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Former Clemson President and Trustee Phil Prince dies



Photo of Philip H. Prince
Philip H. Prince

Former Clemson University President and Trustee Philip Hunter Prince, 93, died Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

Prince, who was elected a trustee by the board of trustees in 1989, was named acting president in 1994 to replace Max Lennon, who had resigned. The board later removed “acting” from his title and, in May 1995, Constantine Curris succeeded Prince as president.

During Prince’s short tenure, Clemson underwent major organizational changes, with the number of colleges reduced from nine to four, the number of vice presidents from seven to four and the privatization of a number of auxiliary services, such as the bookstore and laundry.

He would call the presidency the “most challenging, demanding, exhausting and also rewarding” time of his life.

“Phil Prince was a Clemson giant from his time as a student-athlete, to serving as a trustee and then president of the university,” said Smyth McKissick, chair of the board of trustees. “He was an innovative and dedicated leader who set an example for all of us to follow, and his legacy at Clemson will live for generations.”

“President Emeritus Prince committed much of his life to serving Clemson University, and his service and leadership helped to make Clemson what it is today,” said Clemson University President James P. Clements. “As a trustee and as Clemson’s president, and later as a volunteer leader during our Will to Lead capital campaign, he made many long-lasting contributions to the university and our students.”

Born in Bostic, North Carolina, and raised in Tennessee, Prince received an athletic scholarship to Clemson College in 1944, but his time at college was interrupted by U.S. Army service in 1944-45. He returned to Clemson and was co-captain of the 1948 football team, which won the 1949 Gator Bowl. He also was vice president of the 1949 senior class.

After graduation, he attended Columbia University and Kings College, then served in the Army again in 1950-51.

He began a career with Milliken and Company in 1951 and held various management and executive positions until 1967. He then served the company as vice president. In 1978, he became senior vice president for American Express before accepting a similar position at Synco Property Inc. in Charlotte. He retired in 1985.

Prince has a distinguished record of service to Clemson. He was a member of Tiger Brotherhood and served on the Board of Visitors and the Alumni National Council. Beginning in 1982, he served on the board of the Clemson Foundation and became its president in 1989.

He led the Campaign for Clemson, which raised $101 million for scholarships, professorships and other academic needs. He and his wife, Celeste, donated $900,000 to the campaign and Prince donated his presidential salary to university academics.

He earned the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, the Clemson Medallion and the Clemson Distinguished Athletes Award, which honors athletes who have shown great character and become outstanding citizens in their lives after Clemson.

Prince is known for one of the most important plays in Clemson football  history. He blocked a punt that led directly to a touchdown with just four minutes remaining against South Carolina in 1948, a play that led to a 13-7 Tigers victory. Frank Howard’s team went on to an undefeated 11-0 season, Clemson’s only undefeated season between 1901 and 1980.

Prince was recognized for his leadership and lifelong commitment to Clemson with an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May of 1995.

Each year, five faculty members are presented with the Phil Prince Award for Innovation in Teaching at the Victor Hurst Convocation.

He was predeceased by his wife, Celeste, three brothers and two sisters.

He is survived by two sons, Kevin Prince (Mary) of Pawleys Island and Jim Prince (Novella) of Mount Pleasant; and two grandsons, Philip H. Prince Jr. and Walker Prince. He is also survived by his loving companion, Martha Grigsby.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church in Clemson. Private committal services will be in Woodland Cemetery on the campus of Clemson University.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, at Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home, 108 Cross Creek Road in Central.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Philip H. and Celeste O. Prince Scholarship Fund, Clemson University Foundation, P.O. Box 1889, Clemson, SC 29633-1989.

Read the full obituary at Robinson Funeral Home.

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