In 1960, both John Fitzgerald Kennedy and I reached enviable positions of power, he to the presidency of the United States, I to the position of director of bands at Clemson College.
Mindy and Megan Earnest are fraternal twins who could easily pass for identical. Both are engineering majors in the Calhoun Honors College and active in Tiger Band. It’s easy to see how people get them confused — just ask some of the people who have mistakenly had a conversation with one sister expecting her to be the other.
Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, Mindy and Megan both chose Clemson for similar reasons but avoided talking about it before making the big decision. “We announced our final choice at the same time so we didn’t influence each other, but we were also looking for the same things in a school, like a good college town and a nice campus feel. Clemson fit both of those,” said Megan.
Still, the twins went different ways when it came to declaring their major concentrations after freshman year. Mindy, more math minded, settled on electrical engineering, while Megan chose industrial engineering, which offers a more business-focused approach. After completing co-ops at different engineering companies, both sisters say they plan to pursue careers that center on research. And if possible, they’d like to wind up living close to each other. But like many soon-to-be college graduates, they both feel confident in going wherever a job may take them.
In music, as in academics, the things the Earnest sisters share are also the things that distinguish them: Mindy plays the trumpet and Megan the piccolo. And while many people with siblings may find it hard to envision spending so much time with a sister or brother, the Earnests see their shared time as a helpful advantage. “There’s always someone to keep you accountable. Back when we were in the same engineering classes we always had someone there to do homework with and ask questions,” said Megan.
Mindy quickly echoed the sentiment. “There’s always someone there who thinks more like you. It makes it easier to explain concepts to each other,” she said, even when they’re working in different subjects.
Freshman year was a hallmark one for Mindy and Megan, and not just because it was the last time they took a class together. It was also the first time they took the field with Tiger Band.
In 2013, the Tigers opened their football season against Georgia, playing at home. ESPN’s “College GameDay” held its broadcast from Bowman Field early that morning, and by 8 p.m., the sun was setting in Death Valley. Hordes of Clemson fans packed into the stadium, and at the center of the field amid a sea of orange were Mindy and Megan, clad in their uniforms and ready to play “Tiger Rag.”
“It was so loud. You’re used to practicing at band camp when it’s quiet and just us, and then we got to the pregame, and I couldn’t hear anything but the crowd screaming,” said Mindy. “It was surreal. I remember thinking, ‘This is not high school band. This is going to be a fun four years.’”
That game set the tone for the rest of their playing careers. “It’s a really cool feeling,” said Megan. “Every pregame is fun. That one just doesn’t get old.”
Music has always played a large role in the Earnests’ lives. But both sisters agree the best part about Tiger Band isn’t musical, but rather social. “There are so many people in band that I don’t even see Mindy during practice,” said Megan. “It actually works out well because you get to expand your friend groups. She found hers, I found mine, and then we combined them,” Mindy said.
Lean on me
From the big decisions to the smaller ones, the sisters (who are also roomates) seem to be constantly in sync, even unintentionally choosing the same outfit from time to time. According to Mindy, “Whoever comes out first gets dibs.” Agreeing on everything from their favorite spot on campus (the amphitheater) to their favorite Clemson restaurant (Yolk Asian Kitchen), Mindy and Megan are proof that being able to manage heavy engineering course loads, maintain high GPAs in the Honors College and participate in a demanding extracurricular activity is more possible with a good support system in place.
Just be careful — if you run into one sister and mistake her for the other, she probably won’t correct you. “I’ll be walking on campus and hear Megan’s name and think to myself, ‘I should probably just answer,’” says Mindy.
Megan agrees. “Sometimes one of Mindy’s professors will think I’m her, and I’ll just listen. Then when I get home I’m like, ‘Hey Mindy, here’s what they said. You might want to talk to them.’” Now that’s love.
— Courtney Meola ’17
My Clemson experience was many years in the making.
When I was nine, I went to live with my grandmother. My great aunt took me to Clemson games, where I learned Clemson history and traditions. Each year my Christmas present was going with my aunt to see Clemson play in their bowl game. I dreamed of playing in Tiger Band and becoming a nurse. When I wasn’t accepted to Clemson my senior year in high school, I was very disappointed, but determined never to give up on that dream.
