Clemson honors Barker and Bostic with University’s highest public honor
This spring, Clemson recognized two alumni — President Emeritus James Barker and businessman and trustee James E. Bostic Jr . — with its highest public honor, the Clemson Medallion. The Medallion is presented to individuals who have rendered notable and significant service and support to the University and who exemplify the dedication and foresight of its founder, Thomas Green Clemson.
The lives of both men began as Clemson students and their commitment to the University never waivered. Here are the 2016 Clemson Medallion winners.
One Clemson. It’s a term that permeates Clemson vernacular, along with “Clemson family” and “All In.” But the two words together helped James Barker ’70 lay a foundation for a vision where he saw Clemson achieving more than ever as an institution.
“I am convinced that there is no university in America stronger than Clemson when we are ‘One Clemson.’… If we unite around the idea of Clemson, we have a future beyond our highest aspirations,” he said during his inauguration address.
And unite the campus he did. Clemson went from being ranked No. 38 among public universities to No. 21 during his term. Undergraduate applications increased from about 11,400 a year to more than 18,500. Scholarship support increased from $5.4 million to $13.8 million annually. Freshman retention went from 83 percent to 91 percent. More than 59,000 degrees were awarded during his time as president — representing 41 percent of all living alumni.
“Jim Barker is a man of integrity. He is a great visionary and great strategic planner. He leads with a core passion to put the students and their success first,” said Trustee E. Smyth McKissick III ’79, when interviewed about Barker’s presidency in 2013.
From student, alumnus, faculty member, dean, president and even parent — Barker’s seen Clemson from every perspective. “All of us who love Clemson will always be indebted to Jim Barker for his visionary leadership and service. It is an honor to present this well-deserved award to him,” said President Jim Clements.
His roles throughout the University and community are varied and active, including participating in IPTAY as an honorary life member; serving as president emeritus and professor in the School of Architecture; and serving at Fort Hill Presbyterian as an elder and choir member.
Under his administration, the Will to Lead campaign, which concluded successfully this summer, was launched with a $600 million goal and then re-launched with an ambitious and historic $1 billion goal.
James E. Bostic Jr.
With $10 from his mother tucked into a Bible, James Bostic ’69, Ph.D. ’72 stepped off the bus from Marlboro County into the hills of Clemson. Since that day, Bostic’s legacy has included success in education and business, as well as philanthropic support for efforts to provide a more diverse campus.
Even as a White House Fellow in 1972-73, Bostic’s love of Clemson never faltered, according to retired Gen. Colin Powell, even if it wasn’t always endearing to others. The two met as the only minorities in the class, with Powell becoming like a big brother to Bostic.
“His life revolved around things colored orange, Tigers and basketball,” said Powell. “Only when he got married were his wife and I able to get the orange furniture and paintings out of his apartment, to his great distress.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Clemson, Bostic went on to serve as deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture until 1977. From there his business acumen gathered steam as he served 10 years with Riegel Textile Corporation before moving on to Georgia–Pacific Corporation, moving up through the ranks to the position of executive vice president in 2000 and retiring in 2005.
“He has volunteered his time and talents as a leader for the University,” said President Clements, “and he continues to lead by assisting us in our efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. I am extremely proud to honor him with this award.”
Bostic’s desire to pay it forward goes well beyond what’s listed on a resume. He and his wife helped fund the Edith H. and James E. Bostic Presidential Scholarship as part of the Harvey B. Gantt Scholars program for diversity scholarships. His name is also on the Dr. James E. Bostic Presidential Scholarship in the College of Engineering and Science and the James E. Bostic Endowed Leadership Program for Resident Assistants.
“Jim’s love for Clemson can’t be measured by what he has done but by the difference he has made in the lives of students and Clemson University as a whole,” said Bert Henderson, IPTAY/ Athletics Director of Gift Planning.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY DALE COCHRAN