Ashley Johnson arrived at Clemson from Fort Walton Beach, Florida with a high school volleyball highlight tape in hand.

Although she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted out of her academic career, she pursued three different majors before settling on accounting. Johnson knew she wanted to play collegiate volleyball. After meeting then coach Linda White, she earned that opportunity.

“I was fortunate to be on the team,” said Johnson. “I immediately felt a part of the school and community.”

Ashley Johnson at the Cadden Chapel site visit

Ashley Johnson is a Clemson graduate in the class of 1989 and an avid supporter of the university.
Image Credit: University Relations

Johnson, who worked in the university’s sports information office under the legendary Bob Bradley, graduated as a member of Clemson’s centennial class in 1989. During undergrad, she was introduced to Mary Ann Prater, an accounting professor, a relationship that later came full circle when Johnson contributed to a 2012 endowment fund in her honor.

An accomplished certified public accountant, Johnson also jumped head-first into entrepreneurship. She was part of three start-up companies and now resides in Duluth, Georgia with her two children, McCay and Riley.

Senior Director of Development Kelly Cloyd has worked with Johnson on a number of philanthropic initiatives over the years, including the Prater endowment. When Cloyd recently introduced Johnson to the story of late Clemson student Samuel Cadden, she was drawn to it.

“When Kelly mentioned the idea of a chapel on campus, my heart just leapt,” Johnson said. “The Cadden family story is touching. I know he lost his life tragically in a car accident a few years ago, but I also know he was passionate about a chapel on campus. I can’t think of anything more appropriate for him than building a chapel that will bear his name. It’s certainly a great project in his loving memory.”

Ken and Mary Cadden pledged an initial amount of $1.5 million to jump-start the project in 2016. Less than two years later, nearly $4.5 million has been raised toward the construction of a chapel.

Ashley Johnson with children Riley and McCay at the Cadden Chapel site visit

Johnson, pictured with children (L-R) Riley and McCay, is the second pillar donor for the Cadden Chapel project.
Image Credit: University Relations

“As soon as Kelly mentioned it, I went home and prayed about it and knew my family needed to be a part of it,” said Johnson, the second pillar donor ($500,000) for the project.

Once completed, the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel will be a destination for students of all beliefs. The Johnson family visited the future site of the chapel — the area between the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts and Strom Thurmond Institute — this past Saturday and met with Vice President for Student Affairs Almeda Jacks and several members of the student committee.

“We are so grateful to Ashley and all of our generous donors to the chapel,” Jacks said. “We’ve been discussing the idea of a chapel for at least 25 years, so it’s a dream come true for our students and our entire community.”

Jenna Hill, a senior, has been a member of the committee and has helped host events such as football tailgates to raise awareness for the chapel. In the spring of 2017, close friends of the family and members of the committee helped host “Samapalooza” in Cadden’s honor — an event that raised $30,000 and featured a golf tournament, fun run, concert and auction at Esso Club. A second annual event has been planned for March 2-3.

“The event is a great way to get the Cadden family together with Sam’s friends as well as members of the committee, and to share their stories of why this is so important,” Hill said. “Everyone on the committee has one thing that specifically ties them to this cause.”

And so does Johnson, who said she now realizes the true value of student involvement years later as the parent of two teenagers.

“You want your children to be part of a smaller, tight-knit group and feel a part of the community,” she said. “I can’t think of a better group for Clemson students to be part of, than this chapel project.”

A project well on its way to becoming a reality, thanks in large part to benefactors like Ashley Johnson.

Note: Click HERE more information on giving to the Cadden Chapel.