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Klaine Fellowship Recipient Focusing on Roadside Waterways

Stephen Klaine was a professor in the Clemson Department of Biological Sciences and a member of the environmental toxicology graduate program for 24 years. He was an internationally recognized environmental toxicologist with a legacy of devotion to teaching and mentoring until he passed away in 2016. Colleagues and friends of Klaine honored his contributions to biological sciences by establishing a fellowship in his memory.

In 2021, Stephanie LaPlaca, a graduate student in the College of Science, is the first recipient of the Dr. Stephen Klaine Annual Memorial Fellowship.

“Receiving the Klaine Fellowship is a huge honor. Although I never got the chance to meet Dr. Klaine, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about him through other students and faculty at Clemson. His legacy is inspiring,” said LaPlaca, a fourth-year Ph.D. student from Virginia in the Department of Biological Sciences’ environmental toxicology program.

LaPlaca’s research focuses on the toxicity of crumb rubber particles to aquatic organisms. As tires wear, they leave tiny particles of rubber on the roadways. When it rains, those particles wash into creeks, streams and lakes. Understanding how crumb rubber affects aquatic organisms can inform stormwater regulators on how to best manage road runoff and help consumers make more eco-friendly choices to reduce their impact.

LaPlaca and Peter van den Hurk, her academic adviser, published a paper in the journal Ecotoxicology last April.

“It’s quite impressive for a student to have a publication out of doctoral research in their third year.” said van den Hurk, who coordinates the environmental toxicology program. “Steve was very science-oriented, but he was also oriented toward translating science to applications in the real world. As environmental scientists, we help society address environmental problems. Steve advocated that. I think Stephanie fits that picture very well.”

A Heart for Helping Others

It only takes a spark to light a flame. Jessica Taylor Weitz is a testament to that. A lifelong competitive swimmer, Jessica’s experience working with special-needs children in the pool during college has led her to take an interest in the ClemsonLIFE program. Her parents, Jonathan Weitz ’90 and Lisa Weitz ’90, established the Jessica Taylor Weitz Endowment for ClemsonLIFE in honor of Jessica’s passions.

Jessica first began working with special-needs children as a student and swimmer at Tulane University. She often took time out of her intense training schedule to help students learn the joys of swimming. Whether they were dipping their toes in the water or swimming laps unassisted, Jessica was there to help every step of the way. It was during these moments that Jessica found her passion to help those with intellectual disabilities.

The ClemsonLIFE program, in a similar way, acts as a helping hand for its students. The program offers an on-campus collegiate experience that prepares young people with intellectual disabilities for competitive employment and independent living through a combination of academic coursework and career exploration. With around 40 students in the program, ClemsonLIFE acts as a catalyst for personal growth, teaching lessons that many of us take for granted. Students learn functional mathematics and literacy, independent living skills, health and wellness, and self-advocacy. A day’s lesson may also include proper texting etiquette, grocery shopping or hosting a party. These practical skills allow students to live independent, joyful lives.

Because of this, ClemsonLIFE students have a 44 percent independent living rate and an 84 percent current employment rate, compared to national rates of 21 percent and 14 percent, respectively. 

Because of Jessica Weitz’s charitable spirit and her parents’ philanthropy, ClemsonLIFE students will be able to continue to experience this outstanding program. 

A New Home With a Name

 

Last year, the Clemson Softball team, in their inaugural season that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, finished 19-8 overall and 5-1 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. This year, they started their highly anticipated second season in the newly named McWhorter Stadium, thanks to the generosity of Stuart McWhorter ’91 and Leigh Anne Hendrix McWhorter of Nashville, Tennessee, who pledged a Cornerstone Gift of $2.5 million to IPTAY in support of the softball program.

“We are so grateful to Stuart, Leigh Anne and their entire family for their generous commitment to Clemson Athletics and the softball program,” said President Jim Clements. “We are excited about the direction of the program and are thankful to the McWhorters for becoming Cornerstone Partners and being such a significant part of the foundation of softball at Clemson.”

Adjacent to the baseball facilities, McWhorter Stadium features 1,000 fixed chairback seats in addition to berm seating. The facility also includes a team clubhouse with more than 12,000 square feet of space that houses a team lounge, locker room, sports medicine room, equipment room and coaches’ offices. It includes a press box with three broadcast booths and a videoboard and also houses locker rooms for the coaches, umpires and visiting teams. In its inaugural season in 2020, the softball program averaged 1,544 fans per game, ranking first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in attendance and fifth nationally. 

“We have the utmost sense of gratitude, pride and appreciation for the opportunity to come to work, practice and play in a facility as nice as ours each and every day. Our facility demonstrates the high level of support and resources that IPTAY and the McWhorter family have provided our young program,” said Clemson Softball head coach John Rittman. “Our first-class facility gives our student-athletes, coaches and support staff all of the tools necessary to be successful. On behalf of our players and staff, we are truly appreciative of all of the generous IPTAY members who have donated their time and money in order for us to be able to call this facility our home.”

Stuart McWhorter has supported Clemson University since he was a student and served as the Tiger mascot from 1987 to 1990. Since then, he and Leigh Anne have given generously to Universitywide initiatives in both athletics and academics.

Stuart and Leigh Anne are distinguished members of Clemson’s Cumulative Giving Society and the President’s Leadership Circle. Stuart was a founding member of the Leadership Committee for the University’s 10-year capital campaign, The Will to Lead, and he served on the Clemson Athletics Tiger Pride Capital Campaign Cabinet.

Stuart was previously a member of the Clemson University Foundation Board, and he and Leigh Anne are members of the Founder Society for the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Stuart has also shared his success with his alma mater when he served as an executive-in-residence, focusing on Clemson’s entrepreneurship and economic engagement efforts.

Stuart and Leigh Anne live in Nashville with their five children: Clayton, a first-year student at Clemson, Thomas, Caroline, Marleigh and Layla.

As Clemson’s softball program sits near the top of the ACC in its second season, the extraordinary generosity of Stuart and Leigh Anne has provided Clemson Softball with a strong foundation and given Tiger fans plenty to cheer about. 

College of Education Honors and Mourns Chip Jackson

Calvin “Chip” Jackson, devoted supporter of the College of Education and longtime educational and civic leader in South Carolina, was named the second recipient of the Distinguished Friend of the College of Education Award. The award is given to honor an individual, partner or program that has provided significant support over time to the college.

Unfortunately, Jackson died August 7, 2020, at the age of 64, before the presentation could take place.

Jackson first served as president of the External Advisory Board for Clemson’s College of Health, Education and Human Development, where he helped navigate the founding of the College of Education as it emerged from HEHD to become a standalone college. He served on the search committee for the founding dean and became chair of the college’s inaugural Senior Advisory Board.

“His voice, calm and steady, was a reassuring rudder as the college formed and evolved, and his leadership was critical in re-centering the college as a vital player in education in South Carolina,” said Founding Dean George J. Petersen. “We will always be grateful for his contributions to our efforts to transform education.”

Jackson served in staff and leadership positions at several South Carolina colleges and universities as well as the South Carolina After-School Alliance and the South Carolina Department of Education, where he served as deputy superintendent.

Jackson is survived by his wife, Patricia; his children, Cass Jackson Smith ’05 and Regis Jackson ’10, and their families; his mother, Willie Mae Farley Jackson; and his extended family and friends.