A family with three generations of Clemson alumni has given $1 million to establish the Wilbur N. Ginn Sr. Class of 1911 Unrestricted Endowment in Electrical Engineering; the Captain Wilbur N. Ginn Jr., Class of 1941 Unrestricted Endowment in Mechanical Engineering; the Wilbur N. Ginn III, Class of 1969, Unrestricted Endowment for the Humanities in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities; and the Wilbur N. Ginn Family Unrestricted Endowment for the Clemson University Libraries.
Retired Navy Captain Wilbur N. Ginn Jr. and his wife Dorothy of Greenville, along with their son, Wilbur N. Ginn III, and his wife Alice of Florence, made the gift for the Wilbur N. Ginn Family Endowment, established to honor the legacy of their father and grandfather, Wilbur N. Ginn Sr.
The Ginn family’s connection to Clemson goes back more than 100 years. Ginn Sr. graduated in 1911 in electrical engineering and was the second charter member of IPTAY. Ginn Jr. graduated in 1941 in mechanical engineering, and Ginn III graduated in 1969 as an English major.
Ginn Jr. and his wife see the endowment as a gift to all the citizens of South Carolina. “Somewhere along the way I decided that the people of South Carolina paid for my education,” he said. “The amount of money my mother and father paid to Clemson was miniscule compared to what the taxpayers paid. So, I feel I owe the people of South Carolina.”
“I am so grateful for the visionary generosity of the Ginn family,” said President Clements. “The unrestricted nature of their wonderful gift makes it even more important, because that allows for the funds to be used where they are needed the most in each area.”
“I’m overseeing the library and humanities piece,” Ginn III explained, “and Dad is overseeing the engineering pieces. The library is so important to everyone. It is the hub of the other three gifts.” Ginn Jr. said he hopes integrating the library in the gift will promote the learning of writing and communicating among the other disciplines. He realized the importance of communication in his positions in the Navy Reserve Officers Program and regular Navy.
Both Ginn Jr. and Ginn III were ROTC cadets at Clemson; Ginn Jr. served as a Navy Reserve engineering duty officer during World War II, then converted to regular Navy, where his career culminated with his service as head of the Navy’s Shipyard Modernization Program in 1966. He received the Legion of Merit in 1970. Ginn III was commissioned into the U.S. Army upon graduating. After his military service, he had a successful career in banking as the executive director for two large medical groups and as a health care consultant. After 45 years of wearing a suit and tie every day, he decided to spend five years as a barista to avoid boredom in his retirement life. Now, he looks forward to being involved at Clemson.
“Having been able to come to Clemson, get back on the campus and see all that’s going on, and then being asked to be on a Humanities Advancement Board, it reenergized my interest in being involved in the University any way I can,” he said.
Ginn Jr. hopes the money will take some financial burden from students and faculty alike. “The grants from this endowment could enable the schools to accomplish some of the most important extras for students and programs. The three of us — my father, my son and I — are the end of this family. May what we have done inspire some future graduates to also give back.”