Billy and Ann Powers make a transformational $60 million gift to the College of Business at Clemson.
Nieri Cornerstone gift provides perpetual funding for Construction Science and Management department
Construction science and management students at Clemson take classes in calculus, physics, economics and business, and management as well as those focusing on structures, materials and methods, contract documents, estimating, scheduling, safety and project management.
But it’s in the laboratory — the Construction Science and Management Construction Yard at the Ravenel Research Center — where those theoretical concepts are reinforced and practiced.
Now, thanks to Michael ’86 and Robyn Nieri, both classroom and experiential learning for these students will be enriched. With their $5 million Cornerstone gift, the department will become the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities’ first named department. The Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management will also receive funding for experiential learning projects with a focus on residential construction; a new residential construction professor of practice faculty position; and the Nieri Family Endowment, which will provide perpetual funding for these initiatives.
“I attribute a great deal of my success within the construction industry to the education I received from Clemson University,” said Michael Nieri, president and founder of Great Southern Homes. “Our hope is that this gift will allow Clemson to offer even more learning opportunities for our students, establish even more prominence for the department among our peers and prepare our students to make significant impact as they enter the industry.”
This is the Nieris’ second Cornerstone gift; their first created the Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center, laying the foundation for student-athlete success. They are the University’s second Cornerstone partner for both athletics and academics.
“As an Academic Cornerstone Partner, Michael and Robyn Nieri are laying the cornerstones upon which the future of academic excellence will be built at Clemson,” said President James P. Clements. “Their generosity will take our construction science and management program to the next level and will help us better prepare students to be leaders in the field.”
The class of 1969 marked its 50th anniversary on June 13-14, during the Golden Tiger Reunion. The celebration culminated with the announcement of a $1,551,773 gift from the class of ’69 for scholarship support, endowed faculty positions, research support for technology and capital construction.
The annual Golden Tiger Reunion celebrates the 50th anniversary class as well as classes who have previously been inducted as Golden Tigers. This year’s Golden Tiger class was presented with a lapel pin and an official Golden Tiger Society Induction Certificate to commemorate the day.
Each year, all Golden Tigers are invited back to campus to enjoy two days of festivities, reunite with their old classmates and friends, and reminisce about their days as students. This year’s activities included tours of the Sonoco Institute, the Watt Family Innovation Center and Douthit Hills, the newest residence hall complex, as well as an Orange Glove event, during which participants were allowed access to memorabilia in Special Collections from their time at Clemson.
During the reunion luncheon, class of ’69 president Alston Gore also presented a mock check for $19,614,790 to President James Clements that represented the cumulative gifts from the class.
President Clements noted, “The generations of alumni who walked our halls, studied in our classrooms, and marched across Bowman Field when we were still a military school — they are the foundation for our culture. Thank you all for laying that strong foundation that we continue to build upon.”
Kimberly Bruce’s Clemson journey led her to a successful career in graphic communications, but that is not where her path began. Late in her freshman year, when she heard a fellow student discussing his classes, her interests were sparked. Bruce sat in on one graphic communications class — and that was all it took. She realized she had found her passion. Shortly after that first class, she changed her major and the course of her future.
“Sometimes when you are uncertain about the direction of your life, I suggest asking questions and being a good listener,” Bruce said.
She credits her Clemson experience with her success in life, and now, she is sharing that enrichment with future generations of Clemson students through the Kimberly A. Bruce ’92 Graphic Communications Endowment — benefiting those who will follow in her footsteps in the graphic communications program.
“The hands-on experience is one of the essential components that make the Clemson graphic communications program an industry leader,” Bruce said. “Whether it was applying class knowledge in the lab or during an internship, I felt well prepared for employment when I graduated. In fact, my first job offer after graduation was from the company that provided my college internship.”
Bruce went on to earn an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology with an emphasis in print technology. In 2008, she founded her own firm, The Kimberly Company, a consulting firm located in Greenville. The Kimberly Company provides printing and packaging services for growing companies that have limited resources and large companies that need to create cost-effective standardized printed packaging, allowing the creation of a uniform, recognizable image for manufactured goods — something that is crucial in brand recognition.