I started taking classes at Greenville Technical College, but marriage and two children interrupted my education. In 2002, I returned to school and graduated as a respiratory therapist. Working full time, I attended Tri-County Technical College, graduating in 2012 as a registered nurse. It was a busy time — our son played basketball and participated in high school band, and our daughter cheered and danced on a competition team, but we never missed a beat.
I held on to my dream of becoming a Clemson graduate. At the age of 40, I applied to Clemson’s RN/B.S. nursing program and was accepted to begin in the spring of 2015. It was an outstanding program and very manageable for a working nurse. But I had one more dream to fulfill … to play in Tiger Band. I worked it out with my boss to adjust my work schedule so that I could attend band camp and practice throughout the fall. My Clemson dream was coming to pass.
I couldn’t wait to put on my uniform and play “Tiger Rag” for 80,000 fans in Death Valley, but I never expected to have such an outstanding football season — I went to Syracuse, the ACC Championship, Miami for the Orange Bowl and all the way to Arizona for the National Championship. Who would have dreamed all this?
On December 17, 2015, I graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in nursing, and my diploma hangs in a central location in my home as a reminder that with hard work, you can accomplish your dreams.
No matter where life takes me, my blood will always run orange. I’m Jeannie Brown, and this is MY Clemson.
Photos courtesy Imagine Studios.
After five years of planning, design and construction and more than $1 million in fundraising, the John H. Butler and Bruce F. Cook Tiger Band Plaza was dedicated during Homecoming weekend. Band alumnus and lead donor Keith Snelgrove, along with his wife, Risse, named the plaza in honor of the two former Tiger Band directors, who were college roommates at West Texas State College. The two became lifelong friends, band mates in “The Collegians” and work colleagues at Clemson.
What began as a beautification concept for the practice field turned into an initiative that raised enough for the renovation and to establish a $500,000 scholarship endowment for Tiger Band members.
Spirit Walk, gateway to the plaza and field, is a paved pathway from the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, home of Tiger Band, to the practice field. Inspirational quotes are etched into markers every five yards along the walk, similar to those on a football field.
Visitors can choose an ADA-accessible alternate pathway that takes them by a Tiger Band history wall that marks major events and milestones of the band. The plaza incorporates brick pavers with naming opportunities for band alumni and friends. Proceeds from the brick sales will go to the Clemson University Tiger Band Association (CUTBA) scholarship fund.
Fall has arrived in Clemson. A hint of color is beginning to show in the trees, evening temperatures are cooling off (just ever so slightly) and the First Friday Parade has come and gone. Every Friday, but more so on game weekends, traffic picks up as alumni returning to campus cruise down College Avenue with tops down and windows open.
Conversations on the street vary, but at least once in every block, you hear snippets that reference the Study Hall or Capri’s, Chanello’s or the Fashion Shack. Judge Keller’s and Mr. Knickerbocker and the Athletic Department have customers 2-3 deep replacing worn-out t-shirts and sweatshirts, and selecting baby-sized Tiger apparel for new members of the family. Stocking up on items (orange items, that is) that you don’t find just anywhere.
Like everywhere, Clemson has changed over the years, both the campus and the town. With growth in enrollment has come growth on campus — new residence halls, classroom buildings and athletic facilities. In town, restaurants and bars have changed names and menus, and more neighborhoods and apartments are built every year. But if you spend some time here, re-trace your favorite path through campus and stroll down College Avenue and onto side streets, we’re betting you’ll still find a lot of those places that will spark memories and stories your kids have never heard.
So, as you’re making plans for this fall, take time to return to Clemson.
It still feels like home.
10 THINGS NOT TO MISS ON CAMPUS
ICE CREAM IN THE ’55 EXCHANGE: Yes, it’s real Clemson ice cream, even if it’s not sold out of Newman Hall. A double scoop of peach ice cream will still have you drooling before you get your spoon in it. You can get real Clemson blue cheese at the same spot. If you have a yen to see where it all began, you can make it to Stumphouse Tunnel in less than an hour. While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to hike down Issaqueena Falls.
