Dear Clemson Family:
Today is a historic day for our University.
This morning, we announced the largest act of philanthropy since Thomas Green Clemson willed the land on which our main campus sits for the purpose of creating a “high seminary of learning” to serve the state of South Carolina.
Over the past 131 years, the vision for Clemson has grown considerably, and while we strive for national prominence every day we have never lost sight of our primary mission – to serve the residents of our great home state. I am immensely proud of the work of our faculty and staff, but none of that work is possible without the ongoing support of the Clemson Family, especially our passionate donor base.
That’s why I was honored to announce this morning that two of Clemson’s great friends – Billy and Ann Powers – have provided a $60 million gift to the University to benefit the College of Business.
As a result of this transformational gift – one of the largest ever given to a higher education institution in South Carolina – both the college and our gorgeous new business building will bear the name of our benefactors: The Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. This is the first named college at Clemson and sets the stage to make the University a national leader in business education.
Billy’s ties to Clemson span more than 60 years, dating back to his time as a student. Billy had to leave Clemson to help with the family business before earning his degree, but has remained close to the University over the years. He has been a significant donor for many years, although until this gift he had done so anonymously.
That desire to help others quietly has been a driving force for Billy and Ann throughout their lives, and they have used their business success to help countless individuals and organizations around the state, especially in the Florence area where they live. In fact, Billy and Ann’s desire to not draw attention to their philanthropy was only superseded by their wish to honor the memory of their grandson Chandler Burns, a 2015 Clemson graduate, with this gift.
Chandler was an outstanding student who was on a course to play a role in the future of the Powers Companies when he tragically died in 2016 after a short illness. As part of the Powers’ gift, one tower of the building has been named in Chandler’s honor.
Billy and Ann represent the very best of the Clemson Family: Compassionate, loyal, determined, successful – and above all dedicated to improving our communities and supporting the people who live in them. It is our responsibility to live up to the confidence Billy and Ann have demonstrated in Clemson with this gift, and I am excited by the vision that Dean Wendy York, who joined Clemson from Stanford in 2018, has created for the college.
In addition to supporting the operation of the building and the college’s signature academic programs, this gift will help us attract the best faculty in the world through the creation of endowed professorships. Importantly, it also will allow us to provide financial support to talented students, with an emphasis on assisting South Carolina students.
This gift also is the result of hard work by many Clemson staff members. My deepest thanks and appreciation go out to all those involved in securing this gift, especially our Development and Alumni Relations team, led by Vice President Brian O’Rourke and Senior Associate Vice President for Development JoVanna King.
The generosity of Billy and Ann Powers will change the course of our students’ lives for generations to come and, in the process, will help create a more vibrant business and economic environment for South Carolina. We are deeply appreciative and humbled by their generosity and confidence in Clemson.
Academic Calendar Update
I want to share the news that as of now, we anticipate no changes to the calendar for spring semester. We plan to return to classes on Jan. 6, 2021, and spring break is scheduled for the week of March 15. A final decision on whether we will return to in-person instruction this fall following Thanksgiving is expected by early next week.
I would encourage our students to think carefully before planning international trips of any type for spring break. We are prepared to pivot and make changes to the calendar – including potentially canceling spring break – should circumstances dictate. As has been the case since the onset of the pandemic, our decisions will be guided by science, and the safety of our community will be our top priority.
Graduations and Ring Ceremony Set
I look forward to celebrating with our May and August graduates next month. We have scheduled seven ceremonies from Nov. 13 – 15 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. Similarly, our December graduation ceremonies also will be held at Bon Secours Dec. 16-17. Details can be found here.
We also are moving forward with our fall Ring Ceremony, which has become one of the most popular events we hold each year, and one of my favorites. This year, we will break the event into three ceremonies on Oct. 25, also at Bon Secours.
We realize that moving the ceremonies off campus is not ideal, and it had been our hope to hold them in Clemson, but it just isn’t possible at this time due to the size of Littlejohn Coliseum. We have, however, held commencement at the Bon Secours arena in the past, and its size allows us to safely hold these events. I’m confident we will be able to celebrate with our students and their families in style.
We continue to make progress in our work to mitigate the spread of the virus in our campus community as result of our aggressive testing, which is among the most thorough testing strategies in the country. Our most recent testing update, which was posted today, shows that the percentage of our students testing positive declined for the second straight week. The number of students in quarantine or isolation as result of COVID-19 has remained steady, and we still have sufficient available space to support our students who have been infected or exposed.
We moved to weekly testing of on-campus student residents this week as part of our evolving strategy designed to gain as much information as possible about the prevalence of the virus in our community. We also are scheduled to implement saliva testing for employees next week, which will allow us to test even more people in the least invasive manner possible.
Today’s celebration of Billy and Ann Powers’ amazing act of generosity is a vivid reminder of the spirit and power of the Clemson Family to make the world a better place. I am so proud to be part of this great university and thankful for all those who help make our important work possible.