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Feeding a Growing State

 

McCall Farms makes $3 million gift to advance farming research

 

There are more than 25,000 farms across South Carolina, and farming is one of the state’s leading industries. It is also a primary focus of Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. To help South Carolina farmers remain competitive both nationally and globally, McCall Farms is supporting Clemson with $3 million for critical research, establishing the McCall Farms Vegetable Breeding Endowment.

This endowment will support and enhance the vegetable breeding program within the college, specifically as part of the Advanced Plant Technology program. The program uses genomics-assisted breeding to develop improved vegetable varieties for production in the Southern United States. The APT program involves a statewide network of researchers supporting crop breeding and genetics in the Clemson University Agricultural Experiment Station.

Current projects in the vegetable breeding program include improving heat tolerance in green beans and disease resistance in leafy greens, muskmelon and watermelon.

The program, led by Stephen Kresovich, the Robert and Lois Coker Trustees Endowed Chair of Genetics, has made significant advancements to both the intellectual and operational capabilities of the University in crop agriculture. Improvements have been made in upgrading the research facilities at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center as well as other research and education centers across the state. Meanwhile, Clemson has hired some of the best and brightest new faculty for research positions at the RECs as well as the main campus. Funds from the McCall endowment will provide continuing support to this and other important research, improve equipment, provide supplies, and fund technical personnel salaries and graduate student research assistantships.

“Our research helps the more than 25,000 farms located throughout South Carolina in a variety of areas, including specialty crops, responding to weather and environmental changes, modernizing technology and field practices, and managing invasive species,” says President Jim Clements. “I am incredibly grateful to McCall Farms and the Swink family for their generous support. This donation will make a tremendous impact on farming across the state and beyond.”

Located in Effingham, South Carolina, McCall Farms understands the need for crop diversification and catering to consumer tastes. They established a canning operation in 1954 and work with a network of farmers throughout the state. They have several national brands of fruits and vegetables that are staples in kitchens across the country. McCall Farms is owned by Henry Swink ’68 and Marion Swink ’72 and operated by Woody Swink ’00, McCall Swink ’98 and Thomas Hunter ’06 — all Clemson alumni.

“While South Carolina farmers are some of the most efficient and productive in the world,” says CAFLS Dean Keith Belli, “this partnership with McCall Farms will be a catalyst for CAFLS’ efforts to provide research, teaching and Extension programs that continue to support the state’s agriculture industry as we tackle the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing state and global population.”

 

 

Miller Family Becomes Newest Athletic Cornerstone Partner

 

The Westzone Club in Memorial Stadium has a new name. Lewis and Ree Miller of Spartanburg, South Carolina, recently gave a $2.5 million gift to Clemson Athletics, becoming the 16th Athletic Cornerstone Partners. In recognition of the Miller family’s donation, the WestZone Club in Memorial Stadium has been named the Lewis and Marie Miller Family WestZone Club.

“Clemson Athletics and IPTAY continue to remain leaders within intercollegiate athletics because of the extreme generosity of people like Lewis and Ree Miller,” says IPTAY CEO Davis Babb. “We are very appreciative of the commitment they have made to our student-athletes and our growing athletic program. Their gift will advance the initiatives within our athletic department providing a world-class student-athlete experience for our young men and women who wear the Paw.”

Lewis Miller earned his Bachelor of Science in industrial management from Clemson in 1971. As a student, he was actively involved in intramural sports and his fraternity, Kappa Sigma. He spent his career with the Southeastern Paper Group, where he began as a warehouse manager and worked his way to the role of CEO. Until being sold to NW Synergy in December 2020, Southeastern Paper was a third-generation family- and veteran-owned business headquartered in Spartanburg.

“As a Clemson alumnus, I take great pride in wearing the Tiger Paw and sharing the love of the Clemson Family,” says Miller. “We are honored to make this gift to Clemson in support of our talented student-athletes and all that they embody. Ree and I look forward to witnessing the continued success of current and future Tigers in all phases of their collegiate journeys.”

Ree Miller is a graduate of Winthrop University and is active in the Spartanburg community. Serving others is a priority for the Millers. They support the Hope Center for Children and Project Hope, which provides a lifespan of services for the autism community. Lewis Miller also sits on the board of directors for the Mountainview Nursing Home.

“We are grateful for the Miller Family and their unwavering support of Clemson athletics,” says former Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich. “Memorial Stadium is a special place on our campus. I am excited that their family will forever be a part of the facility with the naming of the Lewis and Marie Miller Family WestZone Club. Their gift will significantly impact our student-athletes for years to come, providing resources for them to be champions in competition and the classroom.”

 

 

Good Luck Charm

 

Brannon Traxler ’04 recalls how her grandfather got his start at Clemson

 

My maternal grandfather, Gaines Evatt, grew up on his parents’ farm in Central, South Carolina. He was the oldest child and the first to go to college. He started out at what’s now Southern Wesleyan University because the family was part of that church.

As the family story goes, my grandfather was working on the farm one day, and somebody from the church drove by and saw him and asked, “Why aren’t you at Clemson? You’re so smart. Why are you not there?” He said, “Well, we can’t afford it.” The church friend replied, “We’ll see what we can do about that.” They paid for my grandfather’s first semester, confident that he would get a scholarship from there. And he did.

Of course, nobody in the family is alive now who would remember who that friend from church was, but I do know that my grandfather walked the couple of miles to Clemson and back every day. He couldn’t afford textbooks, so he would do all his studying in the library. He would get up early and stay up late to work on the farm. In 1933, he graduated from Clemson A&M College with a math degree.

Two of my great aunts who stayed in Central passed away five years ago; when we were cleaning out their belongings, we found my grandfather’s Clemson class ring, which my mom didn’t even know he had. We also found his graduation ceremony program and a few other things. We have his diploma. He was the first person in our family to go to Clemson, and he helped all his other siblings to go to college and get their degrees. My grandfather was a junior high principal for most of his career, and he ended up getting a master’s degree from Duke some years later. He and my grandmother settled in Spartanburg and raised my mom and her brother.

I wore his ring to the 2017 National Championship game in Tampa, and now, I either wear it on a necklace or on my index finger or thumb at games. It’s become a superstition — a good luck charm.