Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Business student banks on future in finance after his struggles with it


Josh Lother is the first to admit he doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional College of Business student.

Josh Lother and son
Josh Lother and son, Declan

He might also be considered a strange bedfellow to the financial management program in the business school at Clemson University.

But the 32-year-old Seneca native is comfortable with where he’s at, majoring in a field that has been a thorn in his side for most of his adult life, while he plots a career course for a better life and one that will exorcise the financial demons of his past.

“To put it bluntly, it’s been a hard-fought life,” the husband and father of a 3-year-old said. “I’ve struggled unsuccessfully with managing money my entire life, as have a couple of generations of men in my family. I don’t fault anyone as to how I turned out. What you learn from your parents is sometimes how not to do things. Now, it’s time for me to hold myself accountable.”

After attending Greenville Tech’s Charter High School, Josh enrolled in Greenville Technical College with the intention of someday transferring to Clemson and majoring in engineering. But as the saying goes, the best laid plans often go awry.

“I worked full-time at a pharmacy and was carrying a full credit load. My grades dropped and I lost my scholarship,” Josh said. “I was burned out, tired and frustrated. The thought of taking out a $1,500 loan for school felt like I’d be taking on a mortgage.”

He subsequently dropped out of school and felt like the dream of improving his quality of life by earning a college degree was over. And then, things got worse. A month before his marriage to high school sweetheart Heather, he lost his job and spent the first year of marriage unemployed.

“To say the least, I was depressed. It was bad. We had no medical insurance and already had debt because of poor decisions, so finally out of desperation, we took a job in Indiana where we supervised a group home. But my bad spending habits continued. While I certainly believe I had an income problem, I did not have the proper financial habits to deal with more, so I continued to waste what I received,” Josh said.

His laissez-faire approach to spending money took a turn in the right direction after a heart-to-heart talk with Heather upon their return to South Carolina. The pair ended up selling their home to pay off the mounting credit card debt that had accumulated. “It was then that we started on our way back. That began the process of moving forward and placing controls on our life so that I wasn’t spending money I didn’t have or wasting opportunities I received,” said Josh, whose journey to financial responsibility and further growth received a boost when he enrolled in Clemson for the spring semester.

“I needed to change this generational cycle, so my son didn’t have to deal with the financial ineptitude that I did to this point in my life,” he said. “Ten to 12 years ago, I wouldn’t have respected this second-chance. But I’m older now and am not about to ruin this opportunity at realizing my dream of finishing college and pursuing a fulfilling career.”

Heather and Josh have moved in with his aunt and uncle. It brought benefits that were two-fold. They are saving money and helping take care of his uncle, who is dealing with health issues.

“I’m looking at my finances and life through a different lens now. I can’t predict where my future is headed, but I am becoming more financially sophisticated and beating my penchant for being irresponsible with money,” said Josh, who achieved a 4.0 GPA last semester. “I could see myself in a career as a financial analyst. I restructured my life, and a position that helps a business restructure is entirely within the realm of possibility.”

Josh knew he was in the right place in the College of Business this spring when his Business 1010 class was addressed by Dean Wendy York. Her untraditional path to leading business education at Clemson University resonated with him.

“The track she took in getting here was very untraditional and in some ways like mine. First, unlike many academic leaders, she’s the first business dean without a Ph.D. She went into the business world and did things. Having a person leading the organization who’s been there, done that in the real world means something to me. This is the kind of leader I want overseeing the institution that’s helping me launch my career in business.”

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