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Parks Establishes Endowment Honoring Architecture Professor David Allison

He has been named one of the “Most Influential People in Healthcare Design,” but to his students, he’s simply Professor Allison.

Since 1990, David Allison ’78, M ’82 has been the director of Clemson’s Architecture + Health master’s program in the School of Architecture. Under his leadership, the program has become recognized as a premier architecture health degree and consistently is ranked as one of the country’s best by Design Intelligence magazine.

Allison’s work training the health care architects and researchers of the future hasn’t gone unnoticed. Russell Paul “Rip” Parks ’76, managing principal at DesignStrategies LLC of Greenville, has established a $175,000 endowment in Allison’s name that will generate financial support for the Architecture + Health program.

“Many people can sprint, but few can run marathons,” said Parks. “I was inspired to provide this well-deserved endowment in recognition of the 28 years of hard work, diligent planning and bold vision implementation by David and his talented team of health care design professionals. I am confident that David will use this endowment to enhance the program and inspire future leaders in the exciting field of health care design.”

The announcement came as a surprise to Allison. “This is an incredible honor coming from Rip,” said Allison. “It’s the people I work with and am surrounded by that allow me to do what I do, and our program wouldn’t be possible without our students. We get to do great work because of them, and I’m grateful that our program attracts those who are eager to learn and excel.”

Real-life Examples: Generous Gifts of Leadership Circle Donors Make Students’ Dreams Possible

For many students, financial aid is their only hope for receiving a college education, regardless of how qualified or driven they may be.

Tyler Love is one of those students. Just over three years ago, he was living on a friend’s couch, desperate to find a way to provide for himself. Thanks to his grandmother’s help, he returned home, enrolled in classes at Greenville Tech and eventually achieved his dream of becoming a Clemson student. However, despite working two jobs in addition to his academic work, he still faced financial obstacles.

Because of generous donor gifts, Love was able to obtain a grant to cover the balance of his tuition bill. That provided him the freedom to focus on being a student, investing more deeply in his education. As a sociology major, Love has had the opportunity to do research alongside a professor and present the findings at a regional conference. He hopes to become a professor himself and give back to students who might have experiences similar to his.

Joey Mott faced similar circumstances. A Greenville native, he entered Clemson as a first-generation college student from a single-parent family, pursuing his dream despite financial difficulties.

The need-based aid he received has allowed him to pursue his education both inside and outside the classroom, as a resident assistant and a member of numerous student organizations through the College of Business. He has participated in the Tiger Ties Mentorship Program and volunteered at his church. He has even participated in multiple study abroad opportunities and an internship. Now he’s planning on a career in marketing, hospitality or business consulting.

Financial aid changed everything for him, and he readily acknowledges that donors created opportunities for him that he would not have had otherwise.

These stories and many more are possible because of President’s Leadership Circle donors, those who give $10,000 or more to Clemson without restrictions. These donors are the difference-makers for students who may not have anywhere else to turn when they face difficulties.

Roy Abercrombie ’69 knows that story all too well. He benefited from need-based aid while he was a student, and he and his wife, Mary Carol, now choose to give unrestricted gifts to Clemson. “I realize the value of an education,” Roy Abercrombie said, “and Leadership Circle is giving to people who really need it.”

John ’80 and Patsy DuPre feel much the same. “The idea of giving money to the president to be used at his discretion for those who really need it seemed like the best way to give to Clemson,” Patsy DuPre said. As engineering graduates, John DuPre and his brother Henry DuPre ’71  spent much of their careers at ExxonMobil, which allowed them to maximize their contributions to Clemson due to a matching gift program — something they encourage other alumni to take advantage of as well.

“Every time we come to an event that’s held by the University, we always see real-life examples of the true benefit that these dollars are making in the lives of individuals here at Clemson,” said John DuPre. “It makes us proud to contribute.”

