senior lecturer J. Russell Madray ’86, M ’88 as this year’s Alumni Master Teacher for outstanding undergraduate classroom instruction. The annual award is presented to a faculty member nominated by the student body and selected by the Student Alumni Council.
In addition to teaching intermediate accounting, Madray is president of The Madray Group Inc. and is scholar-in-residence at Elliott Davis in Greenville.

 

Clemson Crew alumni celebrate 25 years

Clemson University Rowing Association (CURA) at the boathouse on Hartwell Lake for the annual Clemson Sprints Regatta.

Clemson University Rowing Association (CURA) Alumni Association

Past and present members of the Clemson University Rowing Association (CURA) gathered April 5 at the boathouse on Hartwell Lake for the annual Clemson Sprints Regatta, at which the organization hosted 30 other junior and collegiate clubs. It was an especially momentous event for the club as it celebrated the 25-year anniversary of the club’s establishment in 1989. More than 60 members of the CURA’s Alumni Association (CURAA) were in attendance, traveling from as far as Oklahoma, Colorado and California. Nine members of the 1992 team, some who had not rowed since graduating, even hopped back into one of their original boats for a race and earned a gold medal in their heat, proving they still have what it takes to row with the best. Gathering downtown afterward, it was time for fun, drinks and swapping stories of Clemson Crew.

13_williams

Williams receives Modern-Day Technology Leader Award

Willie J. “W.J.” Williams Jr. ’04 (COMPSC) of Alexandria, Va., received the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award at the 28th Annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards STEM Global Competitiveness Conference. The conference recognizes successful black inventors, technical innovators, gifted scientists, budding engineers, and high-level managers and executives. He’s a senior lead software engineer for BAE Systems, a defense, security and aerospace company and supplier to the U.S. Department of Defense. Williams is pictured receiving the award from Robin N. Coger, dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University, and Kendall T. Harris, dean of engineering at Prairie View A&M University.

 

OOBE: A word, reimagined, becomes a blueprint for business and life

THE GENESIS OF THE APPAREL COMPANY OOBE, strange as it may seem, was an infomercial for the Psychic Friends Network, hosted by Dionne Warwick.

Mike Pereyo and Tom Merritt

Mike Pereyo and Tom Merritt

Students at Clemson, Tom Merritt and Mike Pereyo were hanging out at the lake with their soon-to-be spouses Allyison Clark ’92 and Melissa Magee ’92. Merritt was cooking steaks, and they were halfway listening to a Psychic Friends infomercial when someone started talking about having an out-of- body experience, an “oobe.”

That caught their attention. “We had come to faith a couple of years earlier,” says Merritt. “Spiritual things were a big deal to us.”

It started a conversation about a different kind of “oobe”: an out-of- Bible experience. “That’s been our ultimate experience since we came to Clemson,” says Pereyo.

They coined the word and began using it, and their friends picked it up as well. An “oobe” day for Merritt and Pereyo was the kind of day you’d have if you were going to skip class (not that they would recommend that) and go to Whitewater Falls. Or if you played ball at Fike and were hitting every shot. The kind of day that makes you feel like you’re doing what you were born to do.

“It was our ultimate-day experience,” says Pereyo, “and Tom just wore that word out.”

HEADS OR TAILS?

 

Fast forward several years. Both were married and working, Merritt as a high school counselor and coach in Easley with two small children, Pereyo in a corporate job in Charlotte with a baby on the way.

 

“We recognized that we were entrepreneurs at heart, having grown up watching our dads either go from the bottom to the top like [Pereyo’s] dad in a real boot-strap-type story, and my dad had a dairy farm before getting into the landscaping business and figuring it out,” Merritt said. “So we both had this itch that we had to create and do something.

Merritt can’t help but laugh when he recalls the one particular phone call on April 29, 1994, that served as their future-company’s first springboard.

Pereyo had called to say, “We’re incorporated. You owe me half of $300.” “Awesome. What’s our corporate name?”

The window frame from that first office is framed and on the wall of the 105-B conference room.

The window frame from that first office is framed and on the wall of the 105-B conference room.

“I just put OOBE.”

“Brilliant!”

“Are you in or are you out?” “I’m in.”

“That’s great!”

“What do we do?”

“I have no idea. That’s why I called you.”

