Our Mission: Loving the Land

Aldo Leopold, writing outside "The Shack" with his dog Flick.

Aldo Leopold, writing outside “The Shack” with his dog Flick.

“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”

— Aldo Leopold

I  suppose I’m one of those folks who can’t live without wild things. Neither am I one who takes a burnt orange and northwest purpling October sunset or the joy of walking through the riotous kaleidoscope of leaf-turning in the Clemson Forest for granted.

No, I consider myself among those fortunate in understanding that a better life for all lies in the appreciation and care for “… things natural, wild and free.” As Leopold eloquently paints the opening strokes of his masterpiece, A Sand County Almanac, it quickly becomes clear that a care and love for nature establishes the foundations for what we now know as “The Land Ethic.”

This ethic is essentially a way of living such that we consider ourselves a part of nature and morally bound to steward it for its own sake and the sustenance of future generations. I think that ethic is at the core of who we are — and should be — as sons and daughters of Dear Old Clemson.

My home place

I grew up in the backwoods of Edgefield, South Carolina. Only about a two-hour drive south of Clemson, the two places are inextricably linked beyond the personal history that has so shaped my life. Two of the men prominent in the University’s establishment — John C. Calhoun and Benjamin Tillman — hail from my home place. However, growing up I didn’t have any clue that I would somehow find my way to the place formerly known as Fort Hill. My focus coming up as a feral farm boy meant that jumping puddles, climbing trees, skipping stones and wandering in the woods took priority over things like history.

My family’s time on the 200-acre farm nestled in the middle of the Long Cane Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest was taken up with more important things. There were cattle and hogs and chickens to care for. There were crops to be planted. There were forests to be tended for lumber and firewood. There were fields to be plowed and harrowed for hay. There were gurgling creeks to be fished and always it seemed some fallible fence to be mended. There were three television stations — sometimes — and no video games.

Most distractions were born of something beyond the technical “out there.” Our mother and father — both science teachers — nurtured us in the midst of the naturing to appreciate where our food came from. The system of gardens and cow-keeping and spring-fed plumbing meant that relatively little of what kept us alive came from outside the acreage we owned. A strong land ethic — a love for it all — meant survival for the Lanham family.

Years later and 100 miles or so northward I found myself at Clemson in the untimely wake of my father’s sudden death. As a middle schooler, I learned of Clemson’s exploits on the football field and made the choice it seems most South Carolinians have to make at some point between going to school in Columbia or finding a place in Pickens County. Clemson was close enough to home, and I could support our mother and the farm with just a short trip home.

With the ties to Edgefield still strong and a preference for a tiger’s paw over a rooster crowing, I found the shadow of the Blue Ridge and a campus swaddled in green more to my liking. Years of watching the sunset burnish the sky in the school’s colors instilled in me that deeply infused “something” that makes the Upstate such a special place. Some might even call the “something in these hills” a love for the land.

Drew-Fants Grove_brushesOur Own Backyard

Coming into the present I find that all those years of woods wandering haven’t disappeared. In fact I’m one of those fortunate enough to call my career and personal passion by the same name — conservation. What’s more, I live in the midst of an incredible place where nature won’t be ignored. Just a few miles up the road, Chattooga whitewater, born just minutes ago of an early morning rain, tumbles over boulders that count their ages in millions of years. The Blue Ridge escarpment’s deeply incised gorges and rich forest-cloaked coves seem more tropical than temperate as they abut the Pickens piedmont.

This is where Clemson can boast about its own natural superlatives. It’s here in our own backyard that an extraordinary place like the Clemson Experimental Forest gives us the chance to practice the love and care for land.

The Clemson Experimental Forest is almost 20,000 acres of land reclaimed from the past two centuries’ abuses of cotton-farming and subsequent erosive soil loss. As Clemson gained momentum as a leading Southern land-grant university in the 1930s — the worst of times — there were those who envisioned better for the farmed-out lands surrounding Fort Hill. When Congress ceded the land and its care to what was then Clemson Agricultural College through the federally provisioned Bankhead Jones Farm Tenant Act, a living laboratory for land ethic was born. At the same time that Aldo Leopold was creating the science of wildlife management and fortifying the foundations of what would become the Land Ethic, trees were being planted, gullies filled and streams cleared to make good again what carelessness had made bad.

I’ve seen the old aerial photos of what the college inherited. It was more moonscape than anything. With gullies gashing the land and few trees to be seen, it seemed a hopeless place. But then caring stewardship came in the way of science-based management, research and outreach that made the land-grant mission live in loblolly pines and soil-saving practices. Wildness began to return to the land as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys once again found refuge in a place where boll weevils were more likely to be found than wildlife. As the wounds healed and the land recovered, it has become a showpiece for what hope and care — and love — can do for wildness.

