Dear Clemson Family:
It is difficult to believe it has been almost a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon the world and began to change everyone’s way of life. While the full impact of the virus continues to unfold, we have come a long way from those early days when Clemson was one of the first universities to make the difficult decision to recall our students from their study abroad programs last spring.
From the start, we have been guided by data and science with twin priorities: Protecting the health and safety of our students and employees, and continuing to provide a world-class education to our students. It has been a challenging and expensive endeavor, but I am immensely proud of the work our faculty and staff have done over the past year.
We are now more than a quarter of the way through our spring semester, and we continue to deliver a more normal Clemson experience this semester in a safe and responsible manner. Approximately 30 percent of our classes are being taught completely in person, with nearly another 30 percent being offered in a hybrid mode. In all, about 80 percent of our undergraduates have some in-person learning this semester, and all students who want to attend classes online can do so.
Our on-campus testing strategy, along with the responsible behavior of the large majority of our students, have brought the COVID-19 positivity rate down to below 1 percent for our students and employees. Our testing work, led by Dr. Delphine Dean, the Ron and Jane Lindsay Family Innovation Professor of bioengineering, doesn’t stop there, however. With the financial support of state government, which is greatly appreciated, Clemson’s CLIA testing lab also is processing free COVID-19 tests for Clemson city residents.
Introducing McWhorter Stadium!
I am excited to announce that, as of today, our gorgeous softball stadium now has a name, thanks to the incredible generosity of Stuart and Leigh Anne McWhorter who became Clemson’s 30th Cornerstone donors with their $2.5 million gift to Clemson Athletics. The softball facility will now be named McWhorter Stadium in recognition of Stuart and Leigh Anne’s amazing gift.
Stuart, a venture capitalist and 1991 Clemson graduate, and Leigh Anne have demonstrated a deep commitment to Clemson by giving generously of their time, talent and treasure, and their most recent gift will help us build a championship-caliber softball program. I can’t wait to get to McWhorter Stadium this spring to watch our Tigers after the great start to their inaugural season last year was cut short by the pandemic. Thanks to the McWhorter family for their amazing gift!
Board of Trustees Meeting Highlights Progress in Many Areas
The full board meeting today followed a series of committee meetings over the past two weeks. We are fortunate to have an extremely dedicated and accomplished board made up of individuals who have a passion for Clemson and who are committed to pushing me and my leadership team to continually raise our level of performance in service to our students and the state.
As you might imagine, we continue to devote considerable time and effort to guiding the university through the pandemic. Increasingly, however, we are focusing our efforts on important work beyond COVID-19 so that we emerge from this period strong.
Here are just a few of the highlights I shared with our Board today:
- Our research enterprise deemed R-1 – or highest research activity – by the Carnegie Classification, continues to grow. Our faculty have been awarded eight grants in excess of $2 million in the first half of this fiscal year. These grants total more than $46 million. Just in the last several weeks, Clemson was awarded an $18 million grant from the U.S. Army to develop virtual prototype technologies for autonomous military vehicles. Clemson also is part of a consortium called the Battelle Savannah River Alliance that was awarded a 10-year, $3.8 billion contract to manage research at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory near Aiken, S.C.
- Clemson continues to earn praise for the efficient manner in which it operates. We rank in the top 9 percent among national universities for efficiency, according to U.S. News & World Report, and our cost of operation is nearly 40 percent lower than the average of the top 25 public universities in the country. As result of our efficiency, prudent fiscal management and strong student demand, all three major bond rating agencies have recently reaffirmed Clemson’s ratings at historical highs at a time when higher education as a whole been given a negative outlook by the rating agencies.
- Applications for the upcoming year have eclipsed 43,000 – 56 percent higher than last year. The quality of the applicants is incredibly high and the pool includes students from every state in the country.
- The pandemic has created many challenges for the university, including in our fundraising operations, but our Development and Alumni Relations team continues to hit it out of the park. So far this fiscal year, the University has raised $113 million toward its $140 million goal, including securing the largest gift in Clemson history to name the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. The value of our endowment, spurred by a strong stock market and outstanding fundraising, is nearing $900 million.
Despite the unprecedented challenges we face, this continues to be a great time to be a Tiger. In fact, the value of the Tiger Paw has never been higher, and I am incredibly optimistic about our future and exceedingly grateful to lead this institution. As always, my gratitude goes out to the entire Clemson Family for your support of our work.