Some 2,000 students will walk across the Littlejohn Coliseum stage on Dec. 22 and shake the hand of President Jim Clements as a tangible representation of a major college milestone … graduating from Clemson University.
Six time zones ahead of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business commencement ceremony scheduled for 1:30 p.m., United States Army captain Scott Abrams ’08 will be thinking of Clemson’s newest group of alumni as he spends time with his wife and three children at their home in Germany. Three years after he enrolled in Clemson’s online program, he’s set to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
“In terms of a lifetime achievement, (earning my MBA is) right up there next to being married and my children being born,” says Abrams, who hails from Whitmire, South Carolina.
Abrams earned a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management on May 9, 2008. He remembers the day as one of the most emotionally rewarding moments of his life. He grew up idolizing his father — a 1973 Clemson graduate — who also celebrated his 59th birthday on the same day.
He was born into a Clemson family. In addition to his father, Abrams’ grandfather was a member of the Class of 1943.
He was also born into a military family. Abrams is the eighth generation of his family to serve in the United States military. He says it traces to his ancestor James, the first member of the Abrams family to come to the United States.
“He came before the American Revolution and joined the South Carolina militia,” he says. “It was destined to be for us.”
Military service wasn’t always in the plan for this member of the Abrams family, though. Following graduation at Clemson, he worked in the civilian sector and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Living with his uncle, he recalls the two having serious conversations about leveraging his Clemson degree and commissioning as a military officer.
Abrams was working as a server in the restaurant business when he met his eventual wife. After she became pregnant with their first child, he knew the job wouldn’t continue to pay the bills.
“I thought I could use some discipline and that a military career would challenge me,” Abrams recalls thinking. “I enlisted in July 2011.”
Less than two weeks after enlisting, Abrams’ father was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. He delayed the start to basic training to transport his father to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where he was given six months to a year to live. After caring for his father, Abrams completed basic training a year later in July 2012 and his father was able to attend graduation. Abrams was commissioned as an officer on Oct. 4, 2012. His father passed away the following November.
Because Abrams did not have an ROTC background, he was learning the Army from scratch as a human resources officer. He calls his first few months as a second lieutenant a “big adjustment,” but says his father instilled a strong work ethic in him and taught him to never quit.
Abrams’ first assignment was with military intelligence at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia in April 2013. He left for Florence, South Carolina to serve as a recruiter after four years at Fort Gordon and a promotion to the rank of captain.
While in Florence, he got the itch to look into the possibility of earning an advanced degree. He applied and was accepted into the MBA program for the Fall 2019 semester. It was during this time he was also contacted for a special opportunity to return to Clemson.
“The South Carolina Education Lottery was looking to showcase a veteran that had benefited from the Life Scholarship, and it was something that helped me financially during my undergrad at Clemson,” he says. “I was featured on the Tiger Tailgate Show for Military Appreciation Day that Fall. I thought that was pretty cool and saw it as a great marketing opportunity with my role as an Army recruiter.”
His family received four tickets to the football game against Wofford, which brought back memories of his first stint in Tigertown from 2004-08. As a student, he served as an intern under Billy Napier, the football program’s recruiting coordinator at the time and currently the head coach at the University of Florida. Abrams also worked with the athletic department’s facilities team.
One of Abrams’ first MBA classes was accounting, and he struggled. He was placed on academic probation. He was working for a demanding battalion commander at the time and didn’t dedicate much time to the class. Additionally, his wife was pregnant with their third child.
He was granted a semester off to regroup. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Our son was born and then we received orders to go to Germany,” he says. “I had to quarantine for 14 days when I arrived in Germany. My Fall 2020 semester started in a hotel room at Ramstein Air Base. But, I was able to stay in the MBA program and began to dedicate myself to doing well.”
Abrams never struggled with another class, all while serving as a captain with the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. The unit is responsible for the air defense of all of Europe. Fast forward a couple of years and he’s not only graduating with his MBA, but he’s in line for a promotion to major.
“It’s a big deal for me, because my dad was a major,” he admits.
Abrams says the toughest part of adjusting to life overseas has been earning an MBA on top of his personal and professional responsibilities. As he’s halfway to his goal of 20 years of military service, Abrams can’t help but think about the multitude of ways the MBA degree relates to his work.
“There’s a lot in this degree that is transferable,” he says. “You help with budgeting and resource allocation. Social media strategy is big, because we have a big online presence in terms of promoting the Army’s message. There’s also leadership. One of my favorite courses in the MBA program was Gail DePriest’s advanced leadership class.”
He’s applied a lot of what he’s learned in his role as an Army recruiter. Ultimately, he could see himself opening up his own business one day — perhaps in the hospitality industry, an area of interest.
Abrams believes he has the foundation necessary to succeed, given his military service, family history and “all in” Clemson spirit. And like his father, he’s doing it to set an example for his children to follow.
“I am really enjoying the quality of life and opportunity to travel,” he says. “To be able to pass that on to my children has been special. I didn’t have a ton of opportunity growing up. Whitmire is a small town and I had 17 people in my graduating class. But hopefully I’m imparting on my children the importance of making something of yourself.”
Scott Abrams may come from a long line of military leaders and Clemson alumni, but he’s definitely made a name for himself. And while his is not a name that will be audibly announced during commencement on Dec. 22, the MBA diploma sent in the mail will serve as validation of his tireless efforts.