When someone like Michael Bloomberg donates $1.8 billion to a university, it makes big headlines around the world. But just as important to many institutions are the multitudes of donors who may not be able to write 10-figure checks but give consistently — and just as passionately– to their alma maters.
Erin and Clint Herring are among them. They give $2,000 a year to Clemson University’s academic programs and recently added a $25,000 estate gift.
“We’re not donating millions of dollars– we aren’t in the position to do that,” Erin said. “I think the majority of people who can give to Clemson don’t always understand that it’s the consistency of the giving that is important.”
Clint added, “It’s the connection you keep with the university– that it’s part of your life for your whole life, so you should return what you have received.”
The Herrings are among the unsung heroes whose donations, given without fanfare, are playing a critical role in creating the leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of the future.
In addition to treasure, the Herrings have also given their time. Clint is a former member of the advisory board that helps guide the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
“We are so appreciative of the Herrings and donors like them who give consistently and stay connected to the University,” said David Bruce, the department’s chair. “Their contributions of time and treasure are critical to the enterprise and are helping widen and diversify the talent pipeline.”
The Herrings’ Clemson roots run deep.
Erin is the daughter of J. Charles Jennett, who in the 1980s and 1990s was the dean of engineering and later provost and vice president for academic affairs at Clemson.
She received her Bachelor of Science in ceramic engineering from Clemson and then went to Texas A&M for a Master of Science in biomedical engineering. Erin previously worked for medical device companies and now owns her own business, It’s Your Move.
Clint received a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Clemson. He is now Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, for SNF Holding Company near Savannah, Georgia. The company, which makes water soluble polymers, recruits Clemson students for its workforce.
The Herrings, who met at Clemson, have two children: Jacob, a recent graduate of North Carolina State University in engineering, and Cole, an environmental science student at Georgia State University.
Erin and Clint haven’t had to look far to see the impact of their donations to Clemson.
Among their annual contributions is $1,000 to a scholarship named for Erin’s father.
They do not have any say in who receives the scholarship each year. However, a recent recipient of that scholarship is Lane Norris, who is good friends with the Herrings’ oldest son, Jacob. Theys got to know each other when they were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Norris received the Jennett scholarship for doing well academically while he was a chemical engineering major. He later switched to bioengineering, received his Bachelor of Science in December 2021 and is returning this fall to pursue a master’s degree in the same discipline.
“Anything to help pay out-of-state tuition helped a lot,” Norris said. “To know that it was coming from Erin and Clint really made Clemson feel like a family. It made Clemson a more familiar place because I had known them for four years in high school.”
Norris’ scholarship wasn’t the first time that the Herrings saw the Clemson philanthropic web have a major impact on a student.
As a student in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Clint received the Hunter Scholarship, which was made possible by the family of the late William Hunter.
“It was really a full-circle moment,” Erin said. “The Hunters opened up a scholarship in my dad’s name, also supporting engineering and science students, and that for us was very meaningful.”
For the Herrings, the connections that made it possible for two out-of-state students separated by about 30 years to pay tuition at South Carolina’s top engineering school underscored the sometimes unseen power of the Clemson Family. Clint didn’t learn the connection to his benefactor until years later, and the Herrings heard of Norris’ scholarship only after talking with his parents.
“That’s for us what Clemson is– it’s a big place for small worlds,” Clint said.
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