It was the summer of 2001, and Angelo Mitsopoulos had just finished speaking to a group of incoming freshmen about Greek Life at Clemson University. Mitsopoulos, a junior at the time, decided to drop in on an after-hours social as part of the Orientation process for new students. It was there he first met a young sophomore by the name of Heather Walls, who was serving as an Orientation Ambassador. They struck up a friendship, began dating and were married three years later.
Neither knew at the time how much Clemson would impact their lives. But now more than 17 years later, Angelo and Heather Mitsopoulos are more committed than ever to giving back to their alma mater.
“You get into a perpetual state of feeling obligated to give back because of what you’ve gained from this institution,” Mitsopoulos said. “We want all students to have as transformative and impactful of an experience as we had.”
To that end, the Mitsopoulos family has made a significant financial pledge to name the event lawn at the Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Center, one of the signature capital projects spearheaded by the Division of Student Affairs.
To understand how he arrived at the decision to make this latest financial commitment, one must get a better feel for how Angelo Mitsopoulos even ended up at Clemson in the first place.
In his own words, coming to Clemson was merely “an accident.” After originally planning to play soccer at the collegiate level, he opted for a different direction but was tasked with the difficult choice of finding a place to continue his education. Problem was, he didn’t have a backup plan. He only knew he wanted to move from his home in suburban Chicago to the Southeast.
“I visited Clemson in February 1998, went on a tour of campus and left with a bumper sticker on my car,” he said. “It’s really that simple.”
The next five years were anything but simple. What started with the relatively innocent act of joining a fraternity gave way to a college career filled with a bevy of activity and leadership opportunities.
First, Mitsopoulos was voted president of Beta Theta Pi’s pledge class. That led to involvement as a representative to the Interfraternity Council (IFC), which serves as the governing body for Clemson fraternities. He would assume presidency of the IFC the spring semester of his sophomore year, while at the same time holding the role of vice president in his fraternity.
He went on to become president for Order of Omega, an honor society among Greek organizations, while also joining Blue Key Honor Society. The next logical step in the process of campus leadership was Clemson Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG).
“I never had aspirations to be in campus politics,” he admitted. “But through my engagement opportunities on campus, it (CUSG) felt like a place I could contribute and add value.”
In 2001-02, Mitsopoulous joined Gary Kirby’s cabinet as municipal services director, with a focus on “town and gown” relations. The following year, he was elected student body president.
While in office, he was able to put his stamp on a number of important items. He led the creation of a 10-year strategic plan for student government. He teamed with Dallas Burnett to re-write the constitution and form Graduate Student Government as a governing body mirroring that of CUSG. He worked closely with President James F. Barker and his administrative council to organize a slew of commencement ceremonies in December 2002 during a renovation to Littlejohn Coliseum. He helped plan and deliver the dedication speech for the historical marker unveiling which honored Harvey Gantt’s 40th anniversary of becoming the first African-American admitted to Clemson. And in what he calls one of his favorite accomplishments as president, he worked with the campus bookstore to create orange and purple tassels now proudly worn by all Clemson graduates.
“One thing I learned as a student leader is the importance of mutual respect and collaboration,” he said. “Advocacy for students was, and still is, very important to me. In that sense, I always found Almeda (Jacks) and everyone in Student Affairs to be great partners in having sincere interest in doing the right thing. Whether or not she and President Barker knew it or not, they were mentors to me. They taught me how to lead the right way.”
Mitsopoulos earned an undergraduate degree in computer information systems with a minor in operations management in May 2003. He went to work immediately for the Bank of America Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he’s still with the company 15 ½ years later. He was named to the inaugural class of Clemson’s “Roaring 10” by the Young Alumni Council in 2012. The award annually recognizes alumni who have made an impact in business, leadership, community, educational and philanthropic endeavors.
Today, he is a business operations and strategy executive within Bank of America’s Consumer and Wealth Management Operations division.
“The greatest joy of a teacher is to witness a student becoming a colleague, and that’s exactly what’s happened with Angelo,” Barker said. “His experience as a student leader at Clemson has carried over into his life’s journey. His leadership has only grown over time. It’s been manifested by this gift, which is a wonderful thing to see.”
Shortly after the move to the Tar Heel State, the Mitsopoulos family joined the Charlotte Clemson Club. Heather would eventually become its president.
They were later invited to a Student Affairs Advisory Board meeting, despite limited capacity to contribute financially at the time. Angelo would go on to serve as chairman of the board, which preceded the Vice President’s Executive Council as the senior board for Student Affairs.
With a background rich in the vast areas embodying the Clemson Experience, the couple was a logical choice to sit on the Executive Council.
“I see Student Affairs as the primary steward of what we call the Clemson Experience,” he said. “It is predominantly responsible for many of the things Clemson students experience, ranging from housing, dining, Greek Life, safety, parking and so on. It was a natural connection point for us.”
The Executive Council is currently chaired by Dave and Lynnette Snow, who in 2014 announced the lead gift of $2.4 million to support student recreation programming on the property formerly known as Y Beach, located off of Highway 93 toward Seneca from Clemson’s campus.
Angelo and Heather Mitsopoulos, who make regular trips to the Upstate to enjoy Tiger football along with their 5-year-old daughter Zoie, have been avid supporters since graduating from Clemson. The vision of the Snow Family property appealed to them both as they considered a more targeted financial commitment.
“We’ve always given, primarily to unrestricted funds for the vice president,” Mitsopoulos said. “We were looking to do something notable. Getting to know Dave and Lynnette, and the vision the Executive Council has for what used to be Y Beach made perfect sense to us. The space we targeted is the transition to the beach from the areas under construction now. It’s somewhere you can find yourself in thought with a beautiful view, where you can be with friends near the water or have a concert or wedding. We see the lawn as a versatile place.
“Student Affairs is the taproot in our Clemson Family tree. We’re just glad to do our part.”
Brandy Page, senior director of development who works closely cultivating donor relationships with Student Affairs, said the Mitsopoulos family gift is merely the latest example of their progression from students to alumni.
“I’ve never met anyone who understands what Student Affairs does better than Angelo and Heather,” Page said. “But now that they’re on the other side of it, they want to help students have a similar experience they had at Clemson. We are truly lucky to have such a unique set of alums with that perspective of the student experience, supported through giving.”
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