Advancement; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

$60 million transformational gift elevates business at Clemson


President Clements announces University’s largest-ever gift, which positions Clemson’s College of Business to become a nationally recognized program for educating global leaders.

The nation’s top-rated business colleges have earned their reputation for excellence by building powerful programs that look beyond teaching the fundamentals and instead focus their energies on making a broad impact on today’s borderless business world.

Building such a powerhouse – and doing it in a manner consistent with Clemson’s land-grant mission of service to the state of South Carolina – has been a priority for President Jim Clements since his arrival in 2013.

President Clements at table with Billy and Ann seated to his right with construction hats on the table.
President Clements, Billy and Ann together before a tour of the new business building in early 2020.

With this gift from longtime South Carolina philanthropists and friends of the University Wilbur O. “Billy” and Ann Powers, these cutting-edge plans have a home under the roof of the newly named Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business, which is housed in a new state-of-the-art building that opened this semester.

“This building and this gift are game changers for Clemson and the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. Billy and Ann are longtime supporters of the University, and, once again, they have stepped up for Clemson. We are so grateful for their generosity and vision,” Clements said. “This is an incredible milestone for Clemson, not only because it is the largest gift in our history but also because it will truly transform the way we teach business at Clemson. This gift will enable the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business to reach new heights, growing to become one of the country’s best institutions for educating the next generation of global business leaders.”

A reflection of their business acumen and personal principles, Billy and Ann gave the gift so that they might make a difference in the lives of Clemson’s students. With its signature programs and a new, best-in-class facility, the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business is more than a gateway to Clemson University. It serves as a catalyst for commerce across South Carolina and enterprise around the world.

Outside shot of the new College of Business - two structures
The dual-tower, five-story Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business features 176,000 square feet of building space. As part of the gift, the right structure will be named in honor of their grandson, Chandler L. Burns. Burns was a 2015 graduate of Clemson who died tragically after a short illness in 2016.

The power of programs

With highly relevant business skills taught in all majors; experiential, interdisciplinary learning; collaborative teamwork; internships; and cross-cultural/study abroad programs, the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business is positioned to make a significant impact for generations of Clemson students and South Carolina industries. It also serves as a major research hub for world-class scholars.

“The generous support from the Powers family enables critical faculty research, professorships and fellowships; provides needed student scholarships; and enhances the prestige of our business degrees for years to come,” said Dean Wendy York. “The sun is rising on a new era of business education at Clemson University.”

Image of the exterior of new CoB building from Bowman Field
The Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business stands as a gateway to Clemson University and global business. The family’s $60 million gift will support Clemson’s new state-of-the-art business building as well as fund professorships, scholarships and support the College’s signature programs.

The gift will allow the College to attract leading faculty through endowed professorships, as well as provide significant merit and need-based financial aid to students in order to grow future generations of South Carolina business leaders.

In addition, the gift also will propel many of the College’s signature programs, including:

Business Analytics
Today’s business world is driven by data. With a proper understanding of relevant data, managers can make more informed decisions that can help their businesses succeed. The business analytics program instills critical analytical skills needed for strategic, data-driven decision making. With each major featuring its own tailored set of skills, business analytics primes students to collect, interpret and apply data to make a significant contribution to businesses large and small. Graduating students with working knowledge of business analytics makes them highly attractive to hiring corporate partners and organizations.

Sales Innovation
The sales innovation program aims to develop proficiency in understanding techniques for effective sales, especially in the service, technical and health care fields. The program, and the collaborative efforts coming out of it, is on its way to becoming a national hub for excellence in sales education and research. The efforts of this program seek to drive change in processes and systems for better customer experiences and organizational growth.

Value Chain and Advanced Manufacturing
The value chain and advanced manufacturing program leverages existing faculty expertise and industry needs to create market-relevant educational programs. Team collaboration incorporates the business, science and engineering disciplines, exposing students to cross-college cooperation and vendor relationship management found in a diverse, global workplace.

Entrepreneurial studies and entrepreneurial thinking are critical in startups as well as established businesses. The entrepreneurship program engages all colleges to co-deliver interdisciplinary coursework. In addition, the program leverages on-campus organizations, entrepreneurial alumni and venture funding sources to complete the ecosystem.