The graphic communications program at Clemson provides students with an understanding of equipment, theories and problem-solving in a variety of professional fields. They learn printing, packaging, publishing and imaging but can also focus on related disciplines in the industry, such as management, marketing, sales and customer service. Placement rates from the program are consistently high with competitive starting salaries.
Through this endowment, Bruce will provide future generations with the same opportunities that she was able to receive as a student. “I wanted to give back because Clemson has given me so much,” she said.
Clemson values opportunities for students and faculty to engage globally. Student organizations and Creative Inquiry participants are currently solving problems and serving communities in Tanzania, India, Thailand, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala and Dominica. The initiatives include bioengineering students working with low-resourced communities to find affordable solutions to health care challenges; agriculture faculty engaging around the world to develop drought-resistant crops and technologies to improve food security; engineers addressing water quality; and the School of Nursing’s Global Health Certificate candidates, for which students address health-delivery systems in Peru.
These global efforts were recently given a boost with the creation of a $250,000 Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Endowment and a $250,000 Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Annual Fund. The gift was made by the Michael W. Schwehr family of The Woodlands, Texas: Michael William ’81, Linda Pogue, Laurel Michelle and Victoria Leigh ’16. Both funds will support service learning, research and engagement in under-resourced communities.
“The generous gift will not only make a lasting impact on the Clemson community but will allow faculty to expand the use of service-learning models and open opportunities outside of the traditional study abroad locations,” said Sharon Nagy, associate provost of Global Engagement. “Faculty and students will positively impact communities while addressing many of the challenges faced by societies today. Students will be able to do their part to change the world while being changed themselves by the experience.”
The Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Annual Fund will be used immediately to support student and faculty opportunities in developing countries. It will provide annual competitive seed-funding grants to faculty for the development of new global service-learning programs. Proposals will be reviewed and awarded for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Once fully funded, The Schwehr Family Global Service Learning Endowment will provide financial support to programs designed for students from any discipline for service-learning projects in communities worldwide.
“Having spent time in his career working and raising his family abroad, Mike Schwehr recognizes the importance of preparing students for meaningful lives and careers in our globalized world,” said Nagy. “The Schwehr family’s commitment and altruism are evident in the careful thought they put into the ideas of global service learning. Their gift will make an impact in ways we can hardly imagine today.”
Michael W. Schwehr graduated from Clemson with a degree in mechanical engineering, then went to ExxonMobil, where his career spanned more than 35 years. During his time there, he served in various assignments, including refining, products supply, retail marketing, environmental remediation and real estate. He traveled and lived abroad on numerous occasions, leading him to Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
Schwehr’s daughter, Victoria Leigh ’16, studied and worked abroad in Paris as an undergraduate and later graduated from Clemson with a degree in language and international trade.
Now, she is demonstrating that passion through two gifts to her alma mater. The Melinda E. Chappell ’82 Endowment for Recreational Therapy will provide unrestricted support for Clemson’s recreational therapy program, which is part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. When funds are reached to endow that program, a second endowment, the Melinda E. Chappell ’82 Golf Endowment, will be directed to the Clemson Women’s Golf team.
Chappell’s road to creating this endowment was straight and determined. Raised in a die-hard Clemson family in Columbia, Chappell and her four brothers were instilled with a love for athletics from an early age.
But when Chappell was around 9 years old, doctors discovered a bone cyst in her hip that required two surgeries. During her recovery, she quickly found that she enjoyed swimming as a form of physical therapy. That experience and her passion for the Tigers eventually led her to Clemson, where she majored in recreation and parks administration with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation. Her goal was to work with children and teens challenged with physical disabilities.
While at Clemson, Chappell embraced collegiate life. She was part of a group that started Clemson’s first collegiate golf club.