CARILLON GARDEN: Nestled between Sikes and Tillman halls and overlooking the library, Carillon Garden was given to the University by the Class of ’43 and is dedicated as a lasting tribute to the entire class, particularly to those who lost their lives during World War II.
MEMORIAL PARK AND SCROLL OF HONOR: Across from Memorial Stadium, Memorial Park pays tribute to alumni who have served the state and nation in fields ranging from agriculture to the military. The Scroll of Honor is maintained by the Clemson Corps and honors alumni who gave their lives in service to country.
FOOTBALL PRACTICE FACILITY: Dedicated in 2013, this 80,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the football practice fields and indoor track facility includes a full-sized synthetic turf football field.
LIFE SCIENCES BUILDING: Facing Cherry Road, just adjacent to the P&A building, this facility houses researchers in microbiology, biochemistry, food safety and genetics who are collaborating to solve the world’s problems.
HOWARD’S ROCK: Not quite as large as it was originally, the rock now has video surveillance to make sure it doesn’t fall victim to vandals again. Originally from Death Valley, Calif., the rock was first placed on a pedestal at the top of the hill in 1966. Players rub it for luck as they run down the hill before each home game.
PRESIDENT’S PARK: Located in front of the President’s Home and extending through the Azalea Gardens to Sikes Hall, this is one of the most beautiful places on campus. Housed in the park is the President’s Park Rotunda. In conjunction with the Class of 1957, the rotunda was built to portray Clemson’s historical responsibilities of teaching, research and public service.
BOWMAN FIELD: Bring your Frisbee, your football, your blanket or just your best relaxed self. Spend some time on Bowman Field and relive your days on Clemson’s green beach.
WALK DOWN HWY 93 PAST HISTORIC RIGGS FIELD: You can now do that without fearing for your life, thanks to a newly constructed pedestrian walkway.
FORT HILL: Learn a little history while you’re here, and tour Fort Hill, the home of John C. Calhoun and later of his son-in-law, University founder Thomas Green Clemson and his wife Anna Maria. A registered National Historic Landmark, it’s located in the center of campus. Open Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–noon and 1–4:30 p.m., Sun, 2-4:30 p.m.
WHAT’S STILL HERE
Sure, things have changed here — but not everything. Regardless of when you graduated from Clemson, you’ll find an old favorite haunt still open, if updated. Here’s just a sampling:
JUDGE KELLER’S (1899): It’s been in its current location since 1936, and about the only things that have changed are the faces behind the register and the style of the t-shirts.
ESSO CLUB (1933): A service station at its beginning, this was the only place in Clemson where you could sit down and have a beer between 1956–1958. Legend has it that the bar top is made of old stadium seats from Death Valley. In 1997, Sports Illustrated named it one of the top sports bars in the country.
MAC’S DRIVE-IN (1965): Built by the late Mac McKeown ’56, Mac’s is still serving burgers and fries on Pendleton Road. Make sure you ask for a milkshake while you’re there.
M.H. FRANK (1970): Billing themselves as “Updated Traditional Men’s Clothiers,” the folks at M.H. Frank have been making sure Clemson men are ready for every occasion for more than 40 years.
PIXIE & BILL’S (1971): Offering steak, prime rib and seafood, it’s been called “Clemson’s original fine dining establishment.” Co-eds used to say that a trip to Pixie and Bill’s (or its sister restaurant Calhoun Corners) was a sign that a relationship was getting serious.
MR. KNICKERBOCKER (1973): Opened as a men’s clothier in 1973, the store shifted to carry fraternity and sorority apparel as well as Clemson merchandise and hand-sewn jerseys.
TIGER SPORTS SHOP (1974): Opened by legendary soccer coach I.M. Ibrahim, the store grew from selling shoes to offering a wide range of Clemson apparel and memorabilia.
ALLEN’S CREATIONS (1976): Begun in Trent Allen’s basement, it’s been in the current location since 1988, providing art prints and framing for all things Clemson.
