Martin Lightsey said he hopes others will consider following his lead after he and his wife, Linda, provided a partnership investment to support entrepreneurship and innovation programs in Clemson University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
The investment allows the college to establish the CECAS Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fund. Lightsey said he hopes other alumni will see the fund as a way to inspire, motivate and provide for students.
“I would love it if another four or five people who feel good about their Clemson education and think entrepreneurship is a ticket to an enjoyable career would put some money into it,” he said. “It might motivate some students to consider putting an entrepreneurial bend on their careers.
“I think engineers are best qualified to become entrepreneurs. They have the best chance of understanding the technology that’s involved in anything new.”
The fund supports initiatives that help students develop their technical skill sets and entrepreneurial mindsets.
Brad Putman, the college’s associate dean for undergraduate studies, said the Lightseys’ donation will help create innovators and entrepreneurs of the future.
“The Lightsey family’s generous donation will enable students to explore creative design, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Putman said. “It’s because of people like Martin and Linda Lightsey that we have one of the nation’s best alumni networks. I offer them my most sincere thanks.”
Lightsey received his Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from Clemson in 1964 and found his entrepreneurial niche about 20 years later. After successful careers with GE and American Safety Razor, he started a new company, Specialty Blades, Inc., later renamed to Cadence.
The company made razor blades no one else could by integrating computer-numerical-control tool technology with razor blade technology, Lightsey said.
“Being an entrepreneur served me well,” he said. “In fact, if it were not for that, I could not be giving money to Clemson.”
Among the programs supported by the new fund is the CECAS Spark Challenge. Students over two semesters develop marketable ideas and pitch their innovations to a team of judges. Winning ideas have included a portable invisible fence for pets and an eco-friendly feminine hygiene product.
The fund will also support a new program that will make seed money available to undergraduates who are developing prototypes.
The Lightseys, who live in Staunton, Virginia, are long-time supporters of innovation and entrepreneurship programs at Clemson.
The couple provided the funds to establish the Martin and Linda Lightsey Engineering and Entrepreneurship Endowment, which provides scholarships for engineering majors who are members of The Design and Entrepreneurship Network. They have also supported the Clemson University Makerspace, where students learn to use a wide range of equipment, including 3D printers, fabric printers and a laser-etching machine.
It is common to name funds, endowments, scholarships and buildings after the donors who provided the resources that made them possible, but Lightsey decided to forgo the honor when helping create the CECAS Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fund.
“We don’t need our name publicized,” Lightsey said. “I wish somebody would come in and put a million dollars in it, and we’ll name it after them.”
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