In its northern extreme around Lake Issaqueena, the forest is more mountain than piedmont in character. Scarlet tanagers set the hardwoods aflame in spring, and black bear find a safe travel corridor to the lower piedmont. The streams run cold enough for massive black-bellied salamanders, and entomologists find six-legged things dwelling in the riffles that speak to the ecosystem’s stellar health.

The southern expanse of forest — most of which is in the region locally known as “Fant’s Grove,” with its wide-open pastures, well-managed forests and winding wetlands — blends into an agrarian landscape that represents tried and true piedmont. Over all the 18,000-plus acres, sustainable timbering practices pay the way as bikers, hikers, birdwatchers, hunters and horseback riders make the forest their place, too.

A place that wraps its wooded arms around me

I remember my first visits to the Clemson Experimental Forest when I re-found my wild heart as a zoology undergraduate. It was a new and wonderful world in which to wander. My nature-loving friends and I would marvel over the wetlands. We walked under tulip poplars that towered above us and soaked in the birdsong at dawn and frog chorus at dusk. We mucked knee-deep into newly made beaver marsh, turned stones in Wildcat Creek, spying on salamanders, and looked skyward to watch broad-winged hawks soaring above it all. I’ve sat in vain on a spring morning waiting for a woods-wary wild turkey to come to my call on Bombing Range Road and sat high in a stand on Fant’s Grove hoping a white-tail buck would make a mistake.

In those wanderings I’ve often felt more like a child than a college student or professor. Edgefield was my nurturing paradise, the wild place that set the stage for what was to come. Some 30 years since I left that home place and made the northwest corner of the state home, I’m in a place that wraps its wooded arms around me.

Drew Lanham_roadAs I take students afield into the special places to see how it’s all woven and working together — forests, fields, streams, swamps, creeks, rivers, lakes — I think of Aldo Leopold and his maxim of conservation being a “…state of harmony between men and land.” It’s easy then for me to link that to the mission that tasks us with playing the music tunefully and dancing in time to what nature would demand.

As I wander along a forest trail on a brisk fall day — a storm of red and gold leaves raining down around me — I think of all that this was, has become and will be. I love this place as I know so many others do, too.

Land ethic is the land-grant mission. And all of it is about love.


Drew Lanham is Distinguished Alumni professor of wildlife ecology in the School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences.

Photos by Ashley Jones.

Drew Lanham’s blog


Zucker Family Graduate Education Center to bring engineering education to Charleston

Laura Zucker, Anita Zucker and President Clements in front of Jonathan Zucker at the ground breaking.

Laura Zucker, Anita Zucker and President Clements in front of Jonathan Zucker at the ground breaking.

It wasn’t your typical groundbreaking, but Jonathan Zucker certainly broke ground with a giant black and yellow excavator, marking the official beginning of construction of the $21.5-million Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in North Charleston.

Located at the Clemson University Restoration Institute on the site of the former naval shipyard, the approximately 70,000- square-foot center will offer master’s and Ph.D. degrees in engineering when its doors open in 2016. The center is expected to grow to accommodate approximately 200 students, filling a critical need for engineers for corporations such as Duke Energy, where 60 percent of its engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years.

President Clements joined Anita, Jonathan and Laura Zucker for the ceremony that was attended by more than 75 Charleston County School District middle school STEM students. As Clements spoke to the students through a bullhorn while standing next to the excavator, he said, “Here we have the Hunley submarine in the Warren Lasch Conservation Center — that focuses on our past. Over there we have the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center — that deals with the present. And today we break ground on the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, and that’s all about the future.”

Upon completion, the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center will serve as the academic anchor in the CURI applied technology park. In addition to students and faculty, office space in the center will be leased to industry looking to engage with faculty, students and researchers.

Long-time Clemson supporters, Anita Zucker and Jonathan Zucker helped fund the center that will bear their family’s name. Anita Zucker explained why she wanted to help make this center possible. “I’m passionate about STEM. I’m passionate about education. And I’m passionate about our region and what’s happening here,” she said. “For years our business community has complained that we don’t have enough graduate-level courses in engineering. Well, I feel like that call will finally be answered with this new center.”

The Zucker family gift is part of the $1 billion Will to Lead for Clemson campaign.

Clemson fans turn Orlando orange for Russell Athletic Bowl

Thousands of Clemson fans came from near and far to cheer the Tigers on at the Russell Athletic Bowl in January. The Alumni Association, IPTAY and the Orlando Clemson Club sponsored a variety of events to welcome the faithful to Orlando.