Abney Foundation Provides Life-changing Scholarships

Emma Clements ’18 is one of the more than 170 students — 172 to be exact — who are attending Clemson this year with the help of the Abney Foundation. She spoke at a luncheon in February of this year for the Abney Foundation trustees and the recipients of their generosity.

Clements (no relation to the University president), a communication major from Aiken who has been putting herself through Clemson, shared the memory of receiving an email notifying her of the need-based scholarship: “I was given breathing room that day,” she said. “So many of us are used to being so independent and knowing that struggle is not a stranger. I was reminded of generosity and reminded that I am not doing this alone.”

For more than four decades, students like Clements have been receiving life-changing support from the Abney Foundation, which has created the largest endowed scholarship program at Clemson, targeted at South Carolina residents with demonstrated financial need. The foundation has scholarship endowments at 13 other colleges and universities in South Carolina as well. The foundation has helped more than 15,000 students obtain a college education.

My Clemson: Bennie Lee Cunningham Jr.

 

“Bennie Cunningham was a man whose priorities were family and friendship — and the line was fuzzy between the two.”

December 23, 1954 – April 23, 2018

 


He has been called the greatest tight end in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The first African-American football player to make an All-America team in school history, he came to Clemson in 1972 and played on the football team from 1972 to 1975. He was a first-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1976, and he played for that team until 1985, bringing home two Super Bowl rings. He was one of the greats of college and professional football. Yet, while his fame may have come from his prowess on the football field, his legacy was the many lives he touched and changed in those years and the years since.

Bennie Cunningham passed away on April 23, 2018, at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer.

When Cunningham retired from the Steelers, he returned to the classroom, first to finish his bachelor’s degree and then to earn a master’s degree in secondary education. He went on to a long career as a guidance counselor at West Oak High School in Westminster, where he shared his wisdom and direction with thousands of students over the years.

At his funeral at Seneca Baptist Church, filled to capacity with family, former teammates, professional colleagues and friends, the stories made it clear that Bennie Cunningham was a man whose priorities were family and friendship — and the line was fuzzy between the two. Friends became family.

Cunningham’s son, Bennie Cunningham III ’10, talked about his father’s legacy at Clemson, in Pittsburgh, and with his family: “My father planted trees that he may never have enjoyed the fruit from, and I think that’s our purpose: planting trees we may not enjoy the fruit of.”

As a student at Clemson, Cunningham won the Frank Howard Award, presented to an athlete each year for “bringing honor to Clemson.” He continued throughout his life to bring honor to Clemson. Coach Dabo Swinney called him “one of our greatest players, arguably the greatest tight end in our history and ACC history.”

But Swinney went on to say that “more importantly was the way he represented Clemson as a professional athlete and in his life after football.”

We are grateful for the life of Bennie Cunningham, and grateful that this was his Clemson.

Hardin Joyce’s lost ring comes home

Priscilla Joyce with her late husband’s Clemson ring — lost and found.

When Hardin Joyce graduated from Clemson with an engineering degree in 1951, he purchased a Clemson ring, which he wore proudly. He had served in the military after high school and chose Clemson in part because a fellow soldier was always talking about his time there. In 1966, Joyce lost his ring, and no matter how much he and his wife, Priscilla, searched their home in Thomasville, N.C., they never found it.

Hardin Joyce died in 2011, and Priscilla now lives in a retirement facility. In March, she received a phone call from Jessie Chambers, who lives in the Joyces’ old house. Chambers had been replacing shrubs near the back porch and came upon a Clemson ring from the Class of 1951 with Hardin Joyce’s name and hometown inscribed on it. Buried from 1966 until 2018, the ring was in near-perfect condition.

The lost Clemson ring of Hardin Joyce ’51, unearthed from the yard of his old home.

While Hardin Joyce wasn’t alive to enjoy the return of his ring, it meant a great deal to Priscilla, who shared the story with McLaurin “Chuck” Rivers, who shared it with us. She now treasures that physical symbol of his pride in Clemson. 

