A group of dignitaries cut a purple ribbon to mark the opening of Posillico Inc. Laboratory, but the ceremony was about more than the physical transformation of a room in Lowry Hall.
It was a testament to what higher education and industry can accomplish together with some planning, budgeting and patience.
“The result was overwhelming,” Michael Posillico said. “It was really beyond what I expected. I was actually quite choked up over the remarks and never expected that.”
Posillico graduated from Clemson University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and returned to his alma mater 10 years ago as a member of the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering Advisory Board.
The family-owned company where he is a principal is “the premier heavy civil construction contractor in New York, Long Island, New Jersey, Texas and the Mid-Atlantic,” according to its website.
Among those who grabbed a pair of scissors to help Posillico cut the lab’s ribbon was Jesus M. de la Garza, director of Clemson’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
“We thank Michael Posillico for his generous contributions of time, talent and treasure,” de la Garza said. “This lab stands as an inspirational beacon that shows how the school and our partners can work together to create the next generation of civil and environmental engineers and Earth scientists. Michael Posillico is a Clemson Multiplier in the highest and truest sense.”
Posillico, who grew up on Long Island in New York, first discovered Clemson when he was looking for a warm-weather school. He arrived as a freshman in 1980 and remembers his four years on campus as a fun time.
He was a student in 1981 when the Tigers football team won their first NCAA National Championship, and he found his place in intramural sports, including rugby.
Like many alumni, Posillico lost touch with Clemson after graduation. But he reconnected after he was contacted by Chris Peters, now a senior director of development at Clemson. That led to a meeting with Jim Barker, then the University’s president, and eventually a spot on the civil engineering advisory board.
When Posillico first joined the board, it was immediately apparent that Lowry Hall, civil engineering’s home building, needed a lot of work.
“We have an engineering services department that serves our facilities and projects,” Posillico said. “I asked them to go to Clemson and have a look at what could be done with simple redesigns. The work they did helped to get the ball rolling with the University and the eventual funding of final design and initial construction funding “
While the proposal provided some encouragement and showed what could be done, a critical element was lacking.
It needed a donor.
The proposal sat for a while until Posillico stepped up to help again.
“I decided, what the heck– let’s do it,” he recalled. “Let’s pick one and get it done.”
The result was celebrated in the Oct. 26 ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new space includes the Posillico Hydraulics Lab and the Posillico Structural Mechanics Lab. A study area has floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of campus.
While the lab is complete, Posillico isn’t done with Clemson yet. He recently left the department’s advisory board to join the advisory board of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
The school formed in 2021, bringing the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering under the same umbrella as the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
Posillico sees the move as a way of bringing Clemson in line with how industry works and how top universities around the country structure their departments.
“They need to be combined,” he said. “That’s how learning, collaboration and problem-solving are done in the real world. They aren’t done in silos, which has proven to be very inefficient.”
Jennifer Ogle, chair of the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, said the legacy Posillico is leaving is inspiring.
“His visionary contributions exemplify the essence of collaboration between academia and industry,” she said. “I am proud to witness the transformative impact of his support on our programs. Together, we are shaping the future.”
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said Posillico’s support is playing a key role in Clemson’s efforts to create the engineering and applied sciences workforce of the future, a need that Posillico described as acute.
“This lab and Michael Posillico’s service are a testament to his vision and philanthropic leadership,” Gramopadhye said. “His support is helping the college craft the nation’s best student experience, build an even stronger research infrastructure and transform lives in South Carolina and beyond. I offer him my wholehearted thanks.”
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