The night before the game, more than 300 fans invaded Miller’s Ale House for an event sponsored by the Orlando Club. Participants enjoyed live music and a silent auction that raised money for scholarships. Fans also enjoyed a “Pre-Tailgate Tailgate” on game day, sponsored by the club.

The Orlando Club and the Alumni Association found time for some good deeds as well, as they co-hosted a volunteer event during the bowl festivities. Alumni from the local area as well as Tigers traveling from out of town gathered at Clean the World on Sunday to sort donated hygiene products and prepare them for recycling. Clean the World collects and recycles hygiene products discarded by the hospitality industry and distributes them to impoverished people locally and around the world.

FanFest at Russell Athletic Bowl was the site for a ONE Clemson Tailgate before the game, sponsored by IPTAY and the Alumni Association. A live deejay provided entertainment, and President Clements and his family welcomed everyone to Orlando. Fans were able to also enjoy the activities and games put on by FanFest, then walk across the street to cheer on the Tigers.

Those staying at the team hotel got an unexpected treat when they welcomed the team back in a spontaneous “Tiger Walk” in the halls of the hotel. Players walked through a tunnel of fans, punctuated with Cadence Counts and high fives.

Clemson trustees approve infrastructure, athletic plans


At their meeting in February, Clemson trustees approved the initial concept plan to replace and upgrade the main campus electrical distribution system. The project is estimated to cost $75 million, to be paid for with maintenance and stewardship funds and state institution bonds.

Brett Dalton, vice president for finance, said, “Replacing and updating the antiquated and unreliable 50- to 60-year-old electrical infrastructure is essential to meeting the basic electrical service needs of the campus while simultaneously increasing safety, efficiency and reliability.”

The board gave final approval for renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum and concept approval for a new football operations center. The coliseum renovation includes reconstruction of seating areas, new practice facilities, locker room, meeting rooms and coaches’ offices for men’s and women’s basketball programs.

The trustees also approved the athletic facilities bond resolution for the project, which is slated to cost $63.5 million. Additionally, the board granted concept approval of a new football operations complex, to be located near the existing indoor practice facility. The concept approval begins the process and allows for hiring an architect and further design of the new building.

The complex will include locker rooms, meeting rooms and coaches’ offices along with strength and conditioning, sports medicine and dining areas, all located next to the indoor practice facility and existing practice fields. The initial budget for the project is $62 million.

Osher Foundation awards $1 million to Clemson’s OLLI program

The Bernard Osher Foundation made a $1 million gift to Clemson’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a continuing education and membership program for older adults.

The gift — a $950,000 endowment gift and $50,000 in operating funds — is the foundation’s second $1 million gift to OLLI at Clemson and a recognition of the institute’s contributions to the local community, said OLLI director Julie Vidotto.

OLLI at Clemson offers lectures, courses, excursions and social events to adults ages 50 and older, as well as access to Clemson events and resources. The institute holds approximately 215 classes each year in interest areas including technology, philosophy, history, fine arts, culture, travel, nature and fitness, among others.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Osher Foundation for this latest expression of support,” said Brett Wright, interim dean of the College of Health, Education and Human Development, which houses Clemson’s OLLI program. “This generous gift will expand our efforts to make a difference in the lives of older adults, and we are thankful for our continued partnership.”

OLLI at Clemson grew out of a grassroots effort led by local retirees 12 years ago and a $5,000 commitment from the College of Health, Education and Human Development. Since then, the program has grown to more than 1,000 active members and is now housed in the Charles K. Cheezem Education Center at Patrick Square in Clemson, the result of a generous gift from the Cheezem family.

For more information about Clemson’s OLLI program, go to

ClemsonTV launches “Policy Matters” series

“Policy Matters,” a new grassroots-initiative webcast, is one of the newest series available for viewing on ClemsonTV. The series focuses on providing resources to assist schools and school districts, as well as communities, states and the nation, to tackle challenging issues of helping students succeed in school.

The series is a collaborative effort of departments and colleges across the University, in partnership with other state and national organizations. The first episode focuses on 4-year-old kindergarten and its potential impact in South Carolina. The series is produced by Clemson Broadcast Productions in their studio located in the Madren Conference Center.

ClemsonTV features a range of programming, from academic to athletics. Regular shows include “Solutions to the Dropout Crisis,” “Clemson News Now,” “Monday Night Roar” and others.