“The first meeting was composed of men and a handful of women,” said Chappell, “and we played lots of courses throughout the area. It wasn’t competitive, but it was a start.” That small start finally paid off in 2013 when Clemson Women’s Golf team was formed.
Upon graduation, Chappell was able to fulfill her passion by working for a psychiatric hospital as a recreational therapist. She worked with adolescents struggling with various mental and physical issues, using swimming, tennis, bowling and other sports to not only help them restore their self-esteem, but also provide direction in all aspects of their lives.
During her successful career as a recreational therapist, Chappell worked tirelessly with nonprofits. While working at the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Muscular Development Center in Columbia, she helped found Limitless Sports, a nonprofit organization designed to help people with disabilities compete in sports activities. She was instrumental in bringing the late Christopher Reeve to speak at a fundraiser for that organization, an accomplishment of which she is still proud.
Chappell was tapped to be the director of the North Myrtle Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center before it was even built — a position she still holds today.
She has continued her philanthropic work in the North Myrtle Beach community she now calls home. She started another nonprofit, Coastal Adaptive Sports, and is involved with Teen Angels, an organization aimed at helping homeless and otherwise struggling teens achieve successful educational experiences through the use of community resources. She is also a founding member of the Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association, a nonprofit hosting regional athletic competition for persons with disabilities.
As an active alumna, Chappell understands and appreciates Clemson’s commitment to adaptive sports. She was instrumental in moving the Southeastern Wheelchair Games to a more central location in order to make it accessible for attendees from places such as Atlanta and Charlotte. Due to her efforts, this year’s 25th annual event was held in Clemson. The Southeastern Regional Wheelchair Games welcomed 15 participants to the Clemson campus, including two students, Marsden Miller and Scarlett Lawhorne. Volunteers included students from Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management program and several Clemson Football players.
Chappell believes there is no limit when it comes to philanthropic endeavors and generosity, a mentality that led her back home to Clemson once again as she began considering ways to leave a legacy that reflected both her passion for helping others through sports and her love of Clemson.
Tripp and Anne Jones’ tailgating tree isn’t the only thing that has grown over the years.
Tripp and Anne Jones have been tailgating in the same spot at Clemson for a long time — long enough that they have watched a tree grow up alongside their children and grandchildren.
But the length of time they have been a part of the Clemson Family is just a small indication of their commitment to the University.
The couple’s story began on April 11, 1970, when they met on a blind date as Clemson students. Tripp graduated in 1971, and Anne finished in 1973. After getting married, the couple settled on Lake Murray near Columbia.
Tripp practiced as a medical oncologist until his retirement, and inspired by their experiences at Clemson, the couple decided to give back to their alma mater. At Anne’s suggestion, they designated their gift toward student scholarships, and because of Tripp’s degree in zoology, they reserved their scholarship for students from Lexington County who are studying biological sciences.
Anna Phillips is evidence of what the Joneses have done for Clemson. Phillips graduated in May as a biological sciences major with minors in microbiology and chemistry. “This scholarship has helped me pay for college,” Phillips said. “I’m going to dental school, and without this scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’m really thankful.”
The Joneses gave out of gratitude for their Clemson experience. “I don’t feel like I could ever give enough back to Clemson for what it has done for us and for our family,” Tripp said. “We felt like we needed to do something to give back to Clemson because Clemson has meant so much to us.”
Emily Davison is another beneficiary of the Joneses’ gifts to Clemson. She is the first one of her siblings to attend college, and the financial aid made a big difference. “Debt was always in the back of my mind,” Davison said. “Anything helps, but especially receiving something from a doctor from the same area I’m from meant even more.”
Not only do Tripp and Anne want to be a part of students’ educational journeys, but they stay connected to Clemson through several other avenues. Tripp is a member of Tigers on Call, a group of physicians who mentor students interested in the medical field. They are avid football fans and try not to miss Saturdays in Death Valley; Tripp even expresses laughing concern that if he’s not there, the Tigers might stumble running down the hill.
