Discover Orange Bowl Clemson Presidential Brunch

January 3, 2014

REMARKS by Clemson President James P. Clements 

Discover Orange Bowl Clemson Presidential Brunch [Video]

Fontainebleau Hotel  •  Miami Beach, Florida

Chairman [David] Wilkins – thank you for that very kind introduction.

Good morning and thank you all for being here today.  We are grateful to members of the Orange Bowl Committee for all you did to make this such a special experience for all of us.

Thank you to all of the Clemson board members, alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends who are here in Miami to support the team!  I know the coaches and our student-athletes really appreciate it, and so do I.

I want to give a very special thank you to Jim and Marcia Barker for all that they did for this great university over many, many years.  Under President Barker’s leadership – the university:

  • Graduated nearly 60,000 students
  • Raised more than $870 Million in private funds
  • Earned more than $900 Million in research grants, and
  • Achieved a Top 25 national ranking

These goals could not have been achieved without his incredible leadership, and I know President Barker would tell you that Marcia was a key part of that success.

President Clements with students De Anne Anthony and Savannah Mozingo at Orange Bowl Brunch Jan 3, 2014

I would also like to recognize two Clemson students who are with us this week as social media reporters:

  • De Anne Anthony – who is a senior from Beaufort, South Carolina, majoring in graphic communications , and
  • Savannah Mozingo — a junior from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, majoring in language and international trade.

They traveled on the student bus to Miami and have been blogging … tweeting … and sharing Instagram photos with their classmates who weren’t able to be here in person.  Thank you, Dee and Savannah!

Finally, I’d like to introduce the members of my family who are here this morning.

Clemson’s First Lady — my wife Beth.  Also, our son Ty, our daughter Hannah, and our daughter Grace.   Our other daughter Maggie is actually snowboarding this week.  As you can imagine this is a really tough first assignment for us here in sunny Miami!  I want you all to know that we are so honored to be members of the Clemson Family.

About Jim Clements

Let me start this morning by telling you a little about myself.  I am the youngest of 4 children, and I was a 1st generation college student.

Although my parents didn’t go to college, when I was growing up they stressed the value of education.  Between me and my 3 siblings we have 11 college degrees – 4 undergraduate  degrees, 5 masters, and 2 PhDs.  My parents taught us that education is the key to a better life – not just for an individual, but for society as a whole.

I am a faculty member at heart.  I love to teach, I love to do research, and I loved involving students in my research.  I am a computer scientist, a mathematician, and a project manager by training.

However, one of my most important credentials now is:  I am a Clemson Dad!  Our daughter Hannah will start classes next week at Clemson as a transfer student, and she is very excited about that.

I believe Hannah chose Clemson for the same reason other students do — because we provide an opportunity to get a great, high quality education while also having a great campus experience.

Clemson truly is the total package.  Our retention rates and our graduation rates are among the best in the nation for public universities.  The national 6-year graduation rate is 59% percent – ours is 82%.

We are ranked #7 by the Wall Street Journal for the return on your investment, and Princeton Review ranked us #7 in the country for students who love their school.

No wonder we have a 10 percent increase in applications this year!  And I think the excitement around our football team has helped to increase our number of applications!

Out of the big 5 conferences – only 6 other schools in the country have won 10 or more games in each of the past 3 years.

In the past 5 years only one school – only one — had College Game Day twice in the same season.  Guess who.

ESPN ranked all 35 of this year’s bowl games in order of which ones would be the most exciting to watch.   Our game was ranked #2, just behind the national championship game.

It helps that our team has a top-notch leader like Tajh Boyd – who broke just about every record you can imagine — and a head Coach like Dabo Swinney, right?  I want you to know that I did go to practice on Wednesday and the team looked great!  They will be ready tonight!

And, by the way, our football team does really well in the classroom, too.   In the BCS Academic rankings for this season, we ranked #6 in the country.  That’s ahead of great schools like Texas A&M, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.

