Alumnus pledges $1.2 million to support Clemson Architecture, other programs


CLEMSON — William H. “Bill” Pelham, AIA, president of Pelham Architects, LLC of Greenville, has pledged gifts totaling $1.2 million through the Jean T. and Heyward G. Pelham Foundation to support Clemson University’s School of Architecture, the Clemson Architectural Foundation (CAF) and other Clemson initiatives.

These gifts bring the Pelham family’s total donations to Clemson to more than $2.8 million since 2007. The philanthropic Pelham Foundation was established in 2006 by Bill Pelham’s parents, Jean and Heyward Pelham. The Pelhams were strong advocates and supporters of education and the arts and very active in the Greenville community.

“Bill Pelham and his family have been tremendous supporters of Clemson’s academic mission for many years, and we are very appreciative of this latest generous gift,” said Clemson President James P. Clements. “Bill has a passion for both the importance of study abroad programs and for further strengthening Clemson’s outstanding architecture program, and this gift reflects both of these important university priorities.”

“The donation includes annual unrestricted gifts and endowments,” said Pelham. “Unrestricted gifts to the CAF; School of Architecture; and the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities give flexibility to the future use of the funds.

“Empowering the CAF, school and college leadership to take advantage of opportunities to support various academic endeavors allows them to be nimble and responsive,” Pelham continued. “Endowments usually take longer to fund and to vest and are intended to last in perpetuity. We wanted some funds to be available now for immediate impact and the rest to be available every year, forever.”

Bill Pelham is a South Carolina-registered architect, who graduated from Clemson University in 1977 with a B.A. degree in pre-architecture and in 1981 with a master’s degree in architecture. In 1978, he spent a semester studying in Genoa, Italy, at Clemson’s Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Study, an experience that has informed his worldview and inspired his charitable giving. Pelham’s longtime support of Clemson architecture and his passionate belief in the importance of study abroad are reflected in this latest gift.

Bill Pelham at the Villa "La Rotonda" just outside Vincenza, Italy.
Bill Pelham at the Villa “La Rotonda” just outside Vincenza, Italy.

Pelham came by his love of travel honestly. His parents loved exposing their children to different locales through long trips each summer from Florida to Quebec, Canada. Once Bill started his semester in Genoa, they began traveling all over the world, starting in Italy.

“By giving our students a global reach that prepares them to provide design leadership in a flat world, to be global practitioners and regional experts, to understand the unique opportunities of place and the wealth derived from cultural differences, Bill’s gift is truly transformational,” said Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, director of the School of Architecture. “And thanks to Bill’s expanded support, the school will continue to attract and retain remarkable people to remarkable programs. I cannot think of a more important time for our students and faculty to be receiving enriching support.”

In addition to establishing a new fund to support academic excellence in the School of Architecture, a portion of the gift will create a new endowment to support Clemson architecture’s geographically distributed learning opportunities. With centers in Charleston, Barcelona, Genoa, a summer studio in New York City and future locations to be determined, students can complete their degree requirements while being immersed in the distinct cultures of unique global cities.

“We are extremely thankful for Bill Pelham’s generosity, trust, enthusiasm, vision and leadership,” said Schwennsen. “His previous gifts have helped support more than 2,500 students spending a semester immersed off-campus, in Genoa, Charleston and Barcelona; hundreds of students receiving gifts and grants for domestic travel and field trips, for research support and for leadership development; and countless faculty members’ receipt of grants for travel and research support.”

The new Pelham Foundation gift also establishes an endowment and challenge match to support the Clemson Architectural Foundation. The CAF was established in 1956 to support and enrich the university’s professional programs in architecture. One of the CAF’s most significant accomplishments has been the Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Study in Genoa, in a villa owned and operated by the CAF for the benefit of the college and university. Each semester, up to 22 Clemson students study and analyze Italian and European building construction, architecture, planning, landscape architecture, art and history.

The new endowment fund established by Pelham will provide unrestricted support for faculty, student travel and research, and programs of the Clemson Architectural Foundation. The challenge match has already sparked one additional gift with more in the pipeline.

Pelham serves on the executive committee of the Clemson Architectural Foundation, following his tenure as president.

Several components of Pelham’s gift will provide critically needed funds in the Architecture + Health graduate degree program, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities and Clemson’s Emerging Scholars program. Emerging Scholars is a college outreach initiative for high school students in economically impoverished areas of South Carolina.

Earlier gifts from the Pelham Foundation supported the renovation and expansion of Lee Hall, as well as scholarships and fellowships that enable students to spend a semester studying at off-campus locations.

“Bill Pelham has served as a visionary force for excellence in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities,” said Dean Richard Goodstein. “While his focus is very much on the School of Architecture and the CAF, Bill has supported the college in many ways, most recently during Clemson’s ‘The Will to Lead’ capital campaign. We are truly grateful to Bill, his wife, Laura, and the Pelham family for their leadership and generosity to Clemson.”


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