Though the football team could likely pull off a successful game in Tripp and Anne’s absence, other students’ success might not be as certain. Without the family’s generosity, several students’ college experiences would look quite different and present more daunting challenges. As the Joneses have returned to Clemson football season after football season to find the same tree growing steadily at their tailgating spot, their connection to Clemson has grown along with their commitment to giving back. The fruit of that commitment will benefit many for years to come.
Brian Dawkins ’96 wasted no time in making a name for himself once he set foot on campus at Clemson. He spent his freshman season on football special teams and earned a starting role at free safety his sophomore year. Three years, one all-ACC honor and one second-team All-America honor later, Dawkins was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft.
He played in the NFL for 16 seasons with both the Eagles and the Denver Broncos, earning Pro-Bowl honors nine times. He was named to the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team and the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, and he holds the record for the most fumbles forced by a safety — 36 during his career. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
Though Dawkins’s NFL career has ended, his impact continues to grow. In 2009, he and his family established the Dawkins Family Scholarship Endowment at Clemson to provide scholarships to students from underrepresented populations.
“Your athleticism will last as long as your body can hold up, but education is the most important thing,” Dawkins said. “To me that was the more important part of this gift — to give to those individuals who might be lacking and to help them achieve a greater version of themselves than they probably could without this gift.”
Many students have already benefited from the Dawkinses’ generosity, and more will follow in their footsteps. For Jelani Murray, receiving a scholarship from the Dawkins family allowed him to attend Clemson and to meet people who share his interests. He now plans to pursue a career in sports business.
“My scholarship is a large part of the reason that I came here,” Murray said. “It made it financially easier to go here than the other school I was deciding between. I just want to give a huge thank you.”
Haley McKee has a similar story: “When I applied to Clemson, the costs associated with being out of state were really scary. The scholarship that I received allowed me to be here today. Without this scholarship, I don’t think I would have been able to have some of the best experiences I’ve had yet in life.” After McKee finishes up her nursing degree, she hopes to work in a pediatric hospital, potentially in hematology or oncology.
Though many students have discovered their talents and awakened their professional ambitions at Clemson, their journeys may not have included the University if not for the generosity of scholarship donors — which is exactly why Dawkins chose to give.
“Clemson is the place that gave me an opportunity,” he said. “They took a risk on me. I know what it feels like for someone you will never meet to bless you with something, and that was one of the most powerful experiences I have had. I wanted to give students an opportunity to experience something they might not experience otherwise.”
A retired Greenville executive and philanthropist is turning his attention back to Clemson, where his recent gift to the chemical and biomolecular engineering department is the largest in the department’s history.
William Sturgis ’57 and his wife, Martha Beth, are contributing $600,000 to create a distinguished professorship in the department. They plan to double their contribution in their will.
The faculty member selected for the professorship will be able to use funds generated by an endowment to support graduate and undergraduate students as they do research, learn about entrepreneurship and travel to national meetings to present their research.
In a 37-year career, Sturgis was executive vice president of worldwide packaging operations at specialty chemical company W.R. Grace and president of its North American Cryovac division. Upon retirement in 1997, Sturgis received the Order of the Palmetto, the state of South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, and a commendation from the state House of Representatives.
Sturgis said he and his wife established the professorship because they wanted to do something for chemical engineering at Clemson, where he got his start studying under influential professor Charles E. Littlejohn Jr.
“The quality of the professors really makes the quality of the graduates,” Sturgis said. “If you’ve got the money to attract the top professors, you’re going to attract a lot of people who want to major in that particular area and go on and do well.”
Sturgis, who grew up on a dairy farm in Rock Hill, recalled that his class at Clemson had 41 chemical engineering majors, 12 of whom graduated. He received his Bachelor of Science from Clemson in 1957 and later graduated from the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
As an alumnus, Sturgis returned to Clemson and served as a member of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences advisory board and as chair of the Clemson University Foundation. He was instrumental in beginning the packaging science program at Clemson and played a key role in steering a $2 million contribution for scholarships from Cryovac.