Clemson University Honors College

Casey Hancock’s ‘journey through life:’ an Honors alumnus story


Casey Hancock (‘06) has always been a jack of all trades. ​​During his time at Clemson, he was involved in various academic endeavors, study abroad trips and extracurricular activities, including clubs, honors fraternities and service initiatives. 

Now, 18 years later, Hancock serves as a leader of his childhood hometown after starting his own consulting business, co-founding a booming brewery and applying his Polymer and Textile Chemistry degree by working as a research and development chemist for over seven years at Sonoco headquarters. 

Hancock has always understood the value and importance of community service. He took that to one of the highest levels recently when he became the mayor of Hartsville, South Carolina.

Hancock believes he “parlayed that habit of volunteering and serving on committees, boards, or commissions” that he developed at Clemson into his community work back in Hartsville. He has been serving as mayor since 2021 and has ambitions to serve another term. 

He worked his way up through multiple commissions and boards in Hartsville, making connections that set him up for success in the highest office in town, a job he filled earlier than even he expected. 

A man seated in a chair speaking to a room full of students.
Hancock spoke to students at an Honors College Alumni Speaker Series event in January 2024.

While speaking to students and staff in January at an Honors College’s Alumni Speaker Series, a monthly event where alumni share their experiences and connect with students, Hancock shared his biggest goal for his tenure as mayor. 

“I was elected to unify the city. Hartsville is socially, economically and racially divided. I was elected to begin closing that gap earnestly,” said Hancock. “I hope to break ground on the revitalization effort of the corridor that divides Hartsville in an effort to not only make the area safer but also to encourage redevelopment and growth.” 

Before he became the Hartsville mayor, Hancock founded Bear Squared, an independent advisory firm that focuses on data reporting and IT support for small businesses. With hopes to grow the company, he partnered with Matt Clemmens (‘06), another National Scholar with IT experience and a man he described as one of “the best friends he has in the world.” 

Bear Squared isn’t the only company Hancock started. He is also the co-founder and part-owner of Wild Heart Brewing Company, located in his hometown. The brewery started as a dream of Hancock’s best friend and now co–founder, Zach Riner. 

“We were two guys with an idea. We had no idea what we were doing; we just had an idea,” said Hancock. Through further research and investment, that idea became a reality when Wild Heart Brewing Company officially opened in 2021. 

“The town has embraced us. It has become the place for people to go, to bring their family during the holidays, for co-workers to go after work and for students to come and get pizza,” said Hancock. “The community is important to us, and they have really supported the brewery.” 

Hancock attributed his success across his three lines of work to the interdisciplinary experience he received from the Clemson University Honors College

“The programs, introductions and connections that the Honors College makes between students and people of different disciplines are unparalleled. Those interactions and activities teach you how to think, how to question and how to talk, as well as how to listen and exchange ideas that challenge what you either know or think you know,” said Hancock. 

“The preparation I got here at Clemson and in the National Scholars Program, taking advantage of the opportunities I had here, being a part of organizations, going on enrichment trips and learning from others around me taught me how to think, how to problem solve and how to know what I don’t know, but also how to know where to go to find the answers I am looking for,” added Hancock. 

However, Hancock’s Clemson experience wasn’t exactly linear. In the fall of his senior year, Hancock struggled with his mental health. He left Clemson to take the time he needed away from his studies to recover. He wound up graduating only a year later than he had originally expected, an achievement he credits to his family and Clemson support system. 

I couldn’t have done it without both the support of my literal family and my Clemson family. The support I got from my advisors, particularly those in the NSP and Honors College, and friends at Clemson made graduation attainable for me again. Students should know that they can overcome adversity if they are willing to acknowledge the struggle and seek help like I did.

clemson university alumnus casey hancock

Clemson Honor’s National Scholars Program provides a select number of Honors students with unique intellectual, professional and personal development experiences as well as a total cost of attendance scholarship and enhanced program opportunities. 

Dr. Thompson Mefford, a previous Honors classmate of Hancock and the current associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson, remembers Hancock as a curious, passionate fellow student.

“The curiosity was always there, but he was not only interested in the research in his field, he had all these other interests, too,” said Mefford. “He embodied the perfect Honors student, and that shows today.”

Hancock has stayed involved with the Clemson and Honors community since his graduation. Besides appearing in the College’s Alumni Speaker Series, he regularly attends home football games and hosted Honors Dean Sarah Winslow when she visited Hartsville to meet with local alumni and schools.

Reflecting on his time at Clemson and his endeavors thereafter, Hancock shared his biggest piece of advice for current Honors students. 

“Take advantage of those opportunities to get involved in things that seem interesting or valuable,” said Hancock. “Try something that challenges you to meet a whole different sort of people than you might otherwise find in your typical routine because this crazy path that has become my life came from seizing opportunities that have shown up out of nowhere.” 

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