A chance encounter in freshman chemistry was all it took to change Luke Mixon’s college experience.

On the first day of the 2015 fall semester, Mixon sat next to a student wearing a Clemson club tennis shirt. An avid player as a high-schooler in Woodstock, Georgia, the shirt piqued his interest.

“It was the instructor for the club, and she told me about the team,” Mixon recalled. “I thought it sounded fun, so I joined and instantly started making friends and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

A little more than a year later, he found himself thrust into a leadership position. Reed Rabideau, the president of Clemson’s tennis club, joined the varsity team as a walk-on.

Luke Mixon and Kendall Ciancia of the Clemson tennis club

Luke Mixon, pictured alongside club teammate Kendall Ciancia, has been Clemson’s president the last two years.
Image Credit: University Relations

Mixon was named president as a sophomore, but proved to be more than ready for the challenge.

“Luke assumed that role and has maintained it as a junior,” said Sheryl McAlister, director of community development for the South Carolina division of the United States Tennis Association (USTA). “As the South Carolina program manager for USTA’s Tennis On Campus program, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the captains of our college teams. We have four in the state of South Carolina, and Clemson’s team could not be in more capable hands.”

Tennis On Campus is a program within the USTA that offers students a chance to represent an organization in a friendly, yet competitive playing environment.

In charge for over a year, Mixon made a strong push through the USTA awards program and nominated Clemson as the 2017 Tennis On Campus Club of the Year for the Southern division. He worked with McAlister to submit the nomination, but it took an unexpected turn of events.

Eagerly anticipating an announcement of the year’s award winners, Mixon sifted through his inbox in November and saw an email from the USTA. The only catch was Clemson didn’t win Club of the Year, but rather Mixon had been informed he would be the USTA Southern Tennis On Campus Leader of the Year. McAlister, impressed with Mixon’s leadership, decided to nominate him for the award.

“Clemson has increased its number of participants thanks to an integrated marketing campaign and stronger social media presence,” she said. “Luke and the team capitalized on existing campus events to leverage exposure for the club.”

Mixon will receive the award Saturday, Jan. 20 at the USTA Southern Awards Conference in Buckhead, just outside of Atlanta. In a region featuring more than 50 schools from nine states in the Southeast, Mixon said the award is humbling and attributes it to the progress made by Clemson club tennis under his watch.

Luke Mixon with members of the Clemson club tennis program from a 2017 state championship tournament

Mixon and the club team at the Tennis On Campus state championship tournament in Charleston in November 2017.
Image Credit: USTA South Carolina

“One of the things I’m most proud of is that everyone has come together outside of tennis,” he said. “While we strive to be more competitive, the social aspect is more important than winning.”

A typical week entails practice Monday through Thursday for about 90 minutes. With the renovation to the existing tennis complex adjacent to Highway 93, Mixon and his teammates now practice at Southern Wesleyan University in nearby Central.

He and his co-ed teammates — the club has over 100 dues-paying members — took part in several regional tournaments in the fall. This semester, he and the team are scheduled to compete in two tournaments in Georgia prior to the USTA Southern championship in Auburn, Alabama in late February.

In addition to club tennis, Mixon has found the time to be involved in a number of extracurricular activities. He regularly competes in intramural sports. He is also a member of Alpha Pi Mu and Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Both are related to his industrial engineering major.

Mixon utilized the Michelin Career Center and last fall’s Career Fair to secure an internship with Lowe’s corporate headquarters over the summer in Mooresville, North Carolina. He said it was a testament to Clemson’s No. 1 ranked career services program. He worked directly with the club team’s advisor, Neil Burton, the director of Clemson’s Center for Career and Professional Development.

Burton also thinks highly of Mixon’s leadership qualities.

“I usually end up smiling about something he says, because my interactions with Luke are always positive,” Burton said. “USTA could not find a more deserving recipient of its leadership award!”

Mixon recalled a time over the summer when he was asked if he regretted choosing Clemson over Georgia Tech, which is also known for a strong industrial engineering program.

“Even though both of my parents went to Clemson, that family aspect was never pushed on me,” he admitted. “But once I got here and saw how people treat others they don’t even know, I was amazed. If I had to do it all again, I’d come back here because my experience has been great.”

An experience that otherwise could have materialized differently if it weren’t for an introductory chemistry class.