That phone call led to months of meetings at a Waffle House halfway between Charlotte and Easley, where they begin to imagine what OOBE would look like, crafting a business plan for what they saw as their niche: a segment of the outdoor industry that had to do with apparel. After a year, they handed in their resignations on the same day and moved into their first office: a rundown auto body shop in Easley that rented for $50 a month.

They bought two desks and a FAX machine, had two OOBE bags made along with their first T-shirt samples and caps. “For the first several months,” says Pereyo, “while samples were being made, we called every outdoor store within driving distance several times a week, asking them if they carried OOBE.”

oobe_filesWhen the samples were done, they packed the car and started driving. When they’d introduce themselves as being from OOBE, the response was, “Oh, folks have been calling for that. Come on in.”

Merritt ticks off the names of those outdoor specialty shops that were early adopters: Sunrift Adventures, Halfmoon Outfitters, Highcountry, Outdoor Experience. “They took a chance on us,” he says. “They are such a part of our story.”

As the business began to grow, they realized they needed to divide responsibilities. They swear it’s a true story: “We flipped a coin,” says Pereyo. “Heads, you’re in charge of sales, marketing, business development. Tails is design, sourcing, all of that. The way it landed, it’s still that today. It’s really worked.”

“Mike,” says Merritt, “went into management.”

COMING BACK TO TIGERTOWN

That approach is no more conventional than the way they raised enough capital to move forward. When they were selling out of their cars to outdoor stores, Merritt began stopping by dive shops and selling scuba diving-themed shirts. It seemed to be a successful ploy, so they created “Dive Jive, the company that wants to go under,” with a series of shirts and hats sporting phrases like “Zero Visibility,” Deep= High and “Deep Thinker.” They went to the Jockey Lot in Anderson, bought tanks, a velvet Elvis, plywood and lava lamps, then drove to New Orleans and set up a booth at an international dive show.

The result? “We wrote 6 figures worth of orders,” says Pereyo, “and that gave us the capital to get OOBE off the ground.”

Sitting in the auto body shop, handwriting invoices on carbon paper, Merritt and Pereyo realized they needed help to move their company to the next level. They drove to Clemson’s Small Business Development Center with their yellow legal pad to meet with Becky Hobart (now Van Evera). When she asked to see their financials and their balance sheet, they handed her the yellow legal pad.

“They were a super dynamic couple of guys,” she says. “My job entailed taking them and tying them to the ground so they could get from where they were to where they wanted to be.”

At that point, says Pereyo, the BSDC “wrapped their arms around us and helped us put together a strong financial model.”

“You can’t get very far in our story,” says Merritt, “without coming back to Tigertown.” Pereyo concurs. “Clemson engaged in the OOBE story and has pretty deep roots in there for the past 20 years.”

Not long after, Van Evera and Clemson successfully nominated the pair as Young Entrepreneurs of the Year. But they’ve never been able to take themselves seriously for too long. They got up to receive the award, and the first thing out of Merritt’s mouth was, “Who came in second? Or were we the only ones?”

The award paved the way for their first loan from the Small Business Administration, which enabled them to get over a bump in the road and on their way.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

oobe_clothingThe corporate offices of OOBE that overlook the Reedy River in Greenville are a far cry from the Easley body shop. But beginnings are important, and Pereyo and Merritt make a point of remembering theirs. The window from that first office is framed and on the wall of the 105-B conference room, a gift last year from their current OOBE family. The name of the room refers to 105-B Hollow Oaks Lane, the address of the body shop.

They have no sales force, no business development staff. That money and energy, according to Pereyo, goes into the service strategy instead: treating people well and exceeding their expectations. They want to have partners, not customers, who will become storytellers and ambassadors on their behalf. “Our customers are our sales staff if we treat them well,” he says.

It’s a philosophy that sounds like it reflects a small business with four or five employees, not one that outfits the employees of companies like Chick-fil-A, Krispy Kreme and Race Trac and has three offshore offices.

oobe_Mike PereyoBut it’s a philosophy that fits Pereyo and Merritt, who have run a business together for 20 years with the kind of love, respect and trust that most people reserve for their spouses. “If you really want to make a relationship work,” says Merritt, “it’s got to be about the other person at some point. If it’s always about you, that gets old in a hurry, in a marriage or a business partnership. It’s never been about what can I maximize personally, but what we want to do next, and what does God want us to do.”

