College of Science

Alumni couple establishes endowed lecture series to promote intersection of mathematics and business


CLEMSON, South Carolina —Jeffrey (Ph.D. 1984) and Karen Gambrell Camm (B.S. 1982) know that Clemson is a special place. After all, the couple met on campus in the early 1980s when Karen visited a friend who happened to share an office with Jeff in Martin Hall.

Alumni Jeff and Karen Camm with dog Tucker
Karen and Jeff Camm pictured with their dog Tucker. The Camms have endowed a new lecture series in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

Jeff’s career trajectory was influenced by exceptional faculty and fellow graduate students whose research applied mathematics to real-world problems.

“I had phenomenal teachers like Drs. Lin Dearing, Rick Jarvis and Douglas Shier, who had an incredible passion for solving real problems,” said Camm, associate dean of business analytics, professor and Inmar presidential chair in business analytics at Wake Forest University. “They had a big impact on my life.”

Karen has fond memories of playing in the Tiger Band, and her mathematical sciences degree prepared her well for a career teaching computer classes in industry for seven years before stepping out of the workforce to focus on raising their three daughters.

Recently, the Camms provided the College of Science with a $100,000 gift to establish a new lecture series in the school of mathematical and statistical sciences (SMSS) that will draw speakers from math or statistics who address challenges encountered by business, industry or government.

“Karen and I are really passionate about how you can use math to make an impact in business and society,” said Camm who was on campus March 4, 2020, to present a seminar on optimization to SMSS faculty and students.

“We’re happy to give back,” added Karen.

According to Kevin James, founding director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, the new endowed lecture series is an important addition to the colloquia that regularly run in SMSS.

“It will help us bridge the gap between mathematics and statistics and the interests of our Industry partners, while at the same time exciting students about the possibility of working in mathematics and statistics,” James said.

College of Science dean Cynthia Y. Young is grateful to the Camms for investing in SMSS.

“Their gift will support the exchange of ideas at the convergence of mathematics, statistics, and business,” Young said. “Jeff and Karen honor the special faculty and this special place that had such a positive impact on their lives.  They are two outstanding alumni who continue to stay engaged in everything Clemson, and we thank them for continuing that special legacy with their investment in our future.”

After graduating from Clemson, Jeff spent the next 31 years as a faculty member at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a leading expert on applying optimization to problems in operations management. He also consulted for a number of corporations.

As Jeff described in his lecture, he worked on a supply chain design project with Procter & Gamble in the 1990s, which ultimately saved the consumer goods giant $250 million annually in its North American operations. He also applied his optimization techniques to help the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service select a nature reserve site for efficient conservation.

As a faculty member at Wake Forest, he continues to advocate and teach the use of optimization models for generating alternatives rather than finding only one best answer. He is the author of four management science textbooks and 30 journal papers.

The Camms have three daughters, the youngest of whom just graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a mathematics degree. Their daughters have launched careers as a physical therapist, e-commerce analyst and data scientist.

“Once all three daughters successfully completed college, we decided we wanted to give back to our alma mater,” Karen said.

“Clemson has had such an impact on both of us,” Jeff said before delivering his March 4 lecture. “It’s emotional to be back. This is a special place.”

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