When Louis Herns ’81 donated a class ring to the Alumni Association for his daughter when she graduated, he knew he would do the same for his son.
Frank Hammond ’83 lost not one but two Clemson class rings. He tells the strange story of how they were both recovered:
Due at least partially to the shock that I was (seemingly) going to graduate in 1982, my parents offered to buy me a Clemson ring. Much to their disappointment, I took a victory lap but did graduate in ’83. I proceeded to lose the ’82 ring in 1986 on a business trip in Columbia, and they were even more kind to purchase a replacement.
Flash forward to the summer of 2006 on an island in Lake Hartwell. I was with my family, throwing the ball for the Lab, and felt the ring come off, making a nice soft splash some distance offshore. With no luck finding it and figuring two was probably my limit anyway, I resigned myself to moving forward without my Clemson ring.
That is until about a month later when my home phone rang, asking if I was the Frank Hammond that graduated from Clemson in ’83. Affirming that it was indeed me, the caller relayed he had seen something shiny while recently fishing on Hartwell and dove down to retrieve what turned out to be my ring. He was a Clemson grad as well and mailed it back to me, politely refusing any reward. I considered myself more than fortunate to have lost two rings and actually gotten one back, though some nine years later, the story takes an even odder twist.
While sitting at my desk in 2015, my phone rings with that same question, asking for a Frank Hammond who graduated in ’82. The caller said she was looking at my ring, which turned out to be the first one I’d lost. It had been missing for almost 30 years. She was the manager of an assisted living facility in North Carolina, and one of their residents, who could no longer speak, had given it to her the day before with no further explanation of how she came to have it.
“What’s the story?” I asked the manager.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “She just handed it to me.”
Ben Skardon ’38 survived the Bataan Death March of WWII thanks to his Clemson ring. After surrendering to the Japanese at the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines, tens of thousands of U.S.-Filipino forces were forced on a 65-mile march from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell. Despite surviving the march, Skardon became deathly ill, suffering severe malnutrition, malaria, beriberi and other ailments. Deprived of food, water and medicine, Skardon was cared for by his friends and fellow Clemson grads, Henry Leitner ’37 and Otis Morgan ’38, who saved Skardon’s life by trading his hidden Clemson ring for food and spoon feeding him to help him regain his strength. Sadly, Leitner and Morgan would not survive.
On March 25, 76 years later, 100-year-old Skardon marched in the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, New Mexico. He is the only survivor of the historical event who still participates. Surrounded by Clemson alumni and other supporters, who dubbed themselves “Ben’s Brigade,” Skardon completed nearly seven miles in the desert in honor of his lost brothers-in-arms. Alumni of the group put up their Clemson rings in solidarity with Skardon, pictured above.
To learn more about Skardon’s ring story, go to alumni.clemson.edu/personal-sacrifice/.
For the Lanhams, the Clemson ring runs in the family.
“Connection.” That’s what Janice Garrison Lanham ’88, M ’94 feels when she looks at her Clemson ring. Connection to her father, who never went to college but paid for her ring. Connection to other Clemson alumni, who have stopped her in line at the grocery store to show their own rings. Connection to her own Clemson family.
As a first-generation college student, Lanham fulfilled her parents’ dreams as well as her own when she graduated from Clemson with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1988. After her master’s degree, she started teaching nursing at Clemson, something she wouldn’t trade for the world: “I get to nurse in California and Utah and North Carolina and Georgia all in the same day because I’ve educated nurses who have gone out to work in all of those states.”
Her husband, Drew Lanham ’88, M ’90, Ph.D. ’97, whom she met while they were students, also teaches at the University, and the couple practically raised their children, Kimberly and Colby, on Clemson’s campus. Both followed in their parents’ footsteps.
When Colby, the younger one, graduated, the Lanhams gathered outside of Bon Secours Arena after the ceremony.
“He couldn’t wait to get outside and take a picture,” Lanham laughs, remembering her son’s excitement. “We all laid our hands out and kind of welcomed him into the fold. It was really special.”
Do you have a ring story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Visit alumni.clemson.edu/ring for more ring stories.
Morgann Alcumbrack, Fleming Hall and Mary Catherine Harbin were three of the more than 1,700 students who purchased their Clemson rings this past fall. The three-day fall ring sale set a record for the most rings ever purchased in a semester.
For more information about how you can purchase a Clemson ring, or other related merchandise, go to alumni.clemson.edu.
A winning determined spirit
Danni Allen knows hard work and dedication can get you where you want to go. She practiced this while she was a student and continues to live by it today.
Allen competed and won the 14th season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” a weight-loss reality show. She attributes much of her success in the competition to the lessons she learned at Clemson. As a freshman, she had not been accepted into the major of her dreams, architecture. Allen double-majored her first semester, worked hard and was accepted into the program. She says that lesson set her up for life. “‘The Biggest Loser’ was the same way,” she says. “I worked really hard and it paid off.”
During her appearances on “The Biggest Loser,” alumni and students noticed that Allen was showing her Tiger pride by wearing her Clemson ring — which she never takes off. Allen received Facebook and Twitter comments from Clemson people supporting her throughout the season. Football great C.J. Spiller let her know that he was pulling for her. When Allen responded that she had cheered for him in college, he said, “Now I’m cheering you on.”
Allen is paying forward her success by speaking about what she has learned through her experiences and encouraging others to find the inner strength to meet their goals, not just in weight-loss, but also life.