Brand Marketing and Graphics
In the brand marketing and graphics communications programs, students are prepared with market-relevant skills. There are hands-on experiences at the Erwin Center for Brand Communications, Department of Graphic Communications, Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics and Sonoco FRESH (food packaging). From branding to positioning, from digital marketing to applied materials production, students learn and develop best practices under the guidance of industry specialists. Through these programs, students make a significant impact on current corporate partnerships.

Inspired by the high bar set by the Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholars program, this focus on leadership builds upon Clemson’s history of producing principled leaders of business and industry and now exemplifies the business expertise and ethics of Billy and Ann Powers. Dean York stresses that leadership “is a choice, not a title” and that those skills are what help students make a difference in their future positions, regardless of their majors. The program focuses on the responsibility to make a positive difference wherever you are.

The Capitalism Institute and Hayek Center are unique in teaching the values of free enterprise. In the world-ranked economics program, nationally noted scholars support research and the Ph.D. program in the John E. Walker Department of Economics. As economics is a way of thinking, this program teaches students how the application of principles affects business decisions, public policy issues and everyday life, and how trade in open or free markets, and the surrounding activities, impact economies by providing growth opportunities.

Our MBA program is highly regarded for its innovative, applied approach to advanced business topics. Students enrich their classroom experience by collaborating with prestigious domestic and international companies on real-world projects. They network with executives, entrepreneurs and HR professionals throughout the program and access personalized, individual career counseling and job placement assistance including employer networking forums. In fall 2019, a flexible, fully online MBA program launched to better serve nontraditional or working students.

From the ground up

InfographicThe wheels of change can turn slowly, especially when it comes to the physical transformation of a college campus. It requires active participants, a course of action and time. Plans for the new building for business began more than a decade ago, but it was only recently that construction was completed, just in time for the 2020 Fall semester.

President Clements, Dean York and others knew it would take more than a new building alone to elevate Clemson’s business college to national recognition as a top-public program.

The vision for a 21st-century business school requires a gathering of sharp-minded thinkers working together on a new mission to equip students with the skills, knowledge and values to thrive and make an impact on the business world. From practitioners, associate professors and tenured faculty to department heads, those inside the College required exceptional expertise and dedication in order to teach students how to succeed in a dynamic global economy.

Included in those great thinkers are longtime philanthropists Billy and Ann Powers, also people of vision who speak often and openly about the value of setting lofty goals. They quickly recognized the College’s mission and saw how it aligned with their shared desire to build something without equal in South Carolina. In turn, they gave the largest gift ever awarded to Clemson University and one of the largest gifts to a public institution of higher education in the state. With this gift, the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business is positioned to be a major contributor to the University’s rise in stature and academic relevance. Dean York and her staff and faculty will employ interdisciplinary collaboration across departments and colleges to further the development of ethical leadership skills and entrepreneurial thinking in students.

With President Jim Clements, Dean Wendy York and a member of the construction team, Billy and Ann Powers stand on a terrace located in Chandler L. Burns Hall.

“The building and our academic direction are becoming a launchpad for students to become revolutionary change agents who will make positive contributions to business and industry in South Carolina, across our nation and beyond,” said Dean York.

Work ethic

Regardless of the classes students take, the major they pursue and opportunities they choose to engage with, donor Billy Powers explains that a single piece of advice is relevant to anyone pursuing college and a dream: “Apply yourself the best you can with the means you have,” he said.

“You can’t start on top. It’s a learning process,” he continued. “Then you’ve got to have initiative and discipline to reach your goals.”

With over 60 years of flying experience, Billy credits learning to fly as one of his biggest life accomplishments.

But the key to success, Powers said, is hard work. “You always want to do the very best you are able to do, and if you plan well, you can accomplish more. This gift is about helping Clemson students grow and be the best they can be.”

Visionary leadership and a transformational gift that enabled that vision to come to life position the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business as a place that will prime innovation, foster scholarship and impact global business for the foreseeable future in South Carolina and beyond.

“Since the original gift that created the University, there has never been a more transformational gift in the history of Clemson than this,” said President Clements. “We are incredibly grateful to Billy and Ann for their generosity.”



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