Media legends to appear at Clemson’s Men of Color Summit

February 7, 2017

Well-known media legends such as Tom Joyner, Tavis Smiley, John Quiñones and Desmond Howard will visit the Upstate in April as part of a Clemson-sponsored initiative.

Clemson is launching a major initiative to foster a more inclusive, supportive, and diverse South Carolina. On April 27-28, 2017, Clemson’s Office of Inclusion and Equity will present its inaugural Men of Color National Summit to help close the achievement gap for young men of color with the promise of new opportunities through higher education. The goal of the summit is to attract and retain a highly talented and diverse group of students, faculty, and staff at the University, and especially to open up educational and career opportunities for young men of color, most of whom will be first-generation college students who often face an unusually challenging path to higher education. The result of this challenge is an “achievement gap” — lower high school graduation rates compared with other demographic groups, leading to reduced economic and personal prospects.

Men of Color summit logoThe summit emphasizes two critical messages: “Stay focused,” and “Never give up.”  More than 1,600 college students, government officials, community activists, educators, and industry leaders are expected to attend.  Joining them will be a special cohort of 400 African-American and Hispanic male 9th-11th graders from South Carolina that Clemson intends to help prepare to become college-ready high school graduates, regardless of what institution they choose to attend. During the two-day summit, attendees will hear insights from more than 20 national thought leaders on personal and professional development, from cradle to career success. Additionally, the nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” with 8 million listeners across 105 markets, will broadcast live from the summit.

The 2017 inaugural summit also kicks off Clemson’s “Tiger Alliance” program.  Partnering with Greenville County Schools’ Superintendent Burke Royster, Anderson District 5’s Superintendent Tom Wilson, and schools from the I-95 corridor, Clemson University will mentor the 400-member cohort through a revolving, multi-year initiative.  The young men will receive guidance and enrichment opportunities to make them college-ready, and their progress will be tracked from the summit through high school graduation.

“Clemson is committed to creating best practices for inclusive excellence, and the Men of Color National Summit reinforces that commitment by preparing these young men to succeed in college, whether at Clemson or anywhere that fits their goals,” said Clemson President Jim Clements. “This summit is just one part of Clemson’s long-term vision to prepare a broader mix of students for college and future career success.”

“The heart of the summit is the young men in the Tiger Alliance,” said Lee Gill, Clemson University’s Chief Diversity Officer and special assistant to the president for inclusive excellence. “The global perspective that a college education provides will not just help them excel in life, but will also contribute to the talent dividend that benefits the State of South Carolina and the nation.”

The Men of Color National Summit, open to everyone and committed to the success of all, will be held at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, S.C. on April 27-28, 2017.  More information, including event registration and sponsorship, can be found at




  • In 2015, the high school graduation rate for white males was 79%, while the rate for Hispanic males was 73%, and 69% for African American males.
  • Clemson’s CDO Lee Gill produced a similar event and cohort program at University of Akron for nine years. Graduation rates increased by 12%, demonstrating the program’s effectiveness.
  • The event will bring a $1.29 million impact to Greenville, S.C. per VisitGreenvilleSC.


  • Men of Color National Summit Leadership Team includes:
  • Jim Clements, Ph.D. – President, Clemson University
  • Conference Co-Chairs
    • Lee Gill, J.D. – Chief Diversity Officer and Special Assistant to the President on Inclusive Excellence, Clemson University
    • Chuck Knepfle – Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, Clemson University
    • Julio Hernandez – Associate director of Hisapanic Outreach, Clemson University
  • Tom Joyner Morning Show will broadcast live on the Summit’s opening day. The show is broadcast in 105 markets to over 8,000,000 listeners.
  • Keynote speakers include:
  • Tavis Smiley – Host, PBS’ “Tavis Smiley”; host, Public Radio International’s “The Tavis Smiley Show”; founder, Tavis Smiley Foundation; author; political commentator; entrepreneur
  • John Quiñones – Host, ABC newsmagazine “What Would You Do?”; author; broadcast journalist
  • Roy Jones, Ph.D. – Professor and executive director, Clemson University College of Education’s Call Me MISTER program
  • Desmond HowardESPN college football analyst, former NFL player, Super Bowl XXXI MVP and Heisman Trophy winner
  • Marc H. Morial – President and CEO, National Urban League; former mayor, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Sergio A. Garcia – Vice President and Chief of Staff, Canton-Potsdam Hospital; former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
  • In addition, more than 20 breakout sessions presented by national educational authorities and thought leaders on a range of topics, including:
  • Student achievement strategies
  • Masculine identity and media perceptions
  • Career, personal and professional development
  • Social justice and engagement