A Foundation of Love: Joe and Cathy Turner Become Clemson’s Newest Cornerstone Partners


When prospective students first visit Clemson University, they travel over roads paved with Tiger paws, pass under welcoming canopies of century-old oaks and step foot in the Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center, where they meet tour guides filled with Clemson spirit. For many, this first impression will spark a lifelong love and commitment to the Clemson Family. The Turners’ Academic Cornerstone gift of $3 million for the new Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center will introduce the Turner Family Loggia and offer a special place for alumni to return home and ensure life-changing first impressions continue for generations to come.

The life that Joe and Cathy Turner have built together is an inspiring example of the love that can grow through the Clemson Family. As a student at Clemson over 50 years ago, Joe Turner fully immersed himself in serving the University. Then as a staff member, he created the Student Alumni Council and the IPTAY Student Advisory Board, which many students continue to benefit from today.

During the celebration of the Turners’ Cornerstone gift to the Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center, Ben Dority, a senior member of the IPTAY Student Advisory Board, took the opportunity to express his profound gratitude for the Turners’ steadfast dedication to Clemson students: “Joe and Cathy Turner’s unwavering commitment to the Clemson Family has profoundly influenced my journey, as well as those of countless friends I’ve made here. Their contributions have cultivated an environment where we can thrive academically, grow as leaders and build lifelong relationships.”

As a student, Joe Turner was very involved on Clemson’s campus and held leadership positions in several organizations, including president of Tiger Brotherhood, president of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, business manager of Clemson’s yearbook program TAPS and director of Clemson’s Tigerama in 1970. Turner was also part of the Central Spirit Committee and the Blue Key fraternity, the University’s oldest and most respected honor fraternity. After graduating from Clemson with a bachelor’s in industrial management in 1971, Joe Turner’s unwavering passion for Clemson led him to dedicate another 14 years of service to the University. Turner initially began working with the Clemson Alumni Association before earning his master’s degree in 1977 and transitioning into a role as executive director of IPTAY.  During Turner’s role with IPTAY, fundraising support for student-athletes at Clemson grew from $1 million to $5 million per year.

It was during his tenure at Clemson that Turner crossed paths with his future wife, Cathy Campbell Turner M ’76. After graduating from Auburn University, Cathy Turner decided to join a second Tiger family and work in student affairs under the very first Dean of Women at Clemson University, Susan Delony, while earning her master’s degree. Turner served as assistant dean of women from 1970 to 1978, and through the establishment of the Panhellenic Council, she helped expand the sorority system and exponentially increased Clemson women going through Rush.

It wasn’t long before Joe and Cathy’s Clemson stories intertwined. The couple recently celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary, and their love for each other and Clemson has only grown over time. Reflecting on their special connection to Clemson as a couple, Joe said, “This was my place. It was her place. Then it was our place.” With a shared love and deep appreciation for Clemson University and its people, Joe and Cathy have committed to honoring this special place by investing in the lives of others through their time, talent and treasure.

Joe and Cathy Turner recognize the importance of a welcoming doorstep for Clemson’s visitors and alumni. Situated on the shores of Lake Hartwell, the new Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center will offer panoramic views of the 18th green against the natural beauty of Hartwell. Also conveniently located next to the James Martin Inn and the Clyde V. Madren Conference Center, the space will serve as a hub of activity to elevate Clemson University. As Joe and Cathy fell into a lifetime of love for each other, their walks around the loggia of the old Clemson Student Union laid the foundation for a shared devotion to each other and Clemson.

While the original loggia is being converted to a new student-centered green space, the Turner Family Loggia will be a high-traffic area in the new Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center. As a front porch to campus where many students will take their first steps into a lifelong journey with Clemson, the establishment of this space holds significant personal meaning for the Turners, as it mirrors the place where their own story began. “We feel that the new loggia will be a place where people can come together, meet each other, talk to each other and really differentiate themselves,” said Joe Turner.

The Turner Family Loggia will symbolize Joe and Cathy’s lasting legacy at Clemson University. As future generations of leaders continue to walk in their footsteps, the story behind the Turner Family Loggia will remain a powerful reminder of the impact that individuals and families can have as students, alumni and friends of the University.

Echoing the voices of all those who shared their appreciation for the Turners in a special video of gratitude, University President Jim Clements commented on Joe and Cathy’s deep commitment to Clemson and to helping others, “You are connectors. You are givers. You are difference-makers. You love this University, and this University loves you.”

The Turners’ legacy of generous giving extends beyond this gift toward the Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center, demonstrating their commitment to enhancing the Clemson Experience across all areas of campus. “For the past 40 years I have witnessed firsthand how Joe and Cathy exemplify what it means to be Clemson Family. They do not do the things they do to be recognized. Rather, they do it out of love for Clemson, love for our community and love for people,” says Brian O’Rourke, vice president for Advancement. This love has manifested in many ways and has also been recognized in significant ways. In 1997, Joe was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Clemson Alumni Association. In 2019, Cathy was named “Mother-of-the-Year” for her unique contributions to Clemson over the years alongside her husband. And in March 2024, she was recognized for her incredible contributions by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority with a “Pillars of the Community” award. This award honors individuals, like Cathy, who have made a significant impact in the more than 50 years of national affiliation of fraternities and sororities at Clemson. 

The Clemson Tiger mascot, an iconic symbol of the Clemson spirit, is another example that will forever carry Joe and Cathy’s legacy through the Cathy Campbell Turner M.S. ’76 & Joseph J. Turner Jr. B.A. ’71 Tiger Mascot Endowment. This gift ensures students proudly representing the face of Clemson, on the field and in their daily lives, have the resources they need to succeed and carry forth the spirit of the Clemson Family.

The Turners also provide significant support toward the FIRST Generation Program, established to help students who dream of becoming the first in their family to graduate from college. This initiative ensures that hardworking students can have confidence in achieving their academic goals while fostering a sense of belonging within the Clemson Family. The Turners also continue to support IPTAY, the Rutland Institute of Ethics and the Brooks Center for Performing Arts. Through their philanthropy and leadership, the Turners champion a vision where every Tiger, regardless of background, is provided with the resources and opportunities needed to thrive and succeed.

As proud Clemson alumni, Joe and Cathy Turner understand the transformative power of education and the importance of fostering a sense of belonging within the Clemson Family. In their own words, “CLEMSON people and those who support the University make a huge difference in the lives of our students — at the end of the day, it’s about our students — CLEMSON is the best, and we will always strive to be better.”

The Turners unwavering dedication to the University’s values makes it possible for current and future generations of Tigers to thrive. As we celebrate their generosity and the building of a beautiful new space to welcome alumni, students and visitors, let us also embrace Joe and Cathy’s vision, ensuring the spirit of Clemson will shine brightly for generations to come.

Read more about the Turners and their legacy of generosity toward Clemson University.

Click here to learn more about giving to the new Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center.

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