Samuel Rhett Cecil doubled up on his family’s legacy this month, reinforcing its military heritage by commissioning into the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant on May 10 and becoming the latest family member to receive a Clemson degree on May 11, extending the family’s ties to Clemson to four generations.
Cecil’s grandfather, Jim Hendricks ’68 M ’71, attended both ceremonies. He said the commissioning ceremony in Memorial Auditorium at Tillman Hall —the first time Marines commissioned alongside their Army and Air Force ROTC counterparts in Clemson history — was meaningful for him on many levels.
“I was commissioned into the Army in the same auditorium 55 years ago!” said Hendricks, whose father, James Rhett Hendricks ’37, earned a Bachelor of Science in vocational agriculture from Clemson.
The day after the commissioning ceremony, Hendricks was deeply moved again by his grandson’s graduation.
“The graduation ceremony was special,” he said. “At the end, President Clements told the graduates to have someone who had been influential and very important to their success at Clemson to reposition their class ring to have the ‘C’ pointing out. Sam asked me to change his ring! Just a few tears came to the eyes.”
Cecil is the seventh of Hendricks’ family members to earn a Clemson degree. The chronological list is as follows:
- Hendricks’ father, James Rhett Hendricks Sr. ’37, vocational agriculture.
- Hendricks ’68, M ’71, civil engineering and water resources engineering.
- Hendricks’ daughter Becca Hendricks Collins ’98, secondary education and English.
- Hendricks’ daughter Kayce Hendricks Kellman ’02, therapeutic recreation.
- Cecil’s mother, Lynn Hendricks ’93, elementary education.
- Cecil’s wife, Faith Kneece Cecil ’21, parks, recreation and tourism management.
- Cecil ’23, marketing.
The list will soon grow to nine as Cecil’s brother, Aaron, is a rising junior studying mechanical engineering and his cousin, James Collins, is a rising sophomore studying wildlife and fisheries biology.
“The Clemson Class Ring symbolizes the accomplishments of our graduates and reminds us of the bond we share with our fellow alumni,” said Brian O’Rourke, Clemson’s vice president of advancement. “And because it has changed very little since it was presented to the first class in 1896, the ring is recognized by the Clemson Family across the globe, bringing together generations of Tigers who share a love for our University. When a family like the Hendricks’ family passes that love from generation to generation, it is truly special. It is the essence of the Clemson Family. We are thankful to Jim Hendricks and his family for their philanthropy, dedication to our University and their service to our country.”
“Clemson has always been a part of my life,” said Hendricks. “First memories are ice cream and watching the cadets march on Bowman Field on Mother’s Day. Now, the newest memory is my grandson commissioning into the Marines and earning a degree, carrying on our family legacy here with such honor. I could not be prouder.”
Hendricks’ love for Clemson runs deep. He graduated as the distinguished military graduate in 1968 and served on active duty for two years, including a one-year tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps. He finished his contract with the Army as a first lieutenant before returning to Clemson to earn a master’s in water resources engineering in 1971.
In addition to having so many family members follow him to his alma mater, Hendricks is a past board member of the Clemson University Foundation and was involved in funding four endowments at Duke Energy, where he worked for 35 years. He and his wife, Paula, established the Jim and Paula Hendricks Family Scholarship in 2008, which provides funds for students in the College of Education and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.
Hendricks married his wife, Paula, the same year he earned his master’s degree – 1971 – and the couple is celebrating their 52nd anniversary this year.