They’ve known each other long enough and worked together enough that they finish each other’s sentences. Which is somewhat the secret of their success. They have a firm understanding that no decision goes forward that they don’t both feel good about.

“We’ve always been on the same trajectory,” says Pereyo. “We want to honor God; God doesn’t honor greed or selfish ambition. For us, it’s more about people than a product.”

They dote on OOBE like an only child. “It feels like parenting in some ways,” says Merritt. It’s something we desperately want to grow up and do well without it becoming an idol.”

And now, with OOBE’s growth, there’s a village raising that child. “There are people here taking care of OOBE in ways we are not capable of doing. As a parent who birthed the company, that’s one of the coolest things in the world — to see other people love the company and want to do right by it. There might be something here other than just schlepping clothes.”

AN OOBE APPROACH TO BUSINESS

Ten years ago, Merritt and Pereyo took OOBE in a new direction, positioning themselves “as a strategic branded apparel company specifically looking to provide the world’s best brands with large-scale uniform services.”

That leap, like most things in their company, comes with a story filled with self-deprecating humor. They had worked with Chick-fil-A in smaller ways, providing clothing for special events, when they found out the company had issued an RFP for uniforms.

Pereyo called the corporate office and spoke with the vice president handling the RFP. The questions came like quickly:

Have you every shipped to 100,000 employees before?

Do you have a customer service department?

Do you have a warehouse?

Can you pass financial due diligence?

Is this contract bigger than your whole company?

oobe_Tom MerrittThe answer to all of those, except the last one, was no. The question that followed was this: “Then why should we include you in the RFP?”

Pereyo’s response? “Because we’re NOT a uniform company. We’re a strategic branded company.”

“We changed the battlefield,” says Merritt. “We clearly focused on their team members, providing them a better product, leveraging performance fabrics, helping the team members feel better about themselves so they could provide better service.” That answer resonated with Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A was followed by a number of other companies and organizations: a wall at the Greenville office sports logos of their clients including YMCA, BMW, Race Trac, Herschend Family Entertainment, among others. They’re deliberate about which companies they pitch: “We want to align ourselves with companies that value the same things we value,” says Merritt.

In the midst of this shift, something seemed to click for OOBE. Pereyo sees it as an OOBE moment of a sort, where the owners and the company shifted from a focus on themselves and building their brand to focusing on others. “When we put others first, and put ourselves behind them, we were able to move forward and help propel these great companies. That’s when we found success. That’s servant leadership. That’s where God allowed us to succeed — not when it was all about us.”

There are other organizations that might not be on the wall, but who have been beneficiaries of OOBE’s commitment to give back. They outfitted all the teachers in Greenville, Pickens and Anderson counties with branded shirts. And they recently provided the Clemson student tour guides with branded apparel that the guides say makes them feel more professional. “At this stage of life,” says Merritt, “we have to be focused about what we give our time and energy. Family and church are really important to us. But Clemson has won a place in our hearts as well.”

FAITH, FAMILY AND FRIENDSHIP

OOBE hit its 20th year recently, and it was an emotional milestone. Neither Pereyo nor Merritt can (or wants to) imagine what it would be like to have gone it alone these past 20 years.

In the company celebration, Merritt told the staff that it was their relationship and the support of their wives that kept them pushing the ball up the hill all these years.

Pereyo calls Merritt a truth teller, one of the few people who will unabashedly speak the truth to him. “He gets to speak whether I like to hear it or not. It creates friction, but I come around to ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ Few people, except Melissa, know me better.”

Merritt characterizes Pereyo as an encourager in his life. “For me, it’s been a massive blessing to have a partner. If he was down, I was up. If I was down, he was up.”

As they talk and tell stories, it’s clear that faith, family and friendship (plus humor) are all intertwined in their lives and in the story of OOBE, and there’s really no way to separate them.

More and more often, they’re asked to share the story of their company and their personal partnership. Recently, they were invited to speak to the Clemson Alumni group in Atlanta. On the ride down, they were talking about the upcoming presentation.

Pereyo looked over at Merritt and said, “Tom, do you know the common denominator of every mistake we’ve made with OOBE? It’s us!”