CLEMSON — Officials from Clemson University joined alumni, donors and student leaders past and present in a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel. The chapel, named after a Clemson student who passed away unexpectedly in 2015, will be located adjacent to the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts and be an inviting venue for all people to celebrate, meditate and reflect.
“Clemson is in the middle of the largest campus construction initiative in the university’s history,” said President James P. Clements. “We are adding new residential communities, academic buildings, athletics facilities and recreational areas. Each of them is vitally important to enhancing the quality of the Clemson experience for our students.
“Today, we are proud to break ground for an equally significant building. It will be a place where all beliefs are welcome, a place to find comfort, a place to share joy, a place for remembrance and a place for inspiration. It will be a place as special and uplifting as the young man for whom it is named.”
Ken and Mary Cadden, the parents of Samuel J. Cadden, made the lead gift of $1.5 million in June 2016 that set forth an impressive fundraising campaign. Less than three years later, pledges received for the chapel from more than 1,500 donors exceed $7 million. The natives of Richmond, Virginia, were in attendance Thursday and spoke of their strong desire to carry on their son’s legacy.
“The chapel project can be a painful reminder at times of what we lost, but most of the time it’s been a blessing,” Ken Cadden said. “We’ve made friends who rallied to support a young man they did not know for very long and a family they did not know at all. It’s provided us great comfort and a distraction from great heartache. The letters we’ve received and stories we’ve heard of Sam have touched our hearts.”
Samuel Cadden was a rising junior majoring in financial management at the time of his death. He was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and Knights of Columbus. Following his death, his parents discovered a wish list that included a desire to one day have a building at Clemson named in his honor.
The Caddens drew one step closer to making their son’s dream come true Thursday.
“For us to be past $7 million in funds raised in just three years is unheard of,” Mary Cadden said. “It’s not only a great tribute to Sam, but also a symbol of how much the Clemson family loves its university.”
Almeda Jacks has known Ken and Mary Cadden — who serve as ambassadors for the Division of Student Affairs as part of her Executive Council — since she returned to Clemson in December 2014 for a second tenure as vice president. On Thursday, she spoke about the gratification felt across campus for a project that has been years in the making.
“Today is a day many of us have looked forward to for a long time, but we would not be here without the leadership displayed by Ken and Mary along with a tremendous showing of support,” Jacks said. “I want to personally thank both of them for everything they’ve done for Clemson and especially to support our students.”
The reception concluded with a ceremonial groundbreaking in a trough fittingly filled with orange sand. James and Beth Clements, Almeda Jacks and the Caddens were joined by pillar donors Charles and Susan Barker, Roy McCall and Melvin Younts, as well as Clemson graduate and former student chapel committee chair Matt Gabriel for a photo opportunity. Ashley Johnson, a fourth pillar donor, was unable to attend.
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