View ClemsonTV content at

Catie Sacks Rabun ’08

Catie Rabun

Paving the way for fellow entrepreneurs

Returning to her hometown of Aiken, Catie Rabun was inspired to invest in the city’s quaint but slightly sleepy downtown. Rabun majored in marketing, which afforded her a semester in Washington, DC, studying international business and trade, and enabled her to participate in a joint program in venture entrepreneurship with students at Otto-Friedrich University in Bamberg, Germany. Her education continued in 2010 at the University of Miami, where she earned a master’s degree in real estate development and urbanism.

Armed with a strong marketing skill set, a gutsy approach to investing in real estate, and a deep commitment to the concept of livable cities, Rabun, now settled back in Aiken, began to scour the area’s downtown in search of an affordable commercial property where she could hatch an idea that had been incubating in her head throughout college and graduate school. She formed a real estate development company with her father, David Sacks, which they named Caradasa, LLC, and eventually they bought a long neglected 20,000-square-foot office building that had once served as the operations hub for Regions Bank.

The complete re-purposing of the building began in December, 2013, and by April, 2014, Rabun saw the realization of her idea with the opening of The Mill on Park — the city’s very first mixed-use office space for start-up companies, small businesses and entrepreneurship. Caradasa has partnered with USC Aiken and the Small Business Development Center for programmatic support. The Mill on Park has become the largest office space in the city’s downtown district. With all of the 18 offices currently rented, Rabun knows now that her instinct to move forward with this project was on target.

“While I was warned about the risk of investing in real estate, I had a strong sense that this was not just a successful purchase but an investment in Aiken’s downtown life, business activity and future,” says Rabun.

Mobley receives Class of ’39 Award

Catherine Mobley

Catherine Mobley

Anyone who pays attention to the news knows that STEM education and environmental sustainability are hot topics, deemed crucial to our country’s ability to remain competitive and to our long-term economic prospects. Since long before these topics started generating headlines, this year’s Class of ’39 Award for Excellence recipient has been applying her expertise to generate innovative and comprehensive approaches to these important topics.

Sociology professor Catherine Mobley’s research in these areas has not been isolated, as she has collaborated with colleagues in a variety of disciplines across campus. Whether she’s examining human behavior as it pertains to water quality and quantity, college student perceptions of environmental issues or the academic experiences and pathways of engineering majors, Mobley’s research is marked by creative collaboration and insights that “would not otherwise emerge if I were working in isolation.”

That creative collaboration in research has been supported by more than $10 million in grants on which she has been either principal or co-investigator. And it extends into the classroom as well. She has engaged in several interdisciplinary teaching endeavors, has mentored more than 300 students seeking field experience in sociology and has served on nearly 70 master’s and Ph.D. committees. A nationally recognized expert on service-learning, she has been a core faculty member for two living-learning communities: the Community Scholars/Civics and Service House and the Leading for the Environment and Future community. Mobley also extends her sociological expertise to her community efforts as well, having served on the board of several local organizations, including the United Way of Pickens County, the Upstate Homeless Coalition and the League of Women Voters of the Clemson Area.

This recognition is particularly meaningful to Mobley, knowing she was chosen by her peers for the award. “I’ve been walking by the Carillon Bell monument for nearly 20 years now, in awe of the people whose names are inscribed there,” she says. “Little did I know when I was attending Clemson University in the early 1980’s that I’d be here 30 years later, pursuing the career of my dreams.”

Described by Interim Dean Bobby McCormick as “a top researcher and dedicated teacher,” Mobley did her undergraduate work at Clemson, graduating in 1984. She earned her master’s in policy analysis and development at the University of Bath in England and her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Maryland. She returned to Clemson in 1996 as assistant professor of sociology, earning tenure in 2001 and promotion to professor of sociology in 2012.

The Class of 1939 established the Award for Excellence in 1989 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the class. It is presented annually to a member of the faculty whose outstanding contributions for a five-year period represent the highest achievement of service to the University, the student body and the larger community.


The Will to Lead Executive Committee, 2014-2016

WTL_Revised_LogoPhilip H. Prince ’49, HD ’95, Honorary Chair

E. Smyth McKissick III ’79, Chair

Kelly C. Davies ’86, Co-Vice Chair

Richard “Rich” Davies ’86, Co-Vice Chair

James F. Barker ’70

Marcia Barker HA ’01

James E. Bostic Jr. ’69, Ph.D. ’72

Jan E. Childress

James P. Clements

James P. Creel Sr. ’60

Carolyn Creel ’61

Bill Hendrix ’63, M ’68

Robert “Bobby” McCormick ’72, M ’74

Mark Mitchell M ’83, Ph.D. ’87

Michael Dean Perry ’05

Betty Sheppard Poe HA ’10

Mark S. Richardson ’83

Kenneth L. Smith ’81

Joseph J. Turner Jr. ’71, M ’77