As many of you are aware, I have come to the end of my time as dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
I write this month’s column with many memories and an overwhelming sense of gratitude and sincere appreciation for all the staff, faculty, alumni, friends and students who have made my service to the College an opportunity of a lifetime. Success in life is measured by the relationships we make and maintain, the work we do, and the accomplishments made possible through a collective spirit of collaboration and teamwork.
I look back to my first years as dean and recall leading the implementation of an 18 percent budget cut in response to the Great Recession of 2008. One of my proudest achievements was allocating the $3.1 million budget cut without letting go of any faculty or staff, and maintaining quality within each of our academic degree programs. The austerity and lean budgets during this time were difficult to manage and sustain; however, with a supportive leadership team, we were able to weather the storm and our College became stronger through the shared hardship.
The audacious announcement in 1995 to merge the College of Architecture and the College of Liberal Arts was a decision I believe formed the single most distinctive and valuable trait of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. The vision and passionate belief in how disciplines ranging from design and building to the arts and humanities could move forward as a single unit was clearly and thoughtfully articulated and implemented by Founding Dean Jim Barker. At the time, it seemed like an improbable collection of faculty and academic departments that had few commonalities. Since then, we have successfully embraced a shared vision and strategic direction that, through a collective ethos of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication, has evolved into one of the most distinctive, and successful, academic colleges in the United States. I have always felt Jim Barker was our guiding spirit during this transition and I am thankful to Jim for his mentorship, during my time as chair of the Department of Performing Arts, and now as dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
I have no doubt the College gave itself a resounding vote of self-confidence when we elected to remain as one college, with the same structure, in the University’s most recent reorganization. Our work – and our value as a lynchpin of the ClemsonForward strategic plan – reinforces the notion that the vision, which began as a curiosity in 1995, now seems like a bold statement of national significance and academic excellence.
I am proud to have had the opportunity over these past nine years to work with forward-thinking faculty to create several new undergraduate degrees, including World Cinema, Women’s Leadership, Pan African Studies and now a Bachelor of Arts in Art, in addition to a Ph.D. in Digital History. I am equally proud of the remarkable growth of our existing programs, and the exponential growth of the national and international reputation of our programs and faculty. The fact that our faculty are nationally and internationally recognized teachers, scholars, and artists is undisputed. The fact that our College’s next freshman class is projected to grow by more than 18 percent over last year reassures me that we are on the right track and provides convincing evidence of our quality and strong reputation.
I also am proud to have been part of the evolution of our efforts in the humanities, including the birth of the College’s Humanities Hub and the upcoming new home for the humanities within an expanded and renovated Daniel Hall. This provides further evidence that Clemson is embracing the value of a liberal arts education and it is a testament to the work that we have accomplished over the past several years. I am thrilled to have had a hand in creating the College’s Race and the University initiative at a critical moment in Clemson history.
During my 37 years at Clemson, I have seen the humanities evolve from a collection of departments and faculty focused on the delivery of a quality general education curriculum to four vibrant humanities departments with numerous high-quality degree programs – and continuing pride in delivering quality general education classes. As I’ve often written in this column, the quality of our world-class faculty who discover new knowledge and ways of thinking never ceases to amaze me.
Through the dedicated efforts of many, including our development team, faculty, friends and the administration, we have closed on more than $35 million in private gifts, bequests and other private giving to the College over the past nine years. These fundraising successes are capped by our first Academic Cornerstone Partnership gift of $5 million, which will be announced soon. I share these amazing successes with gratitude to many, including the Advancement Board for Real Estate Development, CSM Corporate Partners, Clemson Architectural Foundation, Clemson University Tiger Band Association, the Friends of the Brooks Center, the Humanities Advancement Board, and the supporters of Clemson Visual Arts for their dedicated efforts on our behalf, their unselfish giving and devotion to philanthropy. Through their efforts, our students and faculty have resources for academic excellence that would never had been possible without their support. I am grateful to each of you who support the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities in so many ways.
Another accomplishment that I will always cherish is the opportunity to help acquire a U.S. trademark for our “Fluid Campus” program. I will be forever thankful for the opportunities to regularly visit our campuses and students in Charleston, Genoa and Barcelona during my tenure. Once I saw the transformational power that these off-campus programs provide for our students, I clearly understood the power of the Fluid Campus®️.
At the risk of leaving many things out, I do have some special memories that stand out over the past nine years:
In my time at Clemson, I have seen extraordinary change. The sense of community, shared purpose, and focus on the undergraduate experience will always be valued. As Clemson has successfully evolved to a Top 25 university with R1 research productivity, I am thrilled to have been part of this legacy.
Finally, but most importantly, I am extraordinarily grateful to my wife, Cissie, and my three daughters for their unending support, patience and help maintaining a sense of balance, love and family. Without their help, I would not have survived 20 years in higher education administration. Having a little extra time with my family – which now includes five grandchildren – will be part of my next chapter.
As Joe Sherman, Class of 1934 said, “There’s something in these hills.” It’s been a remarkable journey. From a 29-year-old assistant band director to an outgoing college dean, this has been the journey of a lifetime and I am grateful to everyone who has shared this amazing ride.
With best wishes and gratitude to all – Go Tigers!
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