I mentioned a few minutes ago that the national average graduation rate is 59%.  Well, our football players Graduation Success Rate is 77%.  So our student-athletes are great on the field and in the classroom.  And I can tell you that we also have a top-notch Athletic Director who cares about all of our student-athletes!

Why Clemson?

There are a lot of reasons why Beth and I wanted to join the Clemson family.

We all know how special Clemson is, right?  The Clemson Family is real and it is very powerful.  People want to be part of this university.

Here’s an interesting fact.  If you research the Clemson family crest, you will find that the name Clements is a derivation of the name Clemson, and believed to have come from the same origin!

According to Clemson University historian Jerry Reel, there is a possible connection between the Clemson’s from Birmingham, England and a branch of the Clements family.  Although we haven’t yet found a direct line with my family, we are still looking!

Honestly — I saw this as an amazing opportunity because Clemson has such a great national reputation, such great tradition, and so much positive momentum.

We’ve achieved our highest national ranking ever — #21 among all national public universities — according to U.S. News and World Report.  For all public universities, U.S. News also has us ranked #19 for the quality of our students, and #4 in alumni support.

We were recently named to Kiplinger’s list of the best value universities, and we were the top-ranked school in South Carolina.  Clemson ranks high for quality and value.

As a member of the Executive Board and Chair-elect of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities — and in my work as the Chair of the Commission on Leadership with the American Council on Education — I work with a lot of university presidents, chancellors, and other academic leaders.

I can tell you Clemson is highly regarded nationally. We are well-known — and well-respected for —

  • our strategic planning,
  • our research, and
  • our commitment to providing a top-notch, high quality education.

I think Thomas Green Clemson would be very pleased!  Our impact is felt far beyond the state borders, though. In fact, we have a growing footprint right here in the Sunshine State.  We have:

  • more than 3,000 alumni living within 250 miles of Miami,
  • more than 60 current students who are from South Florida area, and
  • about 200 freshman applications from this area for Fall 2014.

Clemson’s National Impact

Clemson faculty and students are addressing many of the great challenges facing not just the state of South Carolina, but also the State of Florida and the nation as well.

For example:

  • Our faculty are working to improve the reliability and performance of artificial implants – from hips to knees to heart valves.
  • Our Department of Automotive Engineering is helping older adults drive safely and independently.
  • We just dedicated a new energy systems research center that represents more than $100 million in federal, state, industry and private investments.
  • And, our researchers are working with Georgia Tech to develop a new approach for protecting coastal areas against flooding – which could save lives!

These are just a few examples of the ways we are having a major impact on South Carolina, in South Florida, and throughout the nation.

What’s next?

So what is next for our university?

First — we must maintain our momentum.

  • We are on a very positive path.
  • We have a solid strategic plan.  And,
  • We need to keep pushing.

Second — my immediate goal is to listen and learn.  I want to hear about your goals and your vision for the future.

Third — we need to find ways to build on our core strengths.

One of those strengths is our culture of collaboration.   Our faculty members have an unusual ability and willingness to work with industry, with other universities, and across disciplines.

Our Extension plant pathologists are working with the Florida Atlantic Growers to create new models for sustainable agriculture.  We’re participating in a regional project based at the University of Florida to prevent diseases that attack strawberries.  And we are collaborating with Ohio State to improve literacy through a program for 1st graders called Reading Recovery.

Let me close by saying that there will be a lot of celebrations in 2014.

We will observe the 125th anniversary of Clemson’s founding, and the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act that created the national Cooperative Extension network.  That legislation, by the way, was co-authored by a Congressman from South Carolina who was also Clemson Trustee — Frank Lever.

So from the very beginning, Clemson University has been a leader

  • in educational innovation,
  • in research that drives economic growth, and
  • in outreach to the communities we serve

We are strong, solid, and on the move!  And our future looks great!

Thank you all for being here — and Go Tigers!

Clemson University's 15th president, James P. Clements