A native North Carolinian, Lennon was born in Columbus County on September 27, 1940, to Denver H. and Mary Kelly Lennon. He attended Mars Hills College, graduating with an associate degree in agriculture, before going on to earn a bachelor of science at North Carolina State, where he returned to complete a Ph.D. in 1970.
Positions in academia included Texas Tech, University of Missouri-Columbia and Ohio State before he accepted the presidency of Clemson in 1986.
Lennon led the University’s first multimillion dollar capital campaign, which was responsible for raising more than $101 million. During his presidency, Clemson experienced unprecedented growth and success in research and private fundraising. The University’s research expenditures quadrupled and academic fundraising more than tripled.
President Lennon also advanced the concept of strategic planning at the University, which led to the identification of Universitywide priorities and goals, and a process for restructuring the University for the 21st century. His impact on campus can still be seen in projects and infrastructure such as the Brooks Center, Sullivan Wellness Center, Hunter Laboratory, Garrison Arena and the Fluor Daniel Building. His influence also exists in programs such as Communication Across the Curriculum and the University’s partnership with the Greenville Hospital System, as well as in the establishment of degree programs such as packaging science and landscape architecture.
After resigning in 1994, Lennon worked briefly with Eastern Foods, then accepted the presidency of Mars Hill College in 1995, where he served until 2002, when he resigned and became president of the Education and Research Consortium of the Western Carolinas.
He is survived by his wife Ruth and two children, Daniel R. Lennon ’91 and Robin Lennon Bylenga M ’91, and grandchildren.
*Clemson will host a Celebration of Life service at 2 p.m. Dec. 13 at the President’s Box in Memorial Stadium on the main campus.