Student Affairs; University News

Clemson hosts U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs Denis McDonough for roundtable with Upstate student veterans


Denis McDonough, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Denis McDonough, pictured with Executive Vice President Tony Wagner, serves as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs (VA) Denis Richard McDonough visited Clemson University on Thursday, February 15 as part of a listening tour in Upstate South Carolina. He met in the executive board room of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers of College Business with student veterans from several schools, including Clemson, Southern Wesleyan University and Anderson University.

“My sense coming in was that Clemson has been a great partner for veterans and the VA,” McDonough said in an interview following the event. “Everything I experienced on my visit confirmed everything I read and the data I looked at. Clemson is a great school with a rich history of supporting veterans and the military. It was really important for us to be here.”

McDonough was greeted by Clemson’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Wagner and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Chris Miller, before taking the better part of an hour to meet with students on a myriad of issues facing today’s military-connected students.

Led by moderator Keith Balts — a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and director of the Leadership Signature Program in the College of Business — McDonough and members of the VA’s regional office addressed questions about educational benefits, support for entrepreneurship and future opportunities for both human and capital resources.

When the event concluded, McDonough was presented a pair of military coins, one by Balts and one by Chase Carter, president of Clemson’s Student Veterans Association. Carter called the Secretary’s visit “an incredible honor.” He leads an organization of 76 members charged with advocating for Clemson’s 1,200-plus military students.

“This was a cornerstone event and it proved to be really successful,” said Carter, a financial management senior and Marine Corps veteran. “Hopefully, we can host it again in the future because you don’t often have the opportunity to meet someone like Secretary McDonough.”

McDonough was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 8th, 2021, and he was sworn in the following day as the 11th Secretary of Veterans Affairs. As part of his charge in leading the nation’s Department of Veteran Affairs, McDonough has committed to working tirelessly to build and restore veteran affairs’ trust as the premier agency for ensuring the well-being of America’s veterans.

“There is no more sacred obligation nor noble undertaking than to uphold our promises to our Veterans, whether they came home decades ago or days ago,” McDonough said during his 2021 confirmation hearing.

Secretary McDonough served in the Obama Administration as the 26th White House Chief of Staff from February 2013 to January 2017. In that role, Mr. McDonough managed the White House staff and worked across the cabinet to advance the Obama-Biden agenda, confronted management issues facing the federal government, and devised and enforced goals, plans, and performance standards to preserve the Obama-Biden Administration’s reputation for effective, ethical operations.

Prior to his role as Chief of Staff, Mr. McDonough was Principal Deputy National Security Advisor from October 2010 to January 2013. He also served as the Chief of Staff of the National Security Staff and as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. He chaired the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, leading the multiagency team to address complex challenges including crisis management and national security policymaking. And throughout his service in the White House, Secretary McDonough helped lead the Obama-Biden administration’s work on behalf of military families and Veterans.

Before his eight-year tenure in the White House, Secretary McDonough served in senior leadership and policymaking positions in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Professional Staff Member on the International Relations Committee and in the U.S. Senate for Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Senator Ken Salazar.