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 email@example.com 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.
Cooking with care
A glance at John McIntyre’s class ring is just a glimpse of the 91-year-old World War II veteran’s loyalty. The ring is worn almost smooth from years of hard work, and more recently, dedicated cooking.
He picked up a pan for the first time at age 81 to cook for his late wife, Betty Ruth, as she battled Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. He would go on to serve the Easley community by preparing meals for neighbors and members of his church, win a 2007 national contest for his essay on what inspired him to cook, and receive the 2011 Easley Chamber of Commerce Duke Citizenship and Service Award.
McIntyre’s knack for preparing Southern dishes such as chicken boudine casserole, scalloped potatoes and fruit cobblers came out of necessity. When Betty Ruth did not enjoy the food served in the nursing home where she spent two months with an injured knee, McIntyre began preparing her meals. When he decided to bring her home and care for her full time, he also continued to take charge of the cooking.
He perfected Betty Ruth’s favorite dishes, such as grits pie and shrimp creole, to the point where the only thing she found wrong with his cooking was that “he hadn’t started 50 years sooner.” After her death in December 2005, McIntyre decided to continue giving back by sharing his dishes with others in the community.
One of nine children and the first and only member of his family to attend college, McIntyre attended Clemson on the GI Bill and earned a degree in textile management. McIntyre married Betty Ruth in 1951, and they moved from Spartanburg to Easley in 1957, where McIntyre worked for Draper Manufacturing Co. McIntyre formed John McIntyre Textiles and Machinery in 1969 and remained with his company until his retirement at age 79.