“I was delighted,” Priscilla says about the return of the ring. “It brought back such wonderful memories. The ring was very valuable to him and meant a great deal. He had so many wonderful memories of his days of being in Clemson.” In years past, the Joyces regularly returned to campus for sporting events and to visit favorite spots from his college days, when he played on the baseball team. “He loved his Clemson,” she says.

Do you have a ring story to share?

Email to nspitle@clemson.edu or share it here:

Clemson scientist sending research on cotton genome into outer space

A Clemson University scientist is sending his research on the cotton genome into outer space after being selected as a winner in the Cotton Sustainability Challenge.

Christopher Saski, associate professor in the plant and environmental sciences department, is the principal investigator on a project that seeks to explore the cotton genome and how it reacts in microgravity and normal gravity.

“We are using a systems genomics approach in a very unique environment to fully understand the developmental programs and molecular mechanisms that orchestrate the regeneration of plant cells into whole plants,” Saski said. “This new understanding has the potential to unlock plant genomes to biotechnology and subsequently transform agriculture.”

The Cotton Sustainability Challenge, run by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and sponsored by Target Corp., provided researchers and innovators the opportunity to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

CASIS announced Monday the selection of three projects as winners of the challenge, which sought potential solutions to benefit cotton production by improving water sustainability. Through the collaboration, CASIS and NASA will facilitate hardware implementation and in-orbit access to the ISS National Lab, while Target will provide grant funding for selected proposals.

Saski’s project proposes to examine gene expression, DNA methylation patterns and genome sequences of embryogenic callus material that respond differently to regeneration in tissue culture during the process of regeneration under micro- and normal gravity environments.

This innovative approach could have the potential to unlock the phenomenon of genetic recalcitrance (resistance) to regeneration, advancing fundamental biological knowledge and can have translational impacts to other plant species that are critical to global agricultural sustainability.

“Dr. Saski’s proposal is such a novel idea and epitomizes the goal of our department’s research, which is translational, problem-solving science to advance crop agriculture in South Carolina and beyond,” said Paula Agudelo, interim associate dean of research and graduate studies for Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.

Saski’s transdisciplinary team of investigators includes Li Wen, a scientist from Changsha University of Science and Technology in China and a visiting scholar at Clemson University; Shuangxia Jin, a renowned cotton scientist at Huazhong Agricultural University, also in China; and Jeremy Schmutz, a faculty investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

“Space science provides unprecedented opportunities for the study of molecular biology where we can investigate the molecular mechanisms of life development and growth regulation from a unique perspective aboard the ISS,” Jin said.

On the space station, a variety of physical and biological phenomena can be tested in ways not possible on Earth.

“Microgravity is a unique trigger that alters epigenetics and gene expression and will have a profound influence on understanding the genetic programs of plant regeneration,” Wen said.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, located in Huntsville, Alabama, is a nonprofit institute dedicated to developing and applying scientific advances to health, agriculture, learning and commercialization.

“We will apply our experience to produce a novel reference genome of cotton and apply genomic tools to compare gene expression changes between space and earth plants, along with epigenetics, which are subtle accumulated changes to the functioning of DNA,” Schmutz said.

The research aims at solving a quandary that affects everyone: No tractable solution is in place to satisfy the growing demand for fuel, food, and fiber as the global population continues to expand. Better understanding gene function and the use of genome engineering technology has the potential to change the lives of everyone and everything on the planet.

“Dr. Saski’s work on plant transformation in zero gravity has significant implications for crop improvement; this is a very exciting opportunity,” said Tim Boosinger, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.

In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the International Space Station as the nation’s newest national laboratory to maximize its use for improving life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users and advancing STEM education. The unique laboratory environment is available for use by other U.S. government agencies and by academic and private institutions, providing access to the permanent microgravity setting, vantage point in low Earth orbit and varied environments of space.

