Advancement; Office of the President; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Building entrepreneurial ventures: $2.5M gift to launch first-of-its-kind entrepreneurship space at Clemson University


Intending to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit and cultivate processes to build successful, sustainable ventures that can scale over time, Brook T. Smith ’89 and Pamela (DuRant) Smith ’89 have given a $2.5 million gift to create the Brook T. Smith Accelerator at Clemson University. They are the University’s 12th Academic Cornerstone Partner.

This first-of-its-kind Clemson program is designed to help students, faculty, staff and alumni succeed in constructing maintainable and expandable for-profit, nonprofit and social entrepreneurial ventures. By providing a range of support programs and resources, including workspace, networking and educational opportunities, mentoring and training, the Accelerator will support entrepreneurship — from ideation to execution. This gift will support interdisciplinary coursework and bring on-campus organizations, entrepreneurial alumni and funding sources together.

In addition to cultivating entrepreneurial thinking in students, the Accelerator’s development of ethical leadership skills and inventive research will allow students to lead innovation and impact global businesses.

As the leaders and innovators of the future, it is so important for our students to learn about entrepreneurship, and I am grateful to Brook and Pam Smith for their generosity that will allow us to do even more to help our students develop in this area. I am excited to see the results of the work that will happen in the Brook T. Smith Accelerator, and I know that it will give our students, faculty, staff and alumni a boost in their own entrepreneurial endeavors.

Man in his mid-fifties with with longer hair, wearing a tux and sneakers, is standing in a mid-crouch with his right hand in his front pocket and left arm around a woman in a cocktail dress, standing with her left leg crossed in front of her right. They are outside an old, neglected industrial brick warehouse with rusted steel doors. The both have happy, friendly smiles, and his smile looks a little mischievous. They are Clemson University alumni, husband Brook and wife Pam Smith of Kentucky, philanthropic supporters of entrepreneurial ventures.
Clemson alumni Brook T. Smith ’89 and Pamela (DuRant) Smith ’89 — the University’s 12th Cornerstone Partner — pictured at Castle & Key Distillery. Photo courtesy of Steven Freeman

Business startups and philanthropic support play significant roles in the lives of Brook and Pam Smith. They back projects designed to build job skills and generate regional economic impacts as well as endeavors producing oral histories and promoting cultural and artistic undertakings. Their desire to be catalysts for opportunities led them back to their alma mater to make a lasting impact on the University and future alumni.

“I’m fixated on identifying philanthropic organizations, projects and people with promise and working with them to get to maximum efficiency so they can reach their potential — organizations like AMPED in my hometown, the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky in my home state, and great nonprofits outside my backyard like unCommon Construction in New Orleans, Irie Foundation in Miami and HOLA in Los Angeles,” said Brook Smith, founder of RSLP Ventures and a partner in Castle & Key Distillery, Barrell Craft Spirits and Post Parade Wines. “The Brook T. Smith Accelerator at Clemson University creates a unique opportunity to share the entrepreneurial spirit and to support future generations of entrepreneurs and business leaders.”

Thanks to the generosity of Brook and Pam Smith, this gift will allow us the opportunity to create this unique space for a host of entrepreneurial activities to take place in one location. This gift will help us develop something truly special for Clemson.


Years ago, Brook Smith discovered a love for reinforcing people’s potential. While attending Clemson, he was the manager of the cross-country and track teams and music director at WSBF FM Clemson.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in management, he’s spent the last 30 years as an expert in the surety-bonding sector. He is the president of Smith Manus and a significant shareholder in Acrisure — the financial services company that purchased it. He devotes time and money to many philanthropic causes and is an avid supporter of his home state of Kentucky and the Appalachian region, having served on the board of directors of the Speed Art Museum, Locust Grove Historic Home and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. Most recently, he has been involved with mentoring entrepreneurs in his role as board chairman at Endeavor Louisville/Midwest.

Originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Pam Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education. She taught school for many years prior to starting a family that would grow to include three children: Reed (26), Mac (22) and Grayson (21). When not supporting a philanthropic endeavor with her husband, she enjoys regular visits to the beach, working in the garden and spending time with her dogs. She has recently taken up horseback riding in true Kentucky fashion.

Together the Smiths established the Smith Family Gravy Boat Fund, underwriting “Gravy,” a podcast produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, and they recently founded the Appalachian Impact Fund (AIF) with a multimillion-dollar commitment to advance opportunities in the region that support economic diversification and build community capacity.

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