Harold Gillens helps students focus on schoolwork, not bills
Harold Gillens remembers showing up to Clemson University one year with money for tuition but none for housing or meals.
He and a friend with the same problem went into the housing office to see what they could work out. A woman offered them jobs as resident assistants, thinking they already had a place to live, Gillens recalled.
“Oh no, that’s not the case,” Gillens remembers saying. “I can’t even pay for a place to stay. I want to be an RA, and I want you to keep the money.”
Gillens got his place to stay, made it through Clemson with hard work and graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. But the struggle remains fresh in his mind.
Now that Gillens has built a successful career, he has joined the Dean’s Leadership Circle, pledging $100,000 over five years to create The Gillens Family Endowed Fund for Diversity in Engineering. The funds will allow engineering students to focus on their studies, not their bills.
Among those thanking Gillens was Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
“Harold Gillens’ contributions are a testament to his generosity and his visionary thinking,” Gramopadhye said. “His funds are helping us attract and retain students, while enhancing our efforts to promote diversity in the college. I wholeheartedly appreciate his support.”
After graduation, Gillens worked as a security engineer for the federal government, where he learned about the construction of secure rooms that are designed to be soundproof and impenetrable for top-secret conversations and document storage.
He later worked in cybersecurity in the Washington, D.C. area and received his Masters of Engineering Management from George Washington University. Gillens went full-time with Quintech Solutions in 2003.
He is president of the company, which is headquartered in Summerville and has offices in Lithonia, Georgia.
When the company first started, it focused mostly on security consulting. Then in 2007, Gillens got the opportunity to help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security manage construction of all its classified facilities around the world.
“From that time until now, the company has really diversified and become more of a construction management firm, although we still do security consulting,” Gillens said.
Gillens has accumulated honors through his career. He was first black president of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC) and in 2011 was recognized at the Summerville Councilman’s Ball as one of the Young Entrepreneurs of the Year.
Gillens said he has benefited from the strength of the Clemson brand and that he frequently taps into a network of other graduates to solve a wide range of problems. He suggested that other alumni who are considering donations to their alma mater do the same.
“Sometimes when you’re on the fence, it’s because you really haven’t reached back to utilize the network and the brand,” he said. “They will realize how strong the network is and how strong the brand is. When you realize that and how much it can affect your life, you will want to reward the brand.”
Gillens and his wife, Ophelia, have two sons. Their younger son, Brian, is an undergraduate at Clemson. His older brother, Clifton, works in probation and parole in Wake County, North Carolina.
In his spare time, Gillens enjoys golfing and boating.