Family honors three generations with $1M gift to Clemson


CLEMSON — A family with three generations of Clemson University alumni has given $1 million to the school to benefit engineering, arts and humanities, and the library, all integral parts of their collegiate experience.

Capt. Wilbur N. Ginn Jr., U.S. Navy, retired; and his wife, Dorothy, of Greenville along with their son, Wilbur N. Ginn III, and his wife, Alice, of Florence made the gift for the Wilbur N. Ginn Family Endowment, established to honor the legacy of their father and grandfather, Wilbur N. Ginn Sr.

Capt. Wilbur Ginn (front left) is shown with his wife, Dotty; their son, Will Ginn; and his wife, Alice.
Capt. Wilbur Ginn (front left) is shown with his wife, Dotty; their son, Will Ginn; and his wife, Alice.

The Ginn family’s devotion to Clemson goes back more than 100 years. Wilbur N. Ginn Sr. graduated in 1911 with a degree in electrical engineering and was the second charter member of IPTAY. Capt. Ginn graduated in 1941 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and Wilbur N. Ginn III graduated in 1969 as an English major.

Capt. Ginn and his wife are giving to Clemson to see their philanthropy at work in their lifetime. They see the endowment as a gift to all the citizens of South Carolina.

“Somewhere along the way I decided that the people of South Carolina paid for my education,” Capt. Ginn said. “The amount of money my mother and father paid to Clemson was miniscule compared to what the taxpayers paid. So, I feel I owe the people of South Carolina. It’s something that bugged me for years. After inheriting some stock and with some good investments, I was able to meet my goal.”

“I am so grateful for the visionary generosity of the Ginn family,” said Clemson President James P. Clements. “The unrestricted nature of their wonderful gift makes it even more important, because that allows for the funds to be used where they are needed the most in each area.”

The money will be distributed in equal portions of unrestricted support to four endowments:

  • The Wilbur N. Ginn, Sr. Class of 1911 Unrestricted Endowment in Electrical Engineering
  • The Captain Wilbur N. Ginn, Jr., Class of 1941 Unrestricted Endowment in Mechanical Engineering
  • The Wilbur N. Ginn, III, Class of 1969, Unrestricted Endowment for the Humanities in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities
  • The Wilbur N. Ginn Family Unrestricted Endowment for the Clemson University Libraries.

“I’m overseeing the library and humanities piece,” Will III explained, “and Dad is overseeing the engineering pieces. The library is so important to everyone. It touches everybody one way or another. It is the hub of the other three gifts.”

Capt. Ginn said he hopes integrating the library in the gift will promote the learning of writing and communicating among the other disciplines. He realized the importance of communication in his positions in the Navy Reserve Officers Program and regular Navy.

Capt. Ginn was in Army ROTC at Clemson and served as a Navy Reserve engineering duty officer during World War II. After the war, he converted to regular Navy. His career as a Naval officer continued and culminated with his service as head of the Navy’s Shipyard Modernization Program in 1966. He received the Legion of Merit in 1970, one of the U.S. military’s highest awards for outstanding service. His last major job was converting propeller manufacturing from hand-made to computer-controlled machining.

Will III was an ROTC cadet at Clemson, and was commissioned into the U.S. Army upon graduating. After his military service, he had a successful career in banking, as the executive director for two large medical groups, and as a health care consultant. After 45 years of wearing a suit and tie every day, he decided to spend five years as a barista to avoid boredom in his retirement life. Now, he looks forward to being involved at Clemson in every way he can.

“When I got out of school, I didn’t think a lot about Clemson one way or the other. I think you’re more interested in getting your real world life started when you are young. With age comes wisdom, and you realize there’s so much more to college and an education than sports,” he said. “Having been able to come to Clemson, get back on the campus and see all that’s going on, and then being asked to be on a Humanities Advancement Board, it reenergized my interest in being involved in the university any way I can. There’s an old saying about ‘giving back,’ but it’s true.”

Capt. Ginn hopes the money will take some financial burden from students and faculty alike. “The grants from this endowment could enable the schools to accomplish some of the most important extras for students and programs. The three of us — my father, my son and I — are the end of this family. May what we have done inspire some future graduates to also give back.”

The Wilbur N. Ginn Family Endowments are part of Clemson’s The Will to Lead capital campaign to raise $1 billion to support Clemson students and faculty with scholarships, professorships, facilities, technology and enhanced opportunities for learning and research.


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