The challenge provided researchers a novel way to leverage microgravity to evaluate avenues for more sustainable cotton production. Cotton is a natural plant fiber produced in many countries and one of the most important raw materials required for the production of textiles and clothing.

Cotton cultivation requires sustainable access to natural resources like water that are increasingly threatened. This challenge sought to engage the creative power of the research community to leverage the ISS National Lab to innovate and generate ideas that will improve the utilization of natural resources for sustainable cotton production.

CASIS is the nonprofit organization selected to manage the ISS National Laboratory with a focus on enabling a new era of space research to improve life on Earth. In this innovative role, CASIS promotes and brokers a diverse range of research in life sciences, physical sciences, remote sensing, technology development and education.

“Bringing awareness to cotton sustainability is a powerful opportunity to showcase the unique research facets of the International Space Station,” CASIS director of commercial innovation and strategic partnerships Cynthia Bouthot said in a news release announcing the winners Monday. “We look forward to working alongside Target and our selected researchers as they prepare to send innovative research to our orbiting laboratory.”

Soccer Startup: Blakely Mattern M ’16

It was like something out of a movie. Blakely Mattern was picking up her journal one day in 2014 when a newspaper clipping slipped out of its pages. It was a small article she’d cut out months before from The Greenville News. Flipping it over, she saw, fitting perfectly in the cut-out square, an advertisement for Clemson’s MBA program. Mattern took it as a sign.

A Greenville native, Mattern attended the University of South Carolina on a soccer scholarship and graduated with an international business degree in 2009. She went on to play professional soccer abroad in the Netherlands and Sweden before returning to the U.S. and taking a head trainer position at a gym in Greer. In between playing overseas and nursing an ACL injury, Mattern met India Trotter through a mutual friend. Trotter was the assistant coach for the USC Upstate women’s soccer team at the time but had previously played overseas and on the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

While playing on various teams and coaching different groups, both Mattern and Trotter discovered a need in the young soccer community: comprehensive, supplementary soccer training. In addition to regular practice, girls were paying monthly gym memberships to keep up their strength and were also seeing trainers or personal coaches for technique and speed work. While Trotter was coaching and Mattern was training at the gym, the beginnings of a business model were taking shape.

“A couple of girls that summer asked if India and I could train them, so we started putting together sessions. … The funniest thing is that we started on this random baseball field like a mile away from my house, probably the worst field possible,” Mattern laughs. “But it was all we had at the time.”

Soon after, Mattern began to think of grad school, and the fateful newspaper clipping practically fell into her lap. She decided to pursue her MBA at Clemson, a decision that would help to catapult 11.11 Training from a developing idea to a full-fledged business.

11.11 Training, cofounded by Mattern and Trotter in 2016, is an all-inclusive soccer training facility for girls in the Upstate. Ages range from 10 to 18, and every girl is asked to come in hungry for improvement.

“Any girl that comes here is obviously taking the time and financially investing whatever it takes to get better, but those who grow fastest are those that learn — those who are humble and listen to those who have gone before them,” Mattern says.

While it was certainly a winding road to get to where she is now, Mattern is in her element — back in her hometown, training young girls in the sport she loves.

“11.11 is very much who I am and who India is. It’s a product of both of us and our experiences. And now, we’re giving back to the community and the girls that are trying to achieve what we’ve done.”

Crafting a Plan: Bobby Hottensen ’11

It’s a way of life the locals call “tranquilo,” and it led Bobby Hottensen to take a leap of faith and trade a fast-paced urban lifestyle in Washington, D.C., for the laid-back tropics of Nicaragua.

A series of trips to the beach town of San Juan del Sur brought Hottensen and fellow surfers Brendan DeBlois and Matt Greenberg to a life-changing realization: “There was no craft beer here — not one brewery,” says Hottensen, a December 2011 graduate in environmental and natural resources. “It’s just an awesome little tourist town, beach surfing hub, and there were no options as far as craft beer goes.”

