Two distinguished alumni will receive Clemson’s highest honor



CLEMSON — Clemson University will award its highest honor, the Clemson Medallion, to two distinguished alumni — Professor Emeritus Beverly “Ben” Skardon and Trustee Emeritus Allen Price Wood.

Skardon and Wood will be honored at a presentation ceremony in February 2020.

The Clemson Medallion is presented to individuals who have rendered notable and significant service and support to Clemson University and who exemplify the dedication and foresight of university founder Thomas Green Clemson.

“The Clemson Medallion is the highest honor bestowed by the Clemson board of trustees, and Col. Skardon and Trustee Emeritus Wood embody the spirit of Thomas Green Clemson’s ongoing legacy to Clemson University,” board of trustees Chairman Smyth McKissick said. “Our university is better because of their commitment and service, and our board is grateful for the opportunity to recognize their contributions.”

Clemson University President James P. Clements said he is proud that the university is honoring Skardon and Wood for their leadership and contributions to the university.

“Both of these men have helped shaped the university in important ways,” said Clements. “Col. Skardon made a lasting impact by teaching countless students during his career on the faculty, and students are being educated every day in buildings that Allen Wood designed. It is safe to say that our university would not be what it is today without these two outstanding leaders.”

Photo of Ben Skardon
Ben Skardon

Skardon, 102, is a 1938 Clemson graduate and veteran of the U.S. Army. He fought in the Philippines in World War II, earning two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for valor before becoming a prisoner of war when American troops were forced to surrender to the Japanese April 9, 1942.

Skardon lived through one of the most infamous ordeals of World War II, the Bataan Death March, and survived for more than three years in Japanese prison camps despite becoming deathly ill. Two fellow Clemson alumni, Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan, kept him alive by spoon-feeding him and eventually trading his gold Clemson ring — which he had managed to keep hidden — for food. It is a story now told at every Clemson ring ceremony, when Clemson seniors receive their class rings.

Leitner and Morgan did not survive the war. Skardon honors them every year by walking in the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. He is the only survivor of the real march that walks in the memorial march. Last year, at 101, he walked more than three miles through the desert to honor his friends.

Skardon went on to serve in Korea in 1951-52 and retired from the Army at the rank of colonel in 1962. He joined the Clemson faculty in the department of English in 1964 and was named Alumni Master Teacher in 1977. He taught at Clemson until his retirement in 1983.

Skardon has received several honors from the university, including the Alumni Distinguished Service Award. In 2013 the university established the Skardon Clemson Ring Endowment, which helps fund the ring ceremony, and in 2016 the Memorial Stadium flagpole was dedicated in his honor.

On Skardon’s 100th birthday, August 11, 2017, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster presented him with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest honor. In March 2018 Skardon received the Congressional Gold Medal honoring Filipino and American Veterans of World War II, which is one of the highest civilian awards in the United States.

Photo of Allen Wood
Allen Wood

Wood, who lives in Florence and graduated from Clemson in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in architecture, served on the board of trustees from 1988 to 2003, during which time he chaired the Agriculture and Natural Resources and Student Affairs committees. He also served as vice chairman of the board of trustees from 1995 to 1997.

An architect by profession, Wood was chairman of Moseley, Wilkins and Wood Architects of Florence before retiring in 2004. Previously, he was president and managing partner of Wilkins, Wood, Mace Associates and Wilkins, Wood, Goforth Associates Architects and Planners. From 1977 to 1981, he was president of Wilkins and Wood Associates Architects and Planners.

He designed and/or was the architect of record for several university buildings, including Lehotsky Hall, the CCIT Information Technology Center and the Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence.

He was also a strong advocate for architecture at Clemson University during the academic reorganization in 1994 and saw a chance to move architecture from the sidelines to the center of the university, build bridges between disciplines and strengthen the relationship between architectural education and practice, according to Trustee Emeritus Bill Hendrix, who nominated Wood for the medallion.

During the reorganization, the School of Architecture became part of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities and its project-oriented, problem-solving, studio approach to learning has been adopted and adapted campus-wide.

Wood was an early proponent and supporter of the Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Studies, which opened in 1972 in Genoa, Italy. He and his wife, Josie, endowed a fellowship to support architecture graduate students to spend a semester in Genoa or at the architectural program in Barcelona, Spain.

While serving on the board of the Clemson Architectural Foundation, Wood nominated Dean James F. Barker to become the 14th president of Clemson University.

Wood also was a member of the President’s Advisory Council and the Clemson Board of Visitors, among many other university committees, and now serves  on the Historic Properties Alumni Advisory Committee and the Conference Center and Inn Advisory Board.

He has been an active supporter of the Emerging Scholars program and played an important role in the creation of Clemson’s Wood Utilization + Design Institute.

He served his profession as a member and chairman of the South Carolina Board of Architectural Examiners and pushed the state to punish unlicensed architects, an issue of public safety across the nation.

He was honored for his service to the state when then-Gov. David Beasley awarded Wood the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest honor, in 1995.

He received the university’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1996.

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