Clemson University learned today of the loss of one of its emeriti trustees, Lawrence Marion Gressette Jr. of Columbia. Chairman David Wilkins opened Friday’s regular quarterly meeting by announcing that Gressette had passed away, and the board observed a moment of silent prayer.
On behalf of the board, Wilkins expressed condolences and admiration for Gressette and the legacy he leaves.
“The board of trustees recognizes that its ability to govern the university successfully depends upon the vision and leadership of dedicated members,” he said. “Lawrence Marion Gressette Jr. served Clemson loyally as a trustee with great distinction for 18 years. He worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life of his fellow citizens. During my years serving in the General Assembly, I always found him to be an untiring advocate not just for Clemson, but for educational opportunities for all South Carolinians.
“For a lifetime of professional success and achievement, for his unwavering support of his alma mater, and for all he meant to the success of Clemson University and the larger community, we are forever grateful. We will hold his family in our thoughts and in our prayers.”
A Clemson alumnus, Gressette joined the university’s board of trustees as a Successor Trustee in November 1989. He was named vice chairman in September 1994 and became the 13th chairman of the board in July 1995.
President James F. Barker, FAIA, said, “In the long history of Clemson University, certain people stand out for their exceptional leadership and service. One of those is Lawrence Marion Gressette Jr.
“He chaired the board of trustees during my selection and early years as president. Very quickly I came to rely on his wisdom, experience and quiet strength. Most importantly, as one of our state’s most successful business leaders, Lawrence Gressette understood clearly that the quality of education is vital to South Carolina’s economy and the wellbeing of our people. He was a true and unwavering champion for Clemson’s successful quest to become one of the nation’s top public universities. We owe much of that success to his leadership.”
Gressette served Clemson in many capacities, chairing the executive committee of the university’s first major capital campaign, co-chairing the Commission on the Future of Clemson University, chairing a presidential search and serving on the Research Foundation board of directors.
His many contributions to Clemson extended far beyond his 18 years of board service, including his attendance at Clemson College on a football scholarship, lettering three years and his membership in many prestigious student organizations, such as Tiger Brotherhood, Blue Key and Student Government, where he was Student Body President his senior year.
Gressette’s selfless contributions and loyalty to the university earned him the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award, the Clemson University Foundation’s Volunteer of the Year Award, the President’s Award and the Clemson Medallion — the university’s highest public honor.
Gressette and his wife established the Felicia and Lawrence M. Gressette Jr. Presidential Scholarship, which provides financial support for students from South Carolina.
Gressette was chairman, president and chief executive officer of SCANA Corp. He was named the 1994 Business Person of the Year by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. During his lifetime, he served on many boards for businesses and civic organizations and earned numerous honors. In 1996 he received the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the governor of South Carolina.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree with honors in arts and sciences from Clemson in 1954 before graduating from law school at the University of South Carolina.
Visitation will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia. Services will be at 11.