TIGER TOWN TAVERN (1977): It’s expanded since it opened in the 1970s to include outside seating and a second-floor private club, but you can still play a game of pool while you catch up with friends.
NICK’S (1976): Opened by Nick Vatakis and Milton Antonakos on the site of what used to be Pat Belew’s Gold Nugget, Nick’s is now owned/managed by Esther Revis-Wagner and her husband Ken, a retired biology
COLUMBOS’ (1984): Tucked behind the National Guard Armory on Pendleton Road, Columbo’s has been serving Chicago-style pizza and calzones since the early 1980s.
TDS (1988): Offering daily specials plus a “meat and three” for lunch, TDs also is the spot for occasional live music on the weekends.
TIGERTOWN GRAPHICS (1988): There’s a good chance your student group got their shirts designed and printed here.
VARIETY & FRAME (1992): Specializing in custom-designed diploma frames, Variety & Frame also offers a wide range of Clemson memorabilia and art supplies.
POT BELLY DELI (1994): Tucked behind the Rite Aid on Wall Street, Pot Belly almost always has a line of students waiting for sandwiches or a breakfast burrito.
SARDI’S DEN (1994): Started by Louis and Gale Sardinas in 1994, Sardi’s was purchased by alums Irv Harrington and Mike McHenry in 1995. Sardi’s specializes in ribs but has a host of daily specials.
BLUE HERON (2002): Serving steaks, seafood and sushi, Blue Heron also has a downstairs bar with daily specials and live entertainment.
MELLOW MUSHROOM (2000): It’s part of the chain, but doesn’t really feel like it since it occupies the former Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house, which was condemned in 1999. Creative remodeling and a sense of humor combined for the current interior design.
SMOKIN’ PIG (2009): Only open Thursday–Saturday, this family-owned barbecue spot has quickly become a Clemson tradition.
10 FUN THINGS TO DO WHILE YOU’RE IN CLEMSON
Play a round of golf at the 18-hole championship JOHN E. WALKER SR. GOLF COURSE, with its signature Tiger Paw hole. Call 864-656-0236 to set up a tee time.
Spend an afternoon at the SOUTH CAROLINA BOTANICAL GARDEN (take a picnic). Almost 300 acres, it includes formal and informal gardens, woodlands, ponds, walking trails and garden structures such as the nature-based sculpture program. Pick up a map at the Fran Hanson Discovery Center.
The “90 MINUTES BEFORE KICK-OFF CONCERT.” Tiger Band leads this pep rally in the amphitheater before every game. Then head over for Tiger Walk to cheer on the football team as they arrive.
Sit in a swing at ABERNATHY PARK overlooking Hartwell Lake. Built in 2004 to honor the late Clemson mayor (and Clemson professor), Larry Abernathy, the park includes walkways, boardwalks, picnic tables and boat docks.
STUMPHOUSE TUNNEL AND ISSAQUEENA FALLS (or broaden out and check out the other waterfalls close by). It’s worth the drive to see the birthplace of Clemson Blue Cheese.
HIKE THE FOOTHILLS TRAIL. Not the entire 76 miles from Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park, but you can find sections that range from easy to strenuous. The University has been involved since its inception, and students recently constructed an accessible viewing platform at Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in S.C. Map of Foothills trail.
Take a hike or a bike ride in the EXPERIMENTAL FOREST. It’s large: 17,500 acres dedicated to education, research and demonstration. There are trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. See maps and pdfs of the Clemson Experimental Forest trails and waterfalls at clemson.edu/cafls/cef/maps_of_trails.html.
Take a picture under the CENTENNIAL OAK, the largest bur oak in South Carolina and believed to be more than 100 years old. Four feet shorter than it was in 1988, it’s considered “over mature.” That means you need to take your picture this year, not next.
Wander through CEMETERY HILL. It’s a favorite place to tailgate, and it’s full of Clemson history. If you’re a cemetery buff, you might find some headstones worth a rubbing. Take a virtual tour.
If it’s GAME DAY, get to campus early and enjoy the excitement. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.