Hatching an idea to change that, the friends went to work raising funds, developing a business plan and scouting the area. And in early 2013, New York City native Hottensen left behind his job in D.C. and made the move to Nicaragua’s Pacific coast to start the country’s first craft brewery.

After some initial trials and tribulations, “The Cerveceria” opened in late 2014 and has grown into a bustling 100-seat brewpub that annually produces about 350 barrels and serves about 20,000 customers — an eclectic mix of backpackers, surfers, adventure travelers and locals. Construction is underway on an expansion that will double the business’ production and add a bottling line for product slated to be distributed throughout Nicaragua in the late spring.

After breaking new ground in the craft brewing industry in Nicaragua, the Clemson alum and his business partners are working to share a taste of the country’s laid-back lifestyle with the United States. In September 2017, Hottensen and his partners launched Nicaragua Craft Beer Co. in New York and Los Angeles. The concept: to leverage the allure of Nicaragua that they had fallen in love with and ride the wave of America’s fast-growing premium import market segment.

“It was always in our business plan that we wanted to export and share this unique brand and story and the things we love about living here,” Hottensen says. “We always thought it would translate well, especially as Nicaragua became more and more popular. So, it’s always been our goal, but the real goal was just to open the first brewpub.”

And the vessels for sending that “tranquilo” lifestyle back to the United States are 8-ounce squat cans filled with a brew dubbed “Panga Drops,” a crisp, unfiltered Keller Pilsner that sits at the intersection of a hyperlocal craft beer and an easy-drinking Mexican-style beach beer.

“The packaging is probably the most unique thing,” Hottensen says. “It’s an 8-ounce craft beer, which is the same footprint as the normal 12-ounce can, but just shrunk down. The idea is that down here it is so hot, and you’re drinking a can of beer on the beach, and the last couple sips are always pretty warm. So, we just decided to eliminate them.”While the initial launch was limited to New York and L.A., Hottensen hopes that the beer can reach a much wider audience. The company now has distribution in D.C. and Maryland and is adding Rhode Island, with hopes of eventually reaching South Carolina and Georgia.

Working to help spread the brand’s footprint is another Clemson graduate: regional marketing representative Catherine Czerwinski, who finished her bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2012 after a senior-year internship for Sweetwater Brewing Company.

Czerwinski’s father operates a distributorship, so the beer business runs in her family. But after she graduated it was a random encounter with Hottensen that led to the opportunity for the two college friends to team up.

“The summer after I graduated, I actually moved down to Costa Rica. A couple months later I was in Nicaragua and ran into Bobby, and I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’” Czerwinski says. “And he told me how he left his job in D.C., and he and his friends were starting a brewery.”

Czerwinski continued living in Costa Rica for nearly three more years but would visit Hottensen in Nicaragua to follow the development of his business. After moving back to the United States, Czerwinski’s location in New York made her an ideal candidate to help Hottensen and his friends launch their products in America.

“I’m still doing my non-profit work here, but also helping them expand their company through marketing and sales efforts,” she says. “It’s going really well. It’s fun to keep those memories and that time alive with me in New York. I get to talk about Nicaragua and Central America a lot. And that’s really something they try to push with the branding. It’s not just the beer; it’s the whole lifestyle — they say ‘tranquilo.’ It’s just Spanish for chill, pretty much.”

A Delaware native, Czerwinski’s choice of Clemson came because her older sister attended college in North Carolina, and she wanted to head south for her own collegiate experience, too. She knew very little about Clemson when she applied — and had never even visited campus before freshman orientation.

“I can’t say enough good things about Clemson,” she says. “It was amazing. I think it was fate that I ended up there because I totally fell in love with the place.”

From a marketing perspective, Czerwinski said Panga Drops occupies a unique corner on the American beer scene as both the only 8-ounce can currently on the market and the only craft export to come out of Nicaragua.

