Kelly Abele Rose lacked prerequisite work experience when she graduated from Clemson University in 1984. A financial management major, she was eager to launch her professional career. But the only job she recalled working between the ages of 15 and 21 was as a lifeguard.
“I didn’t have a great GPA when I graduated,” Rose explained. “I couldn’t sell myself to potential employers on my GPA or work experience. The main factor that got me a job out of Clemson was the experience I gained by being involved in my sorority. That engagement was one of the most impactful aspects of my learning and growth process at Clemson.”
Rose held multiple leadership positions within Alpha Delta Pi and served as president her senior year. Still, she is quick to acknowledge her background was atypical for that of someone who would end up working in sales and marketing for corporate moguls such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, KFC and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals.
Rose’s parents both graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago, but the family moved often during her father’s Naval career. When he was transferred to Charleston, South Carolina, she applied to Clemson without ever seeing the campus.
She will tell you the decision to attend Clemson was one of the best she’s ever made. Rose is quick to point out, “The greatest outcome of those four years is the Clemson Family that I have become a part of. Most of my closest friends, decades later, are people I met as a Clemson student.”
She said the biggest impact collegiately came outside of the classroom.
“My level of engagement gave me the opportunity to learn leadership skills, to be organized and it instilled confidence in me,” she admitted. “I always wish I was more engaged with the school of business and some of the other programs, although they weren’t anywhere close to the level we see now at Clemson.”
Following graduation, she embarked on a successful career that included stops in Cincinnati, Chicago and Washington, D.C. During that time, she earned an MBA from American University. Almost 10 years out of undergrad, she met another Clemson graduate in Ed Rose (’84) during a round of golf. Today, they are both amazed at the fact they never knew each other in the four years they were at Clemson, and she is sure fate brought them together. The two were married in 1996.
That brought her back to Charleston and the Rose family has been in the historic city ever since. The move allowed Kelly Rose to reignite her love of Clemson.
“Ed had been going to football games since he graduated,” she said. “He and his best friend went in together and their gifts to IPTAY were both matched from their companies. We still attend almost all the home games with the same friends.”
Her husband was a civil engineering graduate, which ultimately proved to be a point of connection through Clemson’s Development and Alumni Relations office. For the better part of 35 years, Ed Rose worked for Westvaco (since renamed many times). He is now a senior partner for Mill Rock Capital, a New York based private equity company.
About six years ago, he received a call from Doug Gray, senior director of development for the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences (CECAS). The two discussed the various opportunities to not only support Clemson’s efforts financially, but also impact current and future generations of engineering students.
Since that first call, Ed and Kelly Rose have contributed to several initiatives, including a donation to the Dean’s Excellence Fund as part of a Give Day challenge in 2017.
Around the same time frame, their daughter, Erin, was accepted into Clemson and Kelly was looking for other ways to get involved. Two of her closest friends introduced her to the work of the Clemson Family Advisory Board (CFAB).
“I didn’t know anything about CFAB until we went through our daughter’s Orientation,” she said. “I witnessed what an important role they have as Clemson advocates and liaisons for families. I applied for membership and was fortunate to be on the board. Through that involvement with Student Affairs, I later met someone told me the story about Sam Cadden and the money being raised for the chapel in his memory.”
Within a couple of weeks, she met Ken and Mary Cadden, who committed the lead gift to spearhead fundraising efforts to build the chapel. The Rose family made a significant financial contribution and held a fundraising event for the project at their home in Charleston. They were on site for the groundbreaking ceremony in May 2019. The Samuel J. Cadden Chapel is slated for completion in 2021.
CFAB is a group of dedicated parents who significantly assist the university as it strives to meet educational and developmental needs of students, while also addressing family needs for involvement, information and support. The board provides volunteers at Orientation and assists with Move-In Week and Family Weekend during the fall and spring semesters. It is one of several external boards coordinated through the Division of Student Affairs.
Rose has served as CFAB chairperson since April 2019 and was asked by chair-elects Chris and Leona Dinkins to extend her term a little longer.
“Erin is set to graduate with a marketing degree in May, but our son Carter is finishing his sophomore year and has some time left in mechanical engineering,” she said. “I’m more than happy to extend my term as CFAB chair, especially through this period of uncertainty. I love being involved with Student Affairs. The division does a great job orienting students and their families to Clemson and by continuing to provide hundreds of opportunities for them to be engaged once they’re on campus.”
Rose said her support of Student Affairs has been reaffirmed recently through meetings with Interim Vice President Chris Miller and the CFAB liaisons she’s worked with in Josh Barnes, DeOnte Brown and Kryssa Cooper. She’s particularly intrigued by the addition of the Center for Student Leadership and Engagement, a new department managed by Barnes.
Within the past year, Brown and Miller in particular worked closely with Rose to secure funding for the Clemson Parent & Family Experience, a web-based, interactive medium to ensure frequent communication with parents of current students. The portal customizes events, news and interest items specific to a family’s needs.
Student Affairs and CECAS are just two areas of involvement for Ed and Kelly Rose. They are also making a gift to the new College of Business and support the out-of-classroom development of football student-athletes through P.A.W. Journey.
“The difference in Clemson now versus when we were in school is just unbelievable,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed reliving the experience through our kids. All four of us have seen the football team win a National Championship while we were students at Clemson (1981, 2016, 2018), so I keep telling them to savor these moments.”
Rose has also preached the importance of involvement to both of her children. Erin was a member of Freshman Council and followed in her footsteps as a member of Alpha Delta Pi. She is in the sales innovation program and has been a member of IPTAY’s Student Advisory Board as well. Carter is a member of a fraternity and is part of a four-semester creative inquiry through his engineering program.
Rose has enjoyed spending more time with her children than usual due to the university’s current mode of operation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. But she’s also itching to get back to Clemson as soon as possible.
“I love walking the campus and taking it all in,” she said. “I think I drive my family crazy, because I’ll talk to anyone who is wearing Clemson gear. I always describe our family as #ALLIN, literally and figuratively.”
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