The Clemson University alumnus who is donating $1 million to establish a distinguished professorship in bioengineering is a talented radiologist, medical school faculty member and avid marathon runner.
John Witherspoon Gilpin said he made the donation because he wanted to support research programs and other work in Clemson’s Department of Bioengineering and to encourage its relationship with Prisma Health in particular and medicine in general.
The donation is also a tribute to his six nieces and nephews. They include his brother, Al’s children, Thomas, Laney, and Hattie, a Clemson graduate; and his brother, Lewis’ children, Bailey, Mason and Amy Blaine.
The donation establishes the John Witherspoon Gilpin, MD ’82 Distinguished Professorship in Bioengineering. The funds go into an endowment, and the faculty member who is selected for the professorship will be able to use proceeds to help pay for research support, travel, student assistance and research equipment.
While the professorship is intended for the department chair, Gilpin has given Clemson the flexibility to occasionally use it to recruit and retain other outstanding bioengineering faculty members.
“My respect for the chair of the department, Martine LaBerge, and Associate Professor Jeremy Mercuri helped inspire this donation,” Gilpin said. “My vision for these funds is to support the research activities of the talented faculty, graduate students and undergraduates of the bioengineering department and Martine.”
Gilpin has generously donated both time and treasure to Clemson’s bioengineering department for several years. He helps guide the department as a member of the External Advisory Board. A gift of $250,000 that was announced in 2020 established the John Witherspoon Gilpin, MD ‘82 Endowed Associate Professorship, now held by Mercuri.
LaBerge said she is grateful for Gilpin’s generous support of Clemson bioengineering.
“John Witherspoon Gilpin exemplifies our mission to educate thinkers, leaders and entrepreneurs,” she said. “His forward-thinking generosity is helping us attract and retain some of the nation’s top bioengineering talent. I thank him for his most recent gift and all he does for the Department of Bioengineering.”
Gilpin, who grew up in Columbia, said that when he started at Clemson he knew he wanted to go to medical school after receiving his undergraduate degree. He said he probably would have majored in bioengineering, but it wasn’t offered as a Bachelor of Science degree until 2006.
Gilpin instead majored in microbiology. While at Clemson, he served as student body vice president, president of the student alumni council, a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and a member of the Tiger Brotherhood, a group he is now helping to reorganize. He was also director of Tigerama, which was sponsored by Blue Key Honor Society, an organization that inducted Gilpin when he was a student.
Gilpin said the roles he held as a student helped teach him to handle the problems he encountered later and helped him become a better physician and faculty member.
“I owe a lot to Clemson for helping make me the man I am now,” he said.
Gilpin graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and the Norris Medal, an honor given annually to the best all-round graduating senior. He then headed for the Medical University of South Carolina, where he was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society.
Gilpin is now program director of medical student education in radiology at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. He is also a board certified diagnostic radiologist at Prisma Health and medical director of the Radiology Department at Prisma Hillcrest Hospital in Simpsonville.
Gilpin reconnected with Clemson about 10 years ago when Doug Gray, a friend from his undergraduate days, invited him to a gathering at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC) in Greenville. Gray, a senior director of development at Clemson, introduced him to LaBerge.
“I was so impressed with what bioengineering was doing and how it impacted multiple different areas of research and medicine, and I wanted to be part of it,” Gilpin said.
Gilpin is the son of the late Albert Thomas Gilpin, who was an independent insurance agent, and the late Ann Witherspoon Bailey Gilpin, a public school teacher.
His father, the first in his family to go to college, graduated from Clemson in 1949.
Gilpin’s twin brother, Lewis Bailey Gilpin, is also a radiologist at Prisma Health. Their older brother, named after their father, graduated from Clemson and is an orthopedic surgeon in Florence County. The youngest brother in the family, Boyd Darby Gilpin, died in 2019.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, thanked Gilpin for his gifts and for the time he provides to the college.
“Dr. Gilpin’s inspirational leadership is helping create the leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of the future,” Gramopadhye said. “He is transforming lives, and we are indebted for his service to the community and the University.”
In his spare time, Gilpin enjoys running, working out, sports, travel and philanthropy. He has run hundreds of road races, including 14 consecutive Boston Marathons.
Gilpin said that as he moves closer to retirement, he will be looking to explore national parks, get more involved with Clemson bioengineering and continue with his personal philanthropy.
“I’m just trying to be a good steward of the Lord’s money,” he said.
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