“That’s probably the most exciting part of all of it,” Czerwinski says. “It’s different for Bobby because he just uprooted his way of life and went down there to try out something totally new, but then the beer itself is just such a market disruptor that it’s really interesting that he’s bringing it back to the States. It’s totally new here; it’s something that’s never been seen before here. It’s cool that there’s a Clemson alum behind it.”

Designing Dream Worlds: Colie Wertz ’92

Colie Wertz taught himself to draw by copying the characters and vehicles he saw in Star Wars comic books.

“All I had were pictures,” Wertz says. “I bought all the comic books, studied all the ships and read about all the ships. I didn’t really have any big dreams. I just wanted to keep drawing.”

Today, Wertz designs the ships he might’ve copied in those early days as a veteran concept artist and modeler in the film industry. He has five Star Wars films under his belt, including one notable recent addition to the franchise.

“I did a bunch of concept art and modeling for Star Wars: Rogue One’” he says. “It was a passion project for the people working on it. The amount of research each one of us had done over the course of our careers really came into play and helped add to it.”

Wertz has worked on plenty of recent blockbusters outside of the Star Wars orbit. His resume reads like a roll call of the past two decades’ megahits: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Transformers, Iron Man, Captain America: Civil War, Men in Black, Flight and Looper.

Getting to this place in the movie business took some time. When he graduated from Clemson he moved to Charleston to be an architect. There, he made a discovery. “I enjoyed making the models more than I actually enjoyed designing someone’s house,” he says.

Wertz quit his job at the architecture firm and moved to Los Angeles. There, he bounced between his day job at a software company and nighttime training in Photoshop and 3D art. After honing his technical skills, he entered a design contest. One of the judges took a liking to his work and offered him a job at Industrial Light and Magic in San Francisco, a famous visual effects company founded by Star Wars visionary George Lucas. He couldn’t say no.

After 21 years in the film industry, Wertz still feels pretty close to that kid sketching Star Wars comic books. He’s still refining his craft, hoping to get a little better each day.

“Over the years I’ve just gotten better and better at being able to express form through sketching,” he says. “As you put yourself out there, people start talking to you, and you get even more education. I’m a research education junkie.”

STEM Trailblazer: Wayne Tolbert ’83

According to Wayne Tolbert, earning an engineering degree was probably the most difficult thing he’s ever done. But then Tolbert doesn’t like to take credit for the strides he took to make sure minority students felt included in campus life during the 1980s, a change that made a positive impact on Clemson students past, present and future.

“There were approximately 300 American-American students on campus at that time. There were a couple of older native African students in the ceramic engineering program, but I didn’t have anyone like me in my classes,” remembers Tolbert.

During his junior year, Tolbert joined 23 other students to found the Clemson University chapter of the Society of Black Engineers (CUSBE). Tolbert was elected president.

“I remember going to the national convention in Atlanta and seeing other [African-American] engineering students and thinking, ‘There are others going through the same thing!’”

Tolbert continued to bring awareness to minorities in the workplace through his work as a systems engineer on Department of Defense military contracts. Last year, Tolbert received the Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award at the 2017 Black Engineer of the Year Awards Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) conference. The award is given on behalf of Career Communications Group’s U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine, the Council of Engineering Deans of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Lockheed Martin Corporation. Tolbert was nominated by his employer, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). The award recognizes engineers who, among their many talents, possess the ingenuity to open career doors for others.

“It’s pretty amazing to be honored with this award. I believe I received it in part because I’m able to get along with a variety of personalities,” Tolbert says. “I think it goes back to my days at Clemson being the CUSBE president and a part of many other organizations on campus. There’s something in me that strives to pull people together to succeed; I think they [the awards committee] appreciated that, especially since the typical impression of an engineer is someone buried away in a cubicle or laboratory.”

Tolbert admits it’s cliché, but the advice he shares with others from his time in college and beyond is to never give up: “There’s a reason you are here on this earth. Find it and don’t stop doing it until